BEWARE OF GEEKS BEARING GIFTS

October 31, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

If I push this button, I get the weather forecast. For Oslo. In Greek. This button takes a photo of my face from the inside. Push this one and a bomb goes off in Kabul. I think this one causes a Swiss Army knife to pop out. In case you are wondering what I am attempting to do – I am operating this gift from my children. It’s an Ipad2, or maybe an iPadTwo or a LaunchingPad3-2-1.
I was never good in operating the newest black boxes, but it’s not my fault and I shall briefly explain why. It might make you feel better, too. First, some necessary background: It is a little known fact, and justifiable so, that the very first person in the world to buy a Windows 95 software program was a 19 year old business student in New Zealand by the name of Jonathan Prentice.
Others followed and at the end of that first day, Aug. 23, 1995, some $30 million worth of the Microsoft program had been sold. By the end of that year 20 million copies, at roughly $85 each, were purchased, enough to ensure Microsoft’s chief, Bill Gates, a reasonably secure future.
Even today the rush continues as PC, iPad, iPhone, iPod and semaphore geeks fight to be the first in their Boy Scout troop to own the latest toy. They line up in the freezing dark on sidewalks outside stores to purchase some box, made by 12-year-olds in China that has a catchy name and high price. And do they buy ‘em. Example: Apple has just announced it sold more than 4 million of its new iPhone 4S models in the first three days they were on sale. That’s the most ever sold for any phone and more than double the iPhone 4 launch during its first three days.
But now nerds in Palo Alto are working on the iPhone 5, because these gadgets have a short shelf life. I am always afraid that when I take my latest iGizmo out of the box, someone will say, “Oh, you have one of those old things. The Smithsonian was asking about it.”
Any new purchase of these technological Tinker Toys comes with books – plural — of instructions, diagrams and an 800 number to call when all else fails. All else always fails, so we call Singapore and get Ed Earl, he so claims, who can hardly speak English, and 45 minutes later we are in tears trying to make our latest $2,500 iJunk work.
When we buy a toaster, it arrives with a small pamphlet written by lawyers warning us not to stick a fork in the bread slot. My favorite is the hair dryer which carries the warning not to use it in the shower or bathtub. Here is an actual PC owner’s manual that begins with, “Your modem offers a range of internationally accepted standard modulation methods and protocols. It utilizes WinRPI software based V.42/MNP 2 4 error control and V.42 bis/MNP 5 data compression.” If a toaster’s manual read that way, you would return the toaster. What’s more, have you heard of toasters getting a virus?
I have a PC guru, Marty, on speed dial. He is at my house about once a month to fix the Computer From Dell. Do you have a garbage disposal guru on call? Does LeRoy, the alarm clock wizard, make regular visits to your house, manual and tool kit in hand?
Ah, but why, exactly, are our PCs, Windows, iThis and iThat so unreliable and moody? Because they are not the cutting edge of scientific technology, not the end-all, be-all of the 21st Century. There is something left to invent. You see, these latest instruments are actually very crude. They are just in their early stages, and our grandchildren will laugh uproariously at our ancient axes.
How crude? Let’s compare life spans. Remember that Jonathan Prentice bought the first Microsoft Widows 95 some 16 years ago. The U.S.’s first scheduled commercial airline flight was on Jan. 1, 1914. In Windows’ years, airlines today would be at the 1930 stage. Thirty years ago, on Aug. 12, 1981, IBM first introduced its microcomputer, and that is regarded as the opening of computer season. Henry Ford sold his first car in 1896. After 30 years, the same time span of improvements, would you send your family off to Disneyland in a 1926 Ford?
The first regular scheduled TV programming was begun by General Electric in Schenectady, N.Y., on May 11, 1928. Think of your PC as a black and white DuMont TV set with a six inch screen, and think of the latest Windows as rabbit ears. The original iPhone was introduced in the U.S. on June 29, 2007. That breakthrough is now brokethrough: We’re into the fifth generation of iPhones, so you can junk that four-year-old antique. Still got your original Walkman? It’s 32 years old, which is where Xerox was in 1938. Oct. 23 was the10th anniversary of the iPod. Our war in Afghanistan is 16 days longer.
It is foolish to assume these babies are born as adults, honed to perfection. Nor is your latest magical miracle user-friendly. Blackberries went down worldwide recently and the mother company offered $100 million in apps to mollify irate customers.
Even the computers and such in stores are toddlers in need of a change. How many times have you been told by a bank teller or shop clerk, “I’m sorry but our computers are down.”? They never say that about their vacuum cleaners. So don’t feel the world has passed you by because you can’t operate the MegaX Y-76 which cheats the IRS and fakes your death.
Here’s another example: If I tap on this icon, it either contacts my pest controller or flosses my teeth. I’m not sure which. When you get stumped, and can’t make your iThing text to the cloud via your 1080p HD video, do as I do: ask your children.

Ashby is obsolete in at ashby2@comcst.net

5th Annual Texas BigBeat

October 26, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

Drummers From Across the Nation Join Together to
Create New World Record for Multi-City Drum Set Event

What:
The 5th Annual Texas BigBeat drumming charity event, which aims to create a new World Record of drum set players playing simultaneously in multi cities. Proceeds go Houston area schools to provide music and educational programs for underprivileged, special needs and at-risk children so that they can create a positive and productive future for themselves.

Who:
Drummers from across the country will participate in Big Beat events being hosted in 15 cities to make history and to raise money for Cherish Our Children International and The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation.  The money will be put towards educational programs and musical instruments for underprivileged and at-risk youth.  Celebrity drummers Daniel Glass, Mike McPhee and Erik Hargrove (formerly of the James Brown band) will perform on stage.

Where:    
George Bush Intercontinental Airport
4500 Will Clayton Parkway
Houston, TX 77032

When:     
Sunday, November 6th
Drummer Load-In and Set Up:
10 a.m. – 2p.m.
Celebrity Meet and Greet:
1:45 p.m.
Texas BigBeat percussion activity led by Dan Egger-Balendria:
  2 p.m. – 3 p.m.
Program, including performance with drummers in 15 cities:
  3 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Cost:
Basic Registration:  $25
General Admission: 
$5 and up.

Media invited to attend at no cost- please RSVP to Julia Prior at (713) 627-2223 or jprior@piercom.com

Registration:
Available online at www.texasbigbeat.com or www.drummersregister.com or contact Donna Fisher at (713) 789-2484 or donna@donnafisher.com

About Texas Big Beat
Texas Big Beat is part of a national Big Beat drumming charity event raising funds to provide educational programs for underprivileged and at-risk children so they can create a positive and productive future for themselves and to provide support for under-funded music programs in Houston area schools. Proceeds from this event will go to Cherish Our Children International and The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, both (501(c) (3) nonprofit organizations.  For more information on Texas Big Beat visit www.texasbigbeat.com  or call 713-468-9100.

