HOUSTON SURVIVED — BARELY

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

As you will recall, the past two weeks we’ve been looking back at 2011 in Texas and Houston, so let’s hone it down to only our fair city. Records for heat and drought were smashed as “Houston’s Hot” became more than a city motto. 2011 was officially the hottest and driest year in Houston’s history. Wildfires swept across fields and forests in the suburbs, and Memorial Park reported a vast number of trees there are dead or dying.

Parents Magazine rated the 10 best children’s museums for 2011. We’re Number Won: The Children’s Museum of Houston! And Houston was crowned Fast City of the Year by Fast Company magazine.

Red Light District: Mayor Annise Parker gave the green light to the red traffic light cameras, then reversed, then reversed her reversal. The program still may cost the city millions for breaking the contract with the camera company. That’s OK. The city’s coffers are loaded.

Bumper-to-Bumper Crop: Houstonians waited in traffic 57 hours last year, according to the 2011 Urban Mobility Report. That’s equivalent to about one and a half vacation weeks.

City Council members Wanda Adams and Jolanda Jones said they didn’t need to follow Mayor Parker’s mandate and take furloughs without pay to reduce the city’s terrible financial condition. Adams and Jones saved themselves a $1,000 pay cut each by, they said, reducing other expenses. This begs the question: couldn’t they do both? Anyway, Jones was defeated for re-election in a runoff.

Be It Eversole Humble (and Spring): Harris County Commissioner Jerry Eversole, facing re-trial on federal corruption charges, resigned and pled guilty. The charge carried up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. In exchange for the guilty plea and for Eversole’s resignation from office, prosecutors dropped charges of conspiracy, bribery and two counts of filing false income tax statements. He cannot run for office for 10 years, like we need him, and still faces sentencing.

The Casons Go Rolling Along: Socialite Becca Cason Thrash’s name appeared in the Chronicle at least 70 times in 2011, usually accompanied by a photo. Thrash was named a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in Paris for raising $5 mil for the Louvre.

We all know Houston lost out in getting a retired space shuttle for the Johnson Space Center, but we eventually discovered whom to blame: former Houstonian and NASA director Charles Bolden, who overruled an advisory panel which recommended Houston get one of the space shuttles. Wonder if he’ll retire here?

Radio Active: After KTRH dropped its veteran and professional news team and veered to the loony right, Houston was left (so to speak) without any decent radio news programs. Enter KROI (91.1) FM with some of the old hands from KTRH. Houston. Not all of us are afraid of black helicopters.

In sports, TSU head football coach Johnnie Cole led the Tigers to a 9-3 record, the best in eons, and the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship, then was fired. Something about an NCCA investigation into players who got great grades – in classes they never took. The NCAA stripped the school of 14.78 (huh?) athletic scholarships.

The Rockets didn’t make the playoffs, again. Actually, Houston’s team finished dead last in its division, 18 games out of first place. Yao Ming played five games in two years, then retired. Two of their best players, Shane Battier and Aaron Brooks, were traded, and head coach Rick Adelman was fired/quit. Meantime, the Astros finished with the worst record in Major League Baseball, 40games out of first place, and no help is in sight. None of the Lastros’ minor league teams finished with a winning record, and none made the playoffs.

The Ice of Texas: Houston’s minor league hockey team the Aeros, got to the finals and their coach was promoted to the majors, if anyone cares.

Moving on, at a press conference, Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland probably saved the life of free-lance photographer Tony Morris by administering CPR until paramedics arrived a few minutes later. The chief declined to say if he had also administered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Finger Pointing (Left Hand, Right Hand Div.): The DA’s office and the HFD each accused the other of letting Jessica Rene Tata flee to Nigeria. Tata was the child care owner who allegedly left her kids alone to go to the store, when a fire broke out at the house killing four infants.

A Bull Market: The Houston Livestock & Rodeo broke its own attendance record with nearly 2.2 million attendees – 5 percent higher than the 2010 record.

You are now free to move: The merger of Chicago-based United and Houston-based Continental Airlines caused us to lose 1,500 jobs to the Windy City.