Marie Bruns Breast Cancer Awareness Collection

October 26, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

Please join designer Marie Myers as she debuts her Marie Bruns Breast Cancer Awareness Collection in support of the Breast Center at Methodist Willowbrook Hospital, Houston.  50% of all sales of the collection will go directly to the center.  The entire Marie Bruns collection will also be on display just in time for pre-holiday shopping!

Come make a difference and buy some beautiful jewelry! If you cannot make it please shop online anytime to give back at www.mariebruns.com.

When:
Saturday Oct 29
1:00PM to 7:00PM

Where:
Marie Bruns Showroom
800 Sul Ross
Houston, TX 77006

State Farm Cars 2 Tour

October 26, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

STATE FARM CARS 2 TOUR MAKES PIT STOP AT PEARLAND H-E-B plus!
The inventive sequel to everyone’s favorite animation on four wheels brings fun for fans

The State Farm Cars 2 Tour “Agents on a Mission” zooms into the Houston-area on November 9, 2011. The H-E-B plus! in Pearland will host the action-packed activities of the tour at their location between 2-6 p.m.

State Farm and Disney/Pixar have partnered to bring the secret agent adventures of Mater, Lightning McQueen, Finn McMissile and crew to life for young families across the nation. Fans will get the chance to take pictures with life sized replicas of their favorite characters as well as test their own secret agent skills by participating in various “missions,” including a training course.  Participants who complete all on-site “missions” will even have the chance to win fun prizes.

Cars 2, which premiered in theaters in late June 2011, follows the audacious autos from the original Cars movie as they kick up dust in the sequel and travel the world on the grand prix circuit before becoming secret agents. The State Farm Cars 2 Tour coincides with the DVD and Blue Ray release of the movie on November 1.

For those interested in more Cars 2 entertainment, State farm also invites fans to “Join the Force” when they receive a State Farm special agent card during the event at H-E-B. The card, containing a unique code, will allow the individual to register online and automatically enter for one of 18,000 prizes, including the grand prize – their very own family spy car!

WHAT:
State Farm CARS 2 Tour

WHEN:
Wednesday, November 9 from 2-6 p.m.

WHERE:
Pearland H-E-B plus!
2805 Business Center Dr.
Pearland, TX 77584

 

 

6th Annual H-E-B Feast of Sharing

October 26, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

SAVE THE DATE FOR THE 6TH ANNUAL H-E-B FEAST OF SHARING SET FOR SUNDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2011
____________­­­­­­­

Greater Houston invited to join H-E-B for a free holiday celebration at the
George R. Brown Convention Center


WHO & WHAT:
In the spirit of the holiday season, H-E-B will host the Sixth Annual Feast of Sharing, an open-invitation and festive event where all Greater Houston residents can enjoy a free holiday meal and live entertainment.  
 
Hundreds of H-E-B and community volunteers will collaborate on serving more than 10,000 holiday meals.  In addition to a free meal, a full evening of fun will be at hand, with a children’s area featuring activities and crafts; a visit from Santa Claus and live on-stage entertainment.  
 
WHEN:
Sunday, December 11, 2011
1 – 4 p.m.
 
WHERE:
George R. Brown Convention Center – Exhibit Hall E
1001 Avenida de las Americas
Houston, Texas 77002

MORE INFO:

Feast of Sharing is a tradition started by Florence Butt more than 100 years ago when she hosted community dinners in her home.  It is now part of H-E-B’s Helping Here initiative designed to improve the quality of life for residents in the communities it serves. Feast of Sharing has grown to 31 locations that serve more than 250,000 hot meals to people throughout Texas and Mexico.

Doo Wop Meets Living Dead in UH Play ‘Zombie Prom’

October 26, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

Doo Wop Meets the Living Dead in UH Production of ‘Zombie Prom’

It’s a love story for the ages. Boy meets girl. Girl’s friends don’t like him and persuade her to break up with him. Boy then drives his motorcycle into a nuclear power plant and emerges as a love hungry zombie. It’s certainly a twist on the usual tortured teen love story. Soon, audiences can share in this strange romance during the University of Houston’s production of “Zombie Prom.”

Presented by UH’s School of Theatre & Dance, this family-friendly musical runs Oct. 28 – Nov. 6 at the university’s Cullen Performance Hall (Entrance 1 on University Drive).

Directed by UH alumnus and Alley Theatre actor Paul Hope, “Zombie Prom” transports audiences back to the 1950s. They’ll meet love-struck teens Jonny (a rebel without a cause turned atomic zombie) and Toffee, as well as other characters at Enrico Fermi High School. Will zombified Jonny become the clean teen Toffee needs him to be? Will these two kids make it to the prom? Or, will the most important night of their teenage lives be ruined?

“It’s a fast-paced show that is very much like a 1950s pulp comic book,” Hope said. “It plays on the period’s nuclear hysteria and everyone was building bomb shelters and schools had civil defense drills. Also, it was a time when monsters in the movies were created by nuclear fallout.”

The show takes its musical cues from late 1950s popular music (Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell, Gene Pitney and others) and will be choreographed by guest artist Rob Flebbe.

“Zombie Prom” premiered in Key West, Florida in 1993. In opened off-Broadway in 1996 and made its London premiere in 2009. A short film based on the musical was produced in 2006 starring RuPaul and Katy Mixon (of CBS’ “Mike and Molly).

On Oct. 29, audiences are encouraged to attend an actual zombie prom in UH’s Lynn Eusan Park (right next to the performance hall) that will be held before that evening’s midnight performance. Prom wear or zombie costumes are encouraged. The prom kicks off at 8 p.m. and a “Thriller” inspired flash mob takes place at 9:15 p.m. UH dancers will be available to teach participants the “Thriller” dance. Awards for prom king and queen will be presented at 10:30 p.m.

Tickets for “Zombie Prom” performances are $20, $15 for UH faculty, staff and alumni, and $10 for students and seniors. Show dates and times are as follows.

  • 8 p.m., Oct. 28, 31, Nov. 3, 4, 5
  • 2 p.m., Oct. 30, Nov. 6
  • Midnight, Saturday, Oct. 29

The School of Theatre & Dance is partnering with non-profit organization Zombie Walk Houston. Actors will distribute “Zombie Prom” promotional materials and ticket coupons at the Houston’s Fourth Annual Zombie Walk at 6 p.m., Oct. 22 at the Lanier Middle School Football Field (2600 Woodhead St.). For additional details on the play or the UH School of Theatre & Dance, visit http://www.theatredance.uh.edu/.

red, black, and GREEN: a blues

October 26, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

THE UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON CYNTHIA WOODS MITCHELL CENTER FOR THE ARTS 
TO HOST A GROUNDBREAKING ARTIST COLLABERATION

Performance Ignites Conversation About Green Living with red, black and GREEN: a blues

WHAT:    red, black and GREEN: a blues (rbG:b), a full-length, multimedia performance will take the stage on Friday, November 4 and Saturday, November 5 at the University of Houston ’s Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts.