The Houston Buffs are gone. No, not our minor league baseball team, but 11 of our small herd of buffalo were moved to a large north Texas ranch. Between the local drought and inbreeding, it was time to move.

Good Nabors Make, well, a lot: Nabors Industries’ retiring CEO Eugene Isenberg received a $100 million golden parachute. This was on top of his $176 million in compensation between 2006 and 2010 during which the company’s stock fell 38 percent. It’s dropped another 20 percent this year.

But our grand winner has got to be MTA chief George Grenias who was suspended for one week and forfeited a week’s pay for using his office computer to access adult sex sites.

 

Ashby looks backwards at ashby2@comcst.net

Bayou City Outdoors InfoSocial

December 28, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

January 31, 2012
Sherlocks – West Gray
1952 W Gray St Houston, TX 77019
6:30 – 8:30PM

It’s a new year! Do something good for yourself and find out what Bayou City Outdoors has to offer. We’ll help you get out, get active and get social!

Members, non-members and guests – join us for an information-packed social and get to know Bayou City Outdoors. This is a great chance for new members to get acquainted and non-members to get the scoop. Already in the know? Just come hang out with your friends!

You can also stop by our BCO info table for:

* New Members—come to the new member table and we will help you with any membership questions or show you how to work the website
* Non-Members— stop by the membership table and ask questions, get information and you can even join and get a special discount
* Events— meet our Event Leaders and find out about upcoming events, plus we will be spotlighting special upcoming events and travel, you can also learn about becoming an event leader
* Gear—don’t have your ultra fashionable BCO t-shirts &  jerseys? Get them here
* Travel—Get all the information on travel dates coming up in 2012! Including China, Croatia, Vermont, Utah and Canada!

Note, Sherlocks offers Bingo on Tuesday! Free to play and you could win a free bar tab!

6:30pm to 8:30pm My Fit Foods is providing snacks and there is a full bar with a  happy hour. Sherlocks—West Gray,1952 W Gray St Houston, TX 77019. For more information call 713-524-3567 or www.BayouCityOutdoors.com
 

The Bayou City Outdoors Equipment SWAP & Yardsale

December 28, 2011 by  
Filed under Events, Uncategorized

January 28, 2012
Talento Beilingue De Houston
333 S Jensen Dr, Houston, TX 77003
9:00AM – 3:00PM

Before You Shop – Try THE Swap! The BCO Outdoor Equipment Swap & Yardsale on January 28, 2012. Got a bunch of new gear for the Holidays? Trade your old stuff in! ALL types of outdoor (and indoor) equipment will be available – camping, kayaking, diving, hiking, backpacking, biking, indoor exercise equipment, clothes, dirty tennis shoes, you name it – we’ll have it or you can bring it!
If you have equipment you would like to swap or sell, come early (8:00 – 8:30am) to pick a good table. If you are with another outdoor/fitness group and would like your own table please call 713 524 3567.
There is no fee for a table or entry to the event. However, we are taking donations for Workshop Houston which provides resources and support for young people such as the Third Ward Bike Shop – a do-it-yourself bike repair. They are in need of all kinds of bike equipment except helmets, footwear and clothing.

9:00AM – 3:00PM. Talento Beilingue De Houston, 333 S Jensen Dr, Houston, TX 77003. For directions please see TBH website at: www.talentobilingue.org/about-us/location
Details and RSVP at www.BayouCityOutdoors.com or call 713-524-3567
 

Bayou City Outdoors Meet & Greet

December 28, 2011 by  
Filed under Events, Uncategorized

January 27, 2012
Christian’s Tailgate (New Heights Location)
2820 White Oak Houston, TX 77007
6:30 – 9:00PM

New Year, new friends, new adventures! Come join BCO at the new Christian’s Tailgate location in the Heights. We’ll have our own area and Tailgate has some yummy food and drink specials. Here’s your chance to connect with new people with similar interests. BCO makes it easy to make new friends in a laid back atmosphere or just say hello to your old buddies.