Marc Bamuthi Joseph, the writer and performer for rbG:b, partly developed the performance during his experimental research residency in Houston, hosted by the University of Houston Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts.  Throughout his residency, Joseph was profoundly inspired by his experience of living at Project Row Houses in the Third Ward and engaging with those communities who influenced his mastermind project.

rbG:b confronts head-on the question of collective responsibility and environmental justice in a time of dramatic climate change.  Interviews, poems, films and murals have been translated into idioms of hip-hop, theatre and choreography to express the challenge of living green where violent crime and poor education pose a more imminent danger than ecological crisis, that revel emerging definitions of environmentalism in these communities.

WHEN:    8 p.m. on Friday, November 4 and Saturday, November 5 
**doors open for onstage installation viewing at 7:30 p.m.

WHERE:    Wortham Theatre, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts

University of Houston, Entrance 16 off Cullen Blvd. Houston, TX 77204

COST:        $20 general admission, $15 UH faculty and staff, $10 students,
MORE INFO:    www.mitchellcenterforarts.org or www.facebook.com/MitchellCenterfortheArts

The presentation of red, black and GREEN: a blues was made possible by the MetLife Community Connections Fund of the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project. Major support for NDP is also provided by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation with additional support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Boeing Company Charitable Trust.

Texas Tuscan Art Show & Sale

October 26, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

Artists Alive and Well are proud to announce their upcoming art show and sale beginning Oct. 25, 2011 and running through Nov. 12, 2011 at Texas Tuscan Furniture located at 1302 W. Gray St., Houston. Meet the artists at the opening reception on Oct. 25, 2011, 6-9pm. All artwork on display is original and priced to sell. Give a holiday gift of artwork to anyone, yourself included. Check out the fabulous furniture Texas Tuscan has to offer. Refreshments will be served. This event is free, family friendly and open to the public. See you there!

Ice Spectacular at The Galleria

October 26, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

THE GALLERIA’S ICE SPECTACULAR SLATED FOR SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 12

Enjoy a full day of holiday festivities with live music, tree lighting, Santa Claus and more!

WHAT:
The 23rd Annual Ice Spectacular at The Galleria will kick off the holiday season with the lighting of its 55-foot Christmas tree, featuring 450,000 twinkling lights and 5,000 ornaments in a variety of colors and shapes. The 30-minute tree-lighting show will also feature dynamic ice and musical performances, culminating with the lighting of the tree by Skating Santa himself.

Throughout the day, guests can enjoy free holiday entertainment, performances from area schools, face painting and balloon animal stations. All of these holiday activities, combined with the unmatched selection of stores offered at The Galleria, create a lasting impression and unique social experience that can’t be matched by shopping online! Continue the holiday tradition this year and bring the whole family to The Galleria to kick off the holidays.

COST:
Free and open to the community

WHEN:
Saturday, November 12
All Day –
Family and children’s activities, live music, special in-store events
@ 6 p.m.  –
Musical and ice performance and the lighting of the tree

MORE INFO:
Please call  Jenny Harris at 713.622.0663, or visit www.galleriahouston.com . The Galleria is also on Facebook – area shoppers looking for the latest deals, contests and event information can visit www.facebook.com/HoustonGalleria.

Giacomo’s cibo e vino to serve Fall Harvest Pumpkin Risotto

October 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogs, Dining

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Giacomo’s cibo e vino to serve Fall Harvest Pumpkin Risotto

Lynette Hawkins, owner and executive chef of Giacomo’s cibo e vino, 3215 Westheimer (at Bammel Lane), will be serving a Fall Harvest Pumpkin Risotto as a seasonal special. The Fall Harvest Pumpkin Risotto is made with pureed roasted butternut squash and pumpkin, cremini and shiitake mushrooms, and fresh cranberries. “The cool weather definitely inspires me to create autumn comfort food,” stated Hawkins. “Roasting the squash and the pumpkin until carmelized, creates a richer and sweeter flavor, that contrasts well with the tart cranberries. The meaty mushrooms define the flavor of autumn, and add an earthy, savory component to the risotto.” Price $15. Add pan-seared diver scallops: $20.  For more information about Giacomo’s Cibo e Vino, please visit GiacomosCiboeVino.com, or call 713-522-1934.
 

Giacomo’s Cibo e Vino is a casual neighborhood Italian café and wine bar decorated with retro furnishing and bright colors from the 1950’s. The menu offers authentic regional Italian as well as other Mediterranean inspired dishes and showcases “cichetti” – small plates of hot and cold antipasti. Giacomo’s has an extensive selection of boutique Italian wines, many of which are offered by the glass, in 3 ounce or 6 ounce pours, or by the “quartino” – ¼ litre carafe.

Giacomo’s Cibo e Vino is located at 3215 Westheimer (at Bammel Lane), Houston, Texas, 77098.  Giacomo’s is open from 11 am until 10 pm Tuesday through Saturday, and from 11 am until 9 pm on Sunday. Closed Monday. For more information on Giacomo’s Cibo e Vino, please visit Giacomosciboevino.com or call 713-522-1934.

Hotel Monaco, Denver

October 24, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Blog

Mile High Escape
By Laurette M. Veres

Hotel Monaco: A Kimpton Hotel is a quaint boutique hotel located in downtown Denver. The evening H Texas visits, we feel extremely welcome. We receive a bottle of wine at check in, but don’t open it yet. Happy hour is in full swing in the lobby. “Just a welcome for our guests,” we are told. The party includes free chair massages. My photographer challenges me to Wii bowling – right in the lobby. I win. This place is fun.

The rooms are exquisite; colors are cool: brown and orange. An accent blanket in animal print continues the modern feel. The location is even cooler, right in the heart of vibrant and bustling downtown Denver, near the LoDo entertainment district.

 

For dinner, we consult yelp and head over to Osteria Marco. The meats are cured in house and homemade cheese fills the menu. The extensive drink menu features Absinthe (aka The Green Fairy) served in the traditional manner with sugar and ice water.

Brunch on Sunday morning at Panzano is spectacular, and convenient. Panzano is attached to the hotel. We enjoy fresh-baked bread, mimosas, turkey sandwiches and tomato soup. Fresh and rested, we head west on I-70 to enjoy a week of skiing.

Essentials:

Hotel Monaco Denver, 800-990-1303; monaco-denver.com
Osteria Marco, osteriamarco.com

For starters, dogs are welcome here. Before you reach check-in, a chalkboard welcomes the in-house pooches.