Christian’s Tailgate (Heights Location), 2820 White Oak Houston, TX 77007
Parking in lot across the street. Please note the signage of where and where not to park. Details and RSVP at www.BayouCityOutdoors.com or call 713-524-3567
 

Bayou City Outdoors Hiking In Houston

December 28, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

January 22, 2012
Cleveland Park, Scotland St. & Jackson
8:30 AM – NOON

 

Want to go hiking without having to travel outside of the city? Come discover all the trails and hideaways along the Buffalo Bayou! Get lost exploring the winding flat trails, bridges, and modest hills while exercising at an easy to moderate pace. Along this 6 mile hike we will pass the bat viewing area, art sculptures, and maybe even one of the rumored Buffalo Bayou alligators or Osprey couples!
We meet at Cleveland Park on the north side of Memorial Dr., there is a foot-walkway over Memorial here. The hike will start here and then we head towards downtown on the north side of the bayou. There is parking along the street for free.

When we reach downtown, we’ll stop for a water/coffee break so bring a few dollars. At the end of the hike you will have worked hard, made new friends and discovered all sorts of Houston secrets along Buffalo Bayou in our Bayou city!
As long as it is cool outside, this is a dog-friendly event for your canine friends who are up for six miles.

Free for Members and Non-Members alike. Meet at 8:15AM; depart 8:30AM on the dot! Cleveland Park, Scotland St. & Jackson RSVP & Directions to Jackson Park www.BayouCityOutdoors.com

Bayou City Outdoors Farmer’s Market Ride

December 28, 2011 by  
Filed under Events, Uncategorized

January 21, 2012
Onion Creek, 3106 White Oak Dr, Houston, TX 77007
8:00 AM – Noon

Come out and stretch your legs after the holidays by biking to the Farmer’s Markets of Houston. Is this the year you start stocking your cabinets with organic groceries? This is the way to go! Hop on your bike and let’s take a ride through the side streets, trails, and residential areas in the heart of Houston. This is a very social ride and all levels of riders are welcome. We will start the morning off with coffee at Onion Creek and then cruise through 2-3 markets to shop for fresh produce, sauces, jams, and bread. This is a 12-15 mile ride that lasts about three hours so bring plenty of water and a backpack to carry your goodies! If you’d like to join us but don’t own a bike, West End Bicycles rents bikes for $25 per day at 713/861-2271 or www.westendbikes.com.

If you are a member of Bayou City Outdoors and do not have a bike, we can loan you a bike for the ride. But you MUST call the office one week in advance to arrange for the loaner bike. Meet at Onion Creek, 3106 White Oak Dr, Houston, TX 77007. Please DO NOT park in the Onion Creek lot – there is parking on the surrounding streets but look out for ‘no parking’ signs. Meet at 8:00AM – leave at 8:30AM – Noon. Free for Members and Non-Members alike. RSVP 713-524-3567 or www.BayouCityOutdoors.com

4th Annual Bayou City Outdoors Travel Party

December 28, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

January 12, 2012

Little Napoli
6445 Westheimer Rd, Houston, Texas 77057
6:30 – 8:30

Join our BCO Bohemians and learn about all the upcoming travels BCO has in store for 2012. From Bryce-Zion Park in Utah, skiing in Banff – Canada, diving in Grand Cayman, to far-away destinations like China, Croatia and Guatemala – you won’t want to be left behind. Bayou City Outdoors trips consist of activities for all levels of fitness. Whether it’s hiking the Appalacian Trail or kayaking through Oregon, to camping the Texas Hill country, Bayou City Outdoors does it all and at every budget. Feed your mind, your sense of adventure and travel the world with BCO this Year!!

Don’t have a travel partner? Well, that’s perfect! You’ll make friends at BCO to see the world with.

MORE INFO: 6:30 – 8:30. Little Napoli, 6445 Westheimer Rd, Houston, Texas 77057  Parking is in the lot out front and in the back.

Details and RSVP at www.BayouCityOutdoors.com or call 713-524-3567

 

 

THE YEAR OF OUR DISCONTENT

December 26, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

By Lynn Ashby                                                       26 Dec. 2011

How hot and dry was Texas in 2011? Wildfires wiped out hundreds of homes and up to half a billion trees. Lakes dried up to reveal cars and bodies. Texans suffered through the hottest June, July and August on record in the United States, according to the National Weather Service. Our 86.8 average beat out Oklahoma’s 85.2 degrees in 1934.

This was also the year that gave us the near-destruction of the Big XII and Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential hopes. The Aggies continued to give us oddball events, and our pols proved Texas has the sleaziest. So let’s take a look at 2011, the Year of the Rat.

Right-wingnut radio talk show host Glenn Beck looked all over America for his new home and radio-TV studios. Where would such a conspiracy-screwball feel most at home, comfortably surrounded by similarly minded people? Dallas, of course.

Prose and Cons: Anthony Graves, who spent 18 years on Death Row for a crime a special prosecutor ruled Graves didn’t commit, was due to receive $1.4 million compensation, but the Texas Comptroller’s office ruled Graves was ineligible because the words “actual innocence” did not appear in the document ordering his release. Other Texas Death Row inmates will no longer have a last meal after convicted murderer Lawrence Russell Brewer ordered up a vast feast including two chicken fried steaks, a cheese omelet and loads of extras – then didn’t eat them.

Texas state Sen. Judith Zaffirini was running for re-election in her district along the Mexican border, but had to change her logo. Border residents were alarmed to see lawn signs with a big jagged Z, a symbol for the Zetas, a murderous drug gang. Meanwhile, the Zetas were horrified that anyone might mistake them for members of the Texas Legislature.

Hullabaloo Disconnect, Disconnect: After a century of being in the same conference with UT and Baylor, Texas A&M split for the SEC. Then fired its coach. Aggie Quote of the Year: “Bring it on.” – Texas A&M Deputy Chancellor Jay Kimbrough, longtime Perry trouble shooter, to Aggie officials who had just fired him. At the time, Kimbrough was holding a pocketknife. Kimbrough later said it was just a joke.

Maroon Is Also a Verb Div: “I have to admit that the stupidity on this board (of regents) always brings me back to the point that I know I’m not the dumbest (expletive) out there.” – Texas A&M athletics chief financial officer and senior associate athletic director, Jeff Toole, written on a fan web site, anonymously, he thought. He also called A&M President R. Bowen Loftin a “putz.” and a “hopelessly underqualfied puppet.”

Goal Finger: Dallas Cowboy Roy Williams mailed a $76,000 engagement ring to former beauty pageant winner Brooke Daniels of Tomball and a recorded marriage proposal. She turned down Williams, a former UT football star, and kept the ring, he claimed. Williams went to court, but finally got the ring back. No word on the romance.

Big D for Disaster (A wardrobe malfunction seems minor): After years of planning and vast amounts of money spent, Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium also hosted heavy snow and ice which canceled flights. Traffic was a dangerous hockey game, and 850 fans were told their temporary seats were not useable because they were unsafe. The unhappy ticket-holders sued. Meantime, during that Dallas weekend, 59 people were arrested on prostitution related charges.

Worst Sports Fans: The boo-birds in Austin who heaped scorn on Longhorn quarterback Garret Gilbert after a couple of incompletions, and the fans were Longhorns! Wonder if they would do that to his face – that face which goes with his 6-foot-4-inch 219-pound body? No matter, Gilbert got hurt and transferred to SMU. We’re doing better at getting a return on our athletic investment: Of the top 100 Texas graduating high school football players this past spring, only 43 went out of state. Usually, we keep just a few of the blue chippers.

In politics, the year began with years – Tom DeLay got three of them in the clink.

From his re-election in November of 2010 until last Sept. 28, Gov. Rick Perry had gone through $762,680 in state funds for bodyguards (read: sherpas) on out-of-state trips. These taxpayer funds were used during a family vacation to the Bahamas and trips made by Anita Perry alone. Just why al-Queda would attack Mrs. Perry in Amsterdam or Madrid isn’t clear.

“Commerce, education and – what’s the third one there? Let’s see. I would do away with Commerce, Education, and let’s see. I can’t – the third one, I can’t. Sorry. Oops.” – Our not ready for prime time Texas governor in a GOP presidential debate.