Inept Dems

October 24, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

By Lynn Ashby                                                            24 Oct. 2011

Will Rogers’ oft-quoted observation, “I am not a member of any organized party — I am a Democrat.” has never been truer. The Democrats (let’s shorten this to Dems) are the most inept American political party since the Know Nothings, both on the national and state level, and show no signs of improving. Thus it has been easy for the Republicans to move into the vacuum – especially in Texas.

Don’t believe me? Take Harry Reid, please. I would say he looks, talks and acts like a small town Baptist preacher rather than the majority leader of the U.S. Senate, except Baptist preachers know how to give a thundering sermon. Reid just mumbles, looks down at his shoelaces and mumbles some more. That’s leadership? And what didn’t happen to Nancy Pelosi? She led the 2010 disaster for House Dems and should have been replaced for her ineffectiveness. She’s still the leader, maybe because that’s the best the Dems can do. But they can’t hold a gavel to Rep. John Boehner and Sen. Mitch McConnell who are sharp, mean, know how to bluff and intimidate, and it works. (See: ceiling, debt)

The GOP controls one half of one-third of the federal government, but that 400 pound elephant runs Washington. Name one powerful Democrat besides President Obama. (Some would question that premise. He has been mugged by pros and still plays the nice guy.) Actually, I can name two powerful Dems: Bill and Hillary Clinton. They are also sharp and mean, but both are on the sidelines. Today the party of the donkey has no Jefferson, Jackson, FDR or Truman. Indeed, when it comes to winning elections, the Dems have no Karl Rove, master of sleaze.

The Dems also desperately need their own Roger Ailes, the Fox News chief, because the Republican Party commands the airwaves for no reason except that it lacks competition. Fox News (there’s an oxymoron for us) wins the ratings war nightly. Bill O’Reilly, despite setbacks like his egomania, constantly interrupting his guests, misinformation and the small matter of a sexual harassment suit which he bought off, has twice the viewers as poor CNN and MSNBC.

The most listened to radio talk show host is Rush Limbaugh, who daily opines arrogantly on families, children, the military and those pinhead professors in higher education. He has had four wives, no children, dodged the draft and briefly attended a small college in Missouri. Still, he rules.

Liberals tried to mount their own radio network, Air America, which bombed due to the three N’s: inexperience, ineptitude and in-fighting. To be fair (and balanced), Fox had its own bomb when it attempted to run a conservative faux news program like Comedy Central. I believe it lasted three shows before being yanked. Leave comedy to the libs.

Remember the old days when Dems like LBJ ran the Senate as his own mom-and-pop store and sly old Sam Rayburn played the House like his private orchestra? The Dems politely listened to the GOPers, then did as they pleased, and Texas got whatever it wanted. Oh, those were also good times for Lone Star Democrats in Austin. They had been in firm control of the Texas government since Reconstruction ended in 1874. It’s hard to realize that the Dems ran Texas for 100 years, longer the PRI controlled Mexico or the Communists ran the Soviet Union.

Back then, whoever won the Dem primary in Texas was automatically sworn into office. John Tower changed that on a fluke but, as John Connally used to say, “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. It left me.” Connally, Phil Gramm, even Gov. Rick Perry and scores of other life-long Dem officials switched parties. Today outsiders think that was weird, and chasten Perry for his Democratic youth, but here in Texas everybody was doing it and the switch didn’t make any difference.

The last time Democrats in Texas won a major statewide race — president, Senate or governor — was back in 1990 when Ann Richards was elected governor.That was before some of today’s voters were born. Well-funded Dem candidates like Tony Sanchez and well-intentioned candidates like former Houston Mayor Bill White went down to ignominious defeat. The last Democratic presidential candidate to win the state was Jimmy Carter in 1976. Previously, a Democrat had to win Texas to win the White House, but in the 1992 elections Bill Clinton won the Oval Office while losing Texas electoral votes. Barack Obama did the same.

The Texas Tribune reported last year: “In the latest election, the Democrats lost record numbers of incumbents down the ballot…the number of Democrats in the 150-member State House fell to a historic low of 51 from 74. But Republicans won unprecedented victories at the local level, too: They elected 115 county judges in the state’s 254 counties, 339 county commissioners, 209 constables and 78 sheriffs. Party officials say that, in all, they gained 234 elected officials at the county level in Texas.”

In my own case, every single elected official above me — from city council to county commissioner, state rep and state senator, the U.S. House and Senate — every one of them is GOP. Some are good, most are ghastly, but it makes no difference, if they’ve got an R by their name on the ballot, they’re in. It’s not that the GOPers are so smart, it’s that the Dems are so bloody inept. An intelligent and efficient Dem today must be frustrated. Those party meetings must sound and look like the Children’s Crusade. No organization, no money, no decent candidates and no future. Where are Lloyd Bensten, Jim Hogg, John Nance Garner and Bob Bullock? The Dems have replaced Barbara Jordan with Sheila Jackson Lee.

We began with a quote by Will Rogers, so let’s end with one that certainly applies to today’s hapless Democratic Party leaders: “If you’re riding’ ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it’s still there.”

 

Ashby is independent at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

Bayou Arts Center Grand Opening

October 24, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

Celebrate National Arts & Humanities Month at the Bayou Arts Center Grand Opening Thursday, October 20

BAYOU ARTS CENTER GRAND OPENING THURSDAY, OCTOBER 20 4:00 – 7:00pm
105 Hogtown Bayou Lane Off North County Road 393 Enter at Cessna Landing Free and open to the public [view map].

Grab the entire family and head out for an evening of food, art, music and bayou adventure at the Bayou Arts Center, nestled among the pines on historic Hogtown Bayou. The Cultural Arts Alliance invites you to the official grand opening of this Walton County gem on Thursday, October 20th from 4:00 – 7:00pm.

Although the Bayou Arts Center has been home to the CAA for nearly a year, we are excited to finally welcome the public to explore and experience this newly renovated Walton County destination for art, culture, heritage and nature.  And since October is National Arts & Humanities Month, we have two reasons to celebrate! 

  • Listen to front porch pickin’ by The Steenos
  • Let the kids create masterpieces with “Ms. Art” of Butler Elementary School
  • Take a mini Watercolor workshop with Sharon Long
  • Purchase delicious food and sweet treats from Foodie Dietrich, Itty Bitty Ice Cream Mini, Santa Rosa Beach Ice Company and Dog Man Du
  • Hear history of Hogtown Bayou in the St. Francis Wildlife Chapel
  • Take your little ones on a tour of the pet cemetery
  • See the Tiny Treasures Exhibit in the Studio and the Board of Directors Exhibit in the Cypress Room
  • Bid on fine art, gift certificates, jewelry and other great items
  • Begin making your family memories at the Bayou Arts Center

 For more information, call 850-622-5970 or visit www.culturalartsalliance.com.    

THE CENTER’s Annual Halloween Bash

October 24, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

CALLING ALL GHOST AND GOBLINS FOR THE THIRD ANNUAL HALLOWEEN BASH
BENEFITTING THE CENTER SERVING PERSONS WITH DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES

DATE: Saturday, October 22, 2011
LOCATION: THE CENTER at 3550 West Dallas

THE CENTER is thrilled to announce plans are underway for the third annual “Halloween Bash” Carnival, chaired by Monica Bailey Bickers, Laurie Dykoski, Kathleen Graf and Kate Walters . This spooktacular family carnival will be held on Saturday, October 22, from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in Autrey Park, located on the grounds of THE CENTER at 3550 West Dallas. Besides carnival rides, there will be a moonwalk, train, petting zoo, face painting, clowns and more. There will be plenty of Trick-Or-Treats and Chick-Fil-A tenders and fries.

Proceeds from this event will benefit THE CENTER, which is a private not for profit agency that provides opportunities which promote individual choice, personal growth and community involvement for persons with developmental disabilities and those needing similar services so that they may achieve their maximum potential.

Ticket prices begin at $45, which includes food, drinks and unlimited games and rides. For more information regarding this spooktacular fun family event please contact Cindy Rodriguez at 713/525-8484 or visit http://www.cri-usa.org/BASH/index.asp

Main Street Theater

October 23, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogs

Main Street Theater’s 7th Annual Autumn Follies Gala raised $75,000 for the theater’s Outreach and Education Programs which reach over 140,000 children and educators annually.  The musical spoof “The Sound of Montrose” was enjoyed by the crowd of 175 at the Chelsea Market location.

Deborah Duncan and Erica Rose stole the show!  Ernie Manouse was on-hand to improvise and riff on the script.  (Ernie’s been in ALL of MST’s Autumn Follies.)  Others in the spotlight were Lisa Malosky, Donna McKenzie, David Nachtigall of The Handsomes, George Greanias, Erica Rose, and more.

Honorary Chair: Mary D’Andrea

Co-Chairs: Francesca London and Marian Strug

The photo credit RicOrnelProductions.com.

 

Driving Me Crazy

October 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Features

Driving in Houston–A Crash Course in Chaos by Lynn Ashby


It was famed racing driver and Houstonian A.J. Foyt who once observed, “I feel safer on a racetrack than I do on Houston’s freeways.” He should know, because Foyt got paid to win the Indianapolis 500 four times while you and I actually have to pay for the privilege of risking our lives on Houston’s roads. Remember several years ago when Houston police were pulled off of patrolling our freeways because it was too dangerous? That was rather unnerving.

As we sit in gridlock, listening on the radio to some semi–literate, thumb–sucker explaining why Obama is a vegetarian cannibal, let’s look at where we are in terms of driving in Houston. For openers, yes, we have traffic. There are more vehicles in Harris County than there are people in Houston; more vehicles than there are in 26 states. In 2010, we had 3,372,647 motor vehicles registered in this county, an increase of 434,272 from 2005. That means that every single day last year when you backed out of your driveway, seven days a week, there were almost 1,190 more cars on the road than there were in 2005. No wonder we can’t find a parking place in the Galleria.

Today, according to the Texas Transportation Institute, Houston drivers spend an average of 58 hours each year stuck in traffic, costing each person $1,322 annually.  (Dallas drivers spend 48 hours a year in traffic, costing $1,077.) What’s more, it takes longer to get there. The average rush hour speed on our freeways is 40.3 miles an hour, down from 48.3 in 1982 and 44 in 2003. Multiply Houston’s wasted time and money by our number of vehicles and there is no question why we have road rage, dirty air and big gas bills.

In addition, demographers predict that the Houston area will grow by 2 million more people in the next 20 years. If you think we’ve got traffic jams now, wait awhile.

Not to get bogged down in statistics, but some of these figures may explain your blood pressure. In the 10–county Houston Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), last year we traveled 139,283,043 miles every day. If you are the average motorist in this MSA, you drive just under 30 (29.9) miles per day. At almost $4 a gallon, go figure. Houston leads the nation in HOV lanes with 103 miles.

Harris County contains 1,835 miles of freeways and toll roads. It could have been more. At one point the Harris County Toll Road Authority considered running a toll road right through Memorial Park. When the authority didn’t think up its own stupid ideas, it received some from Washington. In 2003, the Government Accounting Office, or GAO, studied toll roads and recommended that our authority increase the tolls during rush hours. The report said this plan would keep more people off the toll roads.

Huh? Isn’t the whole point of our very expensive toll road system to put people on those roads and take them off  our city streets? The GAO report did point out a few negatives of increased rush–hour tolls including, “little system–wide reduction in travel times” and “increased gridlock on some alternate routes.” Our tax dollars at work.

As you drive around town, does it seem you have to stop and start a lot? You do, because we have – count ‘em – 2,600 traffic signals and another 1,660 yellow flashing signs at school crossings within the city. That’s a lot of signs, so we have 68 workers going around town inspecting all these electronic gadgets. They have a 27–point check list which they go through with each device twice a year. Most other cities only do it annually, and some other Texas cities are coming here to see how we do it.

Still, we don’t have to use our roads. We can always take our extensive subway system. Oh, that’s right. Unlike most large cities in the world, Houston has had no mass transit since the mule died. I blame our backwardness here in Space City on the three amigos: Bob Lanier, Tom DeLay and John Culberson. Singlehandedly (triplehandedly?), they prevented Houston from getting any kind of mass tracked transit, while Dallas was eating our lunch – and our tax dollars.

They led the fight against any sane transportation system, and often took steps by themselves to defeat good projects. Let’s start with Lanier. He was head of Metro and was against light rail. Then–Mayor Kathy Whitmire favored some sort of rail system (including an elevated monorail which never got off the ground, so to speak).

Lanier, being a wealthy and powerful person, simply ran for mayor against Whitmire, won, and scrapped any move towards rail. More than that, he destroyed all plans to build a significant light rail system in Houston for years to come by taking an enormous amount of Metro money, which had been set aside for rail, and spending it on everything from curbs to cops. The funds siphoned from Metro were a nice addition to the city’s coffers, but his immediate feel–good plan was a disaster for Houston’s long range transportation needs.

Tom DeLay is another case. He consistently and aggressively fought Houston’s receiving any federal funds for light rail. He took away $45 million in federal transportation grants that were earmarked for the Houston area and immediately gave the money to Dallas. Because of DeLay, Houston was the only city in the nation specifically banned by federal law from receiving federal funds for rail transit. Come to think of it, whatever happened to Tom DeLay?

This brings us to John Culberson. He took over the safe, west Houston, solid GOP Congressional district from Bill Archer (who had held the post for 30 years until he retired, to give you an idea of how safe the seat is). Even though Culberson was a veteran state representative, he faced a lot of opponents in the Republican primary. He ran, and won, mostly on a platform of widening the Katy Freeway.
The freeway was vastly widened, creating more concrete, more flooding, more noise, more air pollution and, of course, more traffic. There is probably a Parkinson’s Law of Transportation: traffic will expand to meet the lanes available. A year or so ago, Culberson wrote a letter to the Chronicle calling for a rail line out to the Katy Freeway. Outraged letters to the editor showed elephants—and donkeys—never forget.