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, married to the Clear Channel fortune, is the richest member of Congress, displacing Sen. John Kerry, married to the Heinz fortune. A Texas congressman on the House Financial Services Committee has filed for personal bankruptcy. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, a Democrat, has $2.9 million in liabilities, and nearly $1.5 million in assets. Most of the debt, $2.6 million, is a claim by Wells Fargo Bank. Fortunately for the congressman, his House Financial Services Committee has jurisdiction over legislation affecting banks.

Gentlemen, Start Your Indignations: Five Republican lawmakers from the Houston area — Reps. Kevin Brady, John Culberson,  Michael McCaul, Pete Olson and Ted Poe — all voted to eliminate federal dollars earmarked for National Public Radio and Planned Parenthood. But they voted yes for the Defense Department’s multimillion-dollar sponsorship deal with NASCAR racing teams. Lost in Space: Houston didn’t get one of the retired space shuttles for the Johnson Space Center. Instead, NASA awarded them to such space bases Los Angeles and Seattle. Don’t Keep on Truckin’: A Sealy factory officially lost its $3 billion contract to build 23,000 trucks for the US Army.

We haven’t even started yet, so let’s get back together next week and honor the dishonorable before Texas Monthly steals our list for its Bum Steer Awards.

 

Ashby awards at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE YEAR OF OUR DISCONTENT

December 26, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

How hot and dry was Texas in 2011? Wildfires wiped out hundreds of homes and up to half a billion trees. Lakes dried up to reveal cars and bodies. Texans suffered through the hottest June, July and August on record in the United States, according to the National Weather Service. Our 86.8 average beat out Oklahoma’s 85.2 degrees in 1934.

This was also the year that gave us the near-destruction of the Big XII and Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential hopes. The Aggies continued to give us oddball events, and our pols proved Texas has the sleaziest. So let’s take a look at 2011, the Year of the Rat.

Right-wingnut radio talk show host Glenn Beck looked all over America for his new home and radio-TV studios. Where would such a conspiracy-screwball feel most at home, comfortably surrounded by similarly minded people? Dallas, of course.

Prose and Cons: Anthony Graves, who spent 18 years on Death Row for a crime a special prosecutor ruled Graves didn’t commit, was due to receive $1.4 million compensation, but the Texas Comptroller’s office ruled Graves was ineligible because the words “actual innocence” did not appear in the document ordering his release. Other Texas Death Row inmates will no longer have a last meal after convicted murderer Lawrence Russell Brewer ordered up a vast feast including two chicken fried steaks, a cheese omelet and loads of extras – then didn’t eat them.

Texas state Sen. Judith Zaffirini was running for re-election in her district along the Mexican border, but had to change her logo. Border residents were alarmed to see lawn signs with a big jagged Z, a symbol for the Zetas, a murderous drug gang. Meanwhile, the Zetas were horrified that anyone might mistake them for members of the Texas Legislature.

Hullabaloo Disconnect, Disconnect: After a century of being in the same conference with UT and Baylor, Texas A&M split for the SEC. Then fired its coach. Aggie Quote of the Year: “Bring it on.” – Texas A&M Deputy Chancellor Jay Kimbrough, longtime Perry trouble shooter, to Aggie officials who had just fired him. At the time, Kimbrough was holding a pocketknife. Kimbrough later said it was just a joke.

Maroon Is Also a Verb Div: “I have to admit that the stupidity on this board (of regents) always brings me back to the point that I know I’m not the dumbest (expletive) out there.” – Texas A&M athletics chief financial officer and senior associate athletic director, Jeff Toole, written on a fan web site, anonymously, he thought. He also called A&M President R. Bowen Loftin a “putz.” and a “hopelessly underqualfied puppet.”

Goal Finger: Dallas Cowboy Roy Williams mailed a $76,000 engagement ring to former beauty pageant winner Brooke Daniels of Tomball and a recorded marriage proposal. She turned down Williams, a former UT football star, and kept the ring, he claimed. Williams went to court, but finally got the ring back. No word on the romance.