Rail transit to the center of Houston is older than most of Houston. If you look at an old map you will see that railroad lines came into Houston like spokes on a wheel. Virtually every one of our freeways parallel, or are built on top of, rail lines. Indeed, the city motto was: “Where 17 railroads meet the sea.” That must have been one hell of a splash. Even today our city seal shows a locomotive, and, with great foresight, black soot is belching out of its smokestack. A few years ago, while most large cities were building new tracks, we ripped up those alongside the Katy Freeway to expand the concrete. Dumb!

Amidst all this gloom and doom, let us remember that Houston has some beautiful sights while motoring. Have you ever come into our town on a freeway at sunset when the air is clean (Wednesdays) and the sun’s rays reflect off our magnificent skyline? Depending on construction, high–speed police chases and ICE roadblocks, you can spot gorgeous views coming up the Gulf Freeway, on the Pearce Elevated, on the Katy going from the loop to downtown and other spots. No doubt the same can be said for sunrises, but noon is my dawn.

Another great sight is going through the Galleria (bumper to bumper) at Christmas time, looking at all the buildings festooned with lights and haloes on top. One time I forgot the day, and came upon a Go Texan trail ride. Suddenly, I rounded the corner and there were a hundred horses, cowboys/girls, wagons, flags, everyone waving and laughing. Now you just don’t see that in Detroit. We also have some delightful streets. North and South Boulevard, with those huge trees, spring to mind. Athletic coaches at Rice actually point to the beautiful campus as a selling point for potential Owls.

Don’t laugh, but auto accidents in Houston are declining, and experts credit the lousy economy – with high unemployment, fewer workers drive to work – and higher gas prices. Also, the drought helped, with dry streets. In terms of numbers, 23,432 auto accidents were recorded in Houston from the middle of last November to the middle of April of this year. That’s a drop of 13 percent from the 26,662 crashes that were reported between mid–June and Nov. 14 of last year. However, fatal traffic accidents in Houston have remained steady during the last three years. Last year, 216 people died in Houston auto crashes, compared to the 207 killed in 2009 and 217 dead in 2008.


AGGGGGG!!! I am driving through an intersection and a car comes whizzing from the side, runs a red light and almost slams into me. Alas, our red light districts were shut down by a public vote. It rather boggles the mind that our friends and neighbors would vote to unplug the already installed cameras at 50 of our more deadly intersections. Do they like to get themselves and my grandchildren crushed to death by speeding, law–breaking idiots?

Opponents to the cameras said the devices were only money–making operations for the city. It is unclear how they feel about parking meters, zoo tickets and parade permits, and those expenses don’t even save lives. By shutting down the cameras, the city lost between $10 and $14 million in revenue a year and had to—guess what?—order lay–offs in the HPD. But, just as our overall accident rate has declined, so have wrecks where the cameras were unplugged. Following the five months after cameras were turned off (they are still in place) those monitored intersections had 362 accidents—a 16 percent drop from the previous five months. Cops credit the drought and more police traffic enforcement.

This trend of less driving is also reflected in the city’s SAFEClear program in which the city of Houston pays tow trucks to assist stranded motorists on freeways. The towing used to be free. Now a cash–starved city is planning to charge $50 per tow. If you are stopped dead, or wrecked, in the middle lane of the Southwest Freeway at 5 p.m. on a rainy weekday, $50 is worth every penny. Even more if it’s 3 a.m.

So welcome to Houston, where road rage is all the rage. Just consider our fellow drivers around town, some of whose cars need training wheels: No one is allowed to use a turn signal. Stop signs are for wussies. That’s not a Mercedes hood ornament, but crosshairs for the nose gunner. Even baby buggies in Houston have roll bars. Avoid any cars that have notches on their bumpers, stickers reading: “I’d Rather Be T–Boning” or has a personalized license plate: “DWI.” As for our city motto, forget “Where 17 railroads meet the sea.” It should be: “Where two cars meet each other—constantly.”

I just roared passed A.J. Foyt on the South Loop. He looked scared.

Matt Schaub

October 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Features

On and Off the Gridiron: Matt Schaub is Making a Difference by Keith Calkins


Our long, sweltering, summer has been drenched in NFL strike–inspired inactivity. But the Houston Texan’s quarterback was anything but idle and focused much of his summer on giving. The people who know Matt and Laurie Schaub were not surprised.

Schaub has already given Houston football fans all they could have expected and much more. The unproven, little used, back–up QB acquired from Atlanta four years ago is now the face of the Texans’ franchise–committed, confident and professional.

Schaub’s quarterbacking dates back to his childhood on the outskirts of Philadelphia in West Chester, PA.  Even then, he displayed great skill, poise, smarts, dedication and talent. In 2009, he guided the Texans to their first-ever winning season. He threw for 4,770 passing yards, the best passing record in the league for the year and the sixth highest total in NFL history. His efforts won him a trip to the Pro Bowl where he was named MVP. In 2010, he added 4,370 more yards, placing him among only 18 quarterbacks in NFL history with multiple, 4,000-yard passing seasons. Of those 18, only five have ever thrown for more than 4,300 yards in consecutive seasons. And only a hand full have executed with Schaub’s lethal combination of high quarterback efficiency rating and low interception turnover.

His on the field leadership is mirrored in Gr8 Hope, the foundation he and his wife, Laurie, started. “We’ve done a lot of things with different organizations and different charities, but Laurie and I really wanted to start our own foundation,” Schaub says.  “We had an idea on a name a few years ago, but we didn’t know what direction we wanted to go.”

The foundation’s name is an obvious spin on the number eight, Schaub’s jersey number. And the direction is now crystal clear–bring healing to children with medical needs. “After going to Texas Children’s Hospital and visiting and spending quality time with these kids you just realize how they can influence your life,” Schaub says. “When we had our daughter (Madison) last year it just hit us between the eyes that this is where we wanted to go and there’s no looking back.”

Matt and Laurie were immediately taken, if not overwhelmed, with Texas Children’s Child Life department and its goal of normalcy for children battling to live one more day. After meeting families, doctors and specialists, they knew their foundation should support the department’s efforts. “It was kind of a no–brainer to help kids out,” Laurie says.  “We have one little one and two on the way, so that just solidified where our hearts were—to make a difference for children.”

This summer the Schaubs organized and spearheaded a weekend fundraising gala and golf get–together. They raised  $108,000 for Texas Children’s new West Campus.  The dollars will be used to equip and furnish a Child Life Playroom on the third floor of West Campus, Houston’s first community hospital designed, built and equipped exclusively for children. “I hope it creates smiles and a sense of promise for them,” Matt says. “When you have play, you forget about all the treatments you’re undergoing.  It helps you be a kid again. And we want that for those children.”

The children come to Houston from all corners of the country. They are in dire need of healing and recovery as they fight debilitating and life–threatening diseases, along with the stress and psychological effects brought about by their conditions.  Once here, in the Child Life Playroom, they can simply forget, if only momentarily, why they’re in a hospital.

On the field, the single gauge that matters most to Schaub is winning. After 54 Texan starts, his record is a pedestrian 25-29. And last year was a shipwreck: 10 losses. Each and every week, the team seemed to create new and excruciatingly painful ways to lose.

For full and lasting effect, Schaub chose to relive the wretched details throughout his off–season; better to assure history never repeats. “Every day I thought about them,” Schaub says.  “I sat (at home) and watched some of the copies I had from television and just rehashed those thoughts and was just chomping at the bit to get back to work.” His work was delayed by the NFL strike.

In the midst of the labor unrest, Schaub consistently gave his teammates structure by orchestrating make–shift, group workouts, including a mini–camp of sorts, for 35 teammates at Rice Stadium. He barked instructions in the midst of blazing, 100 degree temps, beating down on the artificial turf just as if he were leading the teams regularly scheduled, off–season drills at Reliant Park.

Honing skills, maintaining focus and conditioning were benefits, but the true goals were team–building, bonding and camaraderie. And, for comic relief, the simulated practices even included Schaub as a pass grabber. “It’s more or less just fill in the bodies for the defense,” Schaub said during a break in the mid–June sweat shop. “So they know where receivers are. It just so happens they don’t cover because they don’t respect me out there. So I get a few catches.” But don’t expect that in real games. “It’s not part of my repertoire,” he says.

Schaub fully understands this season is an opportunity for the Texans to finally crash the NFL playoff party for the first time in franchise history. He has his most balanced offensive team ever with tight-end Owen Daniels and all-world, wide–out Andre Johnson healthy again.  And Arian Foster is ready to repeat his performance from last year—2,200 total offensive yards and 18 touchdowns.

This next Texans’ outfit is stacked with more talent and experience than ever before, on offense and defense. The Texans clearly take their lead from Schaub like never before.

“I’m coming on my fifth year here,” Schaub says. “So with each year you get a little bit more of that.” His leadership goal is clear—making it to the playoffs.

Schaub has high hopes for this season; however, he readily admits, professional success cannot replace the satisfaction he enjoys through the kids he meets with Gr8 Hope. “They are the most positive and inspirational people out there,” he says.

The mission of GR8 HOPE Foundation is to provide resources and support to promote lasting improvements and bring healing to children with medical needs, hope for our future generations, and happiness to the children and their families enduring medical challenges. To make a donation go to www.gr8hopefoundation.com.

A Product of Texas

October 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Features

Texas Native & Internationally Recognized Beauty by Sue-Ella Mueller


Without a doubt, some of the best looking people in Hollywood are from Texas. Matthew McConaughey, Renne Zellweger, Eva Longoria, Dennis Quaid, Jennifer Garner, Hope Dworaczyk. What? You haven’t heard of Hope Dworaczyk? Well, you obviously didn’t watch last season’s Celebrity Apprentice or the tall, lithesome beauty would be indelibly imprinted on your brain. But have no fear, even if you don’t know Hope, you soon will.

The 26-year old, Port Lavaca native began making tiny waves in the fame pool when she earned the title of Miss Teen Texas at age 16 in her first attempt in the pageant world since her toddler years. The title came with a modeling agency contract that soon had her finishing up her education early at Hope High School in order to head out on her own to New York City.

“I’m very fortunate to have such supportive parents. I’m not sure if I had a daughter, that I’d let her go,” says Dworaczyk (pronounced dor-ah-sic; ‘like Jurrassic with a D,’ she says). “But I think it was hard for my parents to say no to me when I was getting these great offers to start my career.”

With her 5’10 stature and natural beauty, not to mention the number of hours she spent perfecting her walk under the tutelage of a walking coach, it wasn’t long before Dworaczyk caught the attention of fashion designers from across the globe. Her modeling career skyrocketed as she stepped onto international runways in places such as Paris and Milan for names like Versace, Balenciaga, Lana Fuchs and Robert Rodriguez. A daunting task for most young girls, but the tall Texan says she approached it just as she has many things in life: head on.

“I tend to not think about things like that (being nervous),” she says. “With most big moments, I just take a deep breath and tell myself, okay, here we go.”

It may have been just that attitude that gave her the self confidence to pose for Playboy magazine in 2009; well, that and a nod of approval from Grandma.

I was working out in the same gym as Holly Madison (one of Hugh Hefner’s former girlfriends), when she came up to me and a friend of mine and asked if we would be interested in doing a test shoot for Playboy. We just did some Polaroid-type shots,” says Dworaczyk. “Then I got a call saying they wanted me to fly out to L.A. for a real test shoot. I was nervous about telling my parents, but I got my grandma on the phone and she said, ‘If I was your age, I would go for it.’ So that’s what I did.”

Oddly enough, Dworaczyk had entertained the idea of posing for the magazine eight years earlier. “A good friend and I had come across her boyfriend’s Playboy magazine and had a big discussion on whether or not we would ever pose (for the magazine). It’s kind of funny, because at that point, I was too skinny. Playboy would’ve never asked me to do it. Anyway, we made a pact that, if we ever got the opportunity, we would do it,” Dworaczyk says. “I took that same friend with me when I did the shoot. Her being there when I shot it was special.”

Dworaczyk became the April 2009 Playmate of the Month and was featured on the front cover with actor/comedian Seth Grogan. Her photos were so popular among readers that she was later named 2010 Playmate of the Year and again graced the cover. When asked if she plans to pose again, Dworaczyk sounds a bit unsure.

“It was a great experience for me and I’m glad I did it. When I’m my grandmother’s age, I know I won’t regret it. I want to experience everything, but now that I’ve done that, I’m ready to move on,” she says.

And moving on is exactly what the beauty has done. For the past three years, Dworaczyk has been producing the Canadian television show Inside Fashion for E! Channel. She was also hand-chosen by Donald Trump himself to take part in the 2011 spring season of Celebrity Apprentice where she was able to make it to the ninth week. Before being “fired” however, she was able to earn $20,000 for her charity of choice, Best Buddies International and, equally as important, Dworaczyk made good with the opportunity to prove she was more than just a pretty face.

“Celebrity Apprentice was one of the toughest jobs I’ve ever had,” admits Dworaczyk. “We were working 16-17 hours a day, from make up in the morning to shooting late into the evening. It was great exposure for me and, overall, a great experience, but I wouldn’t do it again. It’s a one time thing.”