Big D for Disaster (A wardrobe malfunction seems minor): After years of planning and vast amounts of money spent, Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium also hosted heavy snow and ice which canceled flights. Traffic was a dangerous hockey game, and 850 fans were told their temporary seats were not useable because they were unsafe. The unhappy ticket-holders sued. Meantime, during that Dallas weekend, 59 people were arrested on prostitution related charges.

Worst Sports Fans: The boo-birds in Austin who heaped scorn on Longhorn quarterback Garret Gilbert after a couple of incompletions, and the fans were Longhorns! Wonder if they would do that to his face – that face which goes with his 6-foot-4-inch 219-pound body? No matter, Gilbert got hurt and transferred to SMU. We’re doing better at getting a return on our athletic investment: Of the top 100 Texas graduating high school football players this past spring, only 43 went out of state. Usually, we keep just a few of the blue chippers.

In politics, the year began with years – Tom DeLay got three of them in the clink.

From his re-election in November of 2010 until last Sept. 28, Gov. Rick Perry had gone through $762,680 in state funds for bodyguards (read: sherpas) on out-of-state trips. These taxpayer funds were used during a family vacation to the Bahamas and trips made by Anita Perry alone. Just why al-Queda would attack Mrs. Perry in Amsterdam or Madrid isn’t clear.

“Commerce, education and – what’s the third one there? Let’s see. I would do away with Commerce, Education, and let’s see. I can’t – the third one, I can’t. Sorry. Oops.” – Our not ready for prime time Texas governor in a GOP presidential debate.

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, married to the Clear Channel fortune, is the richest member of Congress, displacing Sen. John Kerry, married to the Heinz fortune. A Texas congressman on the House Financial Services Committee has filed for personal bankruptcy. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, a Democrat, has $2.9 million in liabilities, and nearly $1.5 million in assets. Most of the debt, $2.6 million, is a claim by Wells Fargo Bank. Fortunately for the congressman, his House Financial Services Committee has jurisdiction over legislation affecting banks.

Gentlemen, Start Your Indignations: Five Republican lawmakers from the Houston area — Reps. Kevin Brady, John Culberson,  Michael McCaul, Pete Olson and Ted Poe — all voted to eliminate federal dollars earmarked for National Public Radio and Planned Parenthood. But they voted yes for the Defense Department’s multimillion-dollar sponsorship deal with NASCAR racing teams. Lost in Space: Houston didn’t get one of the retired space shuttles for the Johnson Space Center. Instead, NASA awarded them to such space bases Los Angeles and Seattle. Don’t Keep on Truckin’: A Sealy factory officially lost its $3 billion contract to build 23,000 trucks for the US Army.

We haven’t even started yet, so let’s get back together next week and honor the dishonorable before Texas Monthly steals our list for its Bum Steer Awards.

 

Ashby awards at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

 

Ten Thousand Waves, NM

December 26, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogs

Leading the world in wellness treatments and relaxation, Ten Thousand Waves is four miles north of Santa Fe on the western slopes of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. This rugged, Southwestern spa features top-notch, Japanese-style treatments along with hot, mineral water baths.  “We always recommend a tub,” says Mary Johnson, public relations manager who has been helping visitors relax for more than 25 years. “It helps you relax and warms the muscles, preparing you for any treatment.” This is the first step in the cleansing process. Private and group baths are available.  All of the treatments here are customized to individual needs. The following facial can be customized and you can add the foot massage to any standard massage.

What’s Hot Now?

Japanese Facial This treatment includes cleansing products, masks and exfoliations. The differentiator is the amount of massage done to the face. Each lotion is massaged into the skin to increase the rate of absorption. Techniques include light stroking, kneading and percussive movements. “It’s like someone is dancing tango on your face,” says Johnson. Further regenerate your cells with a CryoStem Cell Treatment in which a serum is frozen until applied to your skin to stimulate collagen production.