With the television time under her belt, Dworaczyk now has hopes of doing a bit more acting. “I’ve started taking (acting) classes and I’m working on a couple projects now. I recently went on my third call back for a movie; I should find out soon if I get the part. I’m currently doing an animated show where my character has an alter ego that no one knows about. It’s been so much fun,” she says. “And, I’ve also got plans for a makeover show that will involve people who have had to deal with real hard ships. We are bringing in life coaches and will be changing people’s lives.”

As if that wasn’t all enough, the model/producer/actor has been asked to create an exclusive line of jewelry for the designer Sam Lehr. “There will be six pieces in all and we’ll be using precious stones,” says Dworaczyk. Once completed, the jewelry will be sold at Neiman Marcus and Saks.

With so much going on, you might think the California resident would have trouble making it back to the Lone Star State. But her close-knit family did manage to bring her back this summer. “When I was younger, I couldn’t wait to leave. Now, I love going back. I think if I hadn’t gotten to travel to other places, I might not appreciate how great Texas is,” she says. “In L.A. or New York, if you’re walking out of a coffee shop, people aren’t normally going to stop, wait and hold the door open for you. People are just busy. But in Texas, they’ll wait while you make your way to the door and they’ll even take the time to exchange a few words or a smile with you. It’s not like that anywhere else.”

Down home hospitality is not just something Dworaczyk admires, it’s also something she tries to live by herself. “People comment all the time about how friendly I am,” she says. “I tell them that’s because I’m a product of Texas.”

Photo credit: Brie Childers Photography

Arkansas

October 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Blog

Tailgating

October 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Features

A junkie’s paradise of football, friends, and food. by Rick McMillen

Let me be perfectly honest right up front—I love football,  it matters not if it is high school, college or pro. I love the fall cool air that begins to return replacing the blistering summer heat. I love cheerleaders. (Yes, Dear, I’m sure that is no surprise to you. I know you figured out long ago that our seats near the field weren’t just to see the players better.) And, let’s get this straight, I am a Texans fan, through and through. Sure, I get upset with them, but when I last checked it’s healthier to allow your emotions to vent, helping to rid your body from the fat infused into so many great, tailgating foods. This leads me right into my favorite thing that football brings—TAILGATING! This wonderful, weekly fan fest lets you tip a beer back with a stranger parked in the next slot and he soon becomes one of your best buddies by the time you pull your last sip on the bottle, all because you have one common denominator­—the love of the home team. Now the beer, the football and the new friends are great, but the serious part of tailgating is the FOOD (the all capped words should be yelled out very loud, to the point of scaring the dog).

Is there any better way to start off a perfect weekend of pure football than to devour a scrumptious, baby back rib, generously coated with a beer infused sauce, a serious helping of chili powder, jalapeño and garlic, that has been slowly smoking for three plus hours while surrounded with your best friends all dressed to kill wearing team colors and helmets. Sometimes it’s hard to eat that way, but let me tell you, it does taste better. It’s important to yell your passions very, very loud. I can’t always do so at home, the neighbors already think I’m strange. While all of this is happening, you must maintain your position near the keg of beer making it simple to easily refill so you can be ready for the feast of chicken poppers, chili baked beans and the red pepper corn bread just waiting to be charged with queso (that’s how I like mine). The beauty here is that I typically do not eat Thursday or Friday with only a lite, lite meal during the college games on Saturday so I can be ready to be the One and Only True Tailgating Food Junkie of All Time!
If you don’t like this go to the museum, we have a ton of them, sip your chardonnay and leave me with my friends, football and food. But, ya gotta love it; this is the most American icon event ever!

On the following pages you will find many recipes designed to help make your tailgating experience the very best. Granted, we all have our favorites. However, the primary bases are well covered, the barbecue meats, incredible beans, fantastic sandwiches, creamy pastas along with the hard core stand by of potato salads, chips and dips. And, let’s make the wife happy, I have included a recipe for a fruity Sangria wine that will keep her and her friends near that pitcher allowing me and my friends to properly dissect the game and make the critical coaching decisions long before kick-off.

Okay, everyone ready? I’m now off to get a new Texan’s jersey—JJ Watt’s. After all, he is destined to be the rookie of the year in the NFL and I look like him—a big, solid, mass of muscles (want to buy a bridge?). Plus, I’ve also got to find my football. I think my wife hid it. She thinks my friends and I will hurt ourselves running fly patterns in the parking lot. Can you think of a more honorable time to get an injury requiring stitches? That’s a war wound to wear with pride the entire next week, silly girl!

So, GO TEXANS! Let’s grill up a few QB’s from the opposing teams on our pits at the end of the game (football always brings out my inner barbarian)!

Rick, the Terrible Texan, number 69 in your tailgating program, but number one in your heart and stomach!

Quarterback – Queso & Chips

Name one wild and crazy Texan fanatic who does not frequently crave QUESO? The appetizer gods knew milleniums back that when football was discovered, chips and queso would be the hit of the party. If you fail to serve this one, your loyal buds will be checking out other tailgaters.

YIELD Serves 10-12
PREP TIME 20 minutes
COOKING TIME 30 minutes

1     Pound Velveeta cheese
1     Pound cream cheese
1     Jar of your favorite picante sauce, 16 ounces
1     Pound seasoned meat – sausage preferred
1     Cup fresh cilantro, rough chopped
1     Cup of white onion,  diced
2     Bags of your favorite dipping chips

Preparation: Queso
Place both cheeses into a crock pot (great for easy transportation to the game) gradually stirring to blend. While cheese is melting prepare, your meat. I prefer to use spicy Italian sausage, removing the meat from the skin and browning over medium-high heat until brown. Once meat is done, add it, along with the onion, to the cheeses and allow them to incorporate for another 20 minutes on medium heat. Right before serving, add the cilantro and blend well.

IMPORTANT: You can control the spiciness of this dish by the heat level of the salsa you select!

Playoff Bound – Bacon Wrapped Filets

OK, time to splurge and open up the wallet. When the Texans finally make the playoffs the perfect food to celebrate with is Juicy Filets wrapped with Bacon. This simple and easy favorite will have everyone praying for another win. The only problem will be what do you serve if the Texans make the Super Bowl?

YIELD Serves 8
PREP TIME 15 minutes
COOKING TIME Preference of guests

8    6 ounce filets
8    strips of bacon
salt pepper available for tailgaters

Preparation: Bacon Wrapped Filets
Wrap each, individual filet with one strip of bacon. Insert a toothpick to hold the bacon in place. Place into a freezer bag and into the fridge over night. Prepare the grill at the party with hot-white-coals and place the filets over direct heat. Cook as requested by guests: 4-5 minutes each side for medium-rare, adding an additional 2-3 minutes per side  for medium and more for medium-well to well-done. The heat level of the grill/coals will dictate cooking time. Remember, this is a hard one to follow-up!

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