Ashi Anma Foot Massage Imagine 25 minutes focused on your feet. This new treatment is crafted after the finger-pressure massage readily available in Japan and helps move energy through the body. Your feet will tingle long after the treatment is over.

www.tenthousandwaves.com

505-982-9304

THE ONE PERCENT SOLUTION

December 23, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby, Uncategorized

            THE CLUB – Ah, there you are. We’ve been expecting you. Take a seat here by the fireplace with its burning Merrill Lynch bonds. Waiter, bring this new member a drink. Now, might I welcome you to the Club One, obviously made up of that select group, the top 1 percent of the richest Americans.

            You were approved for membership by making a billion on Bernie Madoff bobble-head dolls – the kind of heads you can rip off. I made my fortune selling picket signs and bullhorns to those Occupy Wall Street folks. My branch offices in Atlanta, Denver, Houston, Oakland — they all did well, especially Oakland, where fire bombs and gas masks were selling like crack pipes. Unfortunately, my efforts to peddle deodorants and razors didn’t work. 

            Good, the waiter has brought your drink. Thank you, Newt. No doubt you’ve heard about the recession. But not here. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says we top 1 percent of earners more than doubled our share of the nation’s income over the last three decades. Actually, the after-tax income of the top 20 percent now exceeds the income of the bottom 80 percent of Americans, which seems only proper. Incidentally, our “after tax income” is about the same as our “before tax income,” if you get my drift.

Our members are the usual suspects: movie stars, top athletes, drug lords. They made it on their own. Then there are the Wall Street money handlers who don’t actually contribute anything to society, like making shoe-strings or growing corn, but they make a fortune. Oh, there’s Eugene Isenberg, outgoing CEO of Houston’s Nabors Industries. He just received a $100 million golden parachute. This was on top of his $176 million in compensation between 2006 and 2010 during which the company’s stock fell 38 percent. It’s dropped another 20 percent this year. Don’t you just love it?

            Even though we own most members of Congress, many already qualify for our club. There are currently 245 millionaires — 66 in the Senate and 179 in the House. The richest of all is a Texan: Rep. Michael McCaul, Republican of Austin, worth over $294 million. He married it. Most candidates for president, including Obama, are in the top 1 percent. We don’t have exact figures, but experts say Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul probably don’t make the cut. Rick Perry’s net worth is estimated at just over $1 million, which is not bad for someone who has been a Texas state employee most of his adult life.

Yes, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates qualify for our club, technically, but they were drummed out as heretics. You know their screed: keep the death tax, spread the wealth, philanthropy. Traitors to their class. How does one qualify for Club One? Your worthiness can be measured in two ways: wealth or income. By household wealth, the cutoff point was $9 million in 2010, according to the Federal Reserve. The cutoff for annual household income is about $700,000. However, the Congressional Budget Office put the 1 percent earnings cutoff at $350,000 in 2007.  

            The bottom 99 percent deserve to be at the bottom. As Herman Cain said, “I don’t have facts to back this up, but I happen to believe that these demonstrations are planned and orchestrated, to distract from the failed policies of the Obama administration. Don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks — if you don’t have a job and you are not rich, blame yourself!” He’s absolutely right, although I don’t have the facts to back it up.

I see through the window the great unwashed are stoning our club. Looks like an Athens come-as- you-are party. We here at the club believe in the Trickle Down Theory, or as the 99 percent call it, the Trickle On Theory. So? What’s their point? We believe in the redistribution of wealth – upwards, because we are job creators, although lately we haven’t been creating many jobs. So the gap between America’s rich and poor is widening. In the 30-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, only Turkey and Mexico have more economically unequal societies than the United States.

            Look at that mob. If it’s class warfare, then we’ve got the class, and we’ll give them the warfare. We should call out the Army, speaking of which, apparently not a single son or daughter of Club One members is serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. However, two generals of my acquaintance feel they are doing their part for the war effort – Generals Dynamics and Electric.  

If you paid one dollar in federal income tax from 2008 till last year, you paid more than General Electric, DuPont, Verizon, Boeing, Wells Fargo and Honeywell. A new report from Citizens for Tax Justice – a commie front obviously — looked at 280 of the Fortune 500 companies and found, while the federal corporate tax code ostensibly requires big corporations to pay at a 35 percent corporate income tax rate, on average the 280 corporations paid only about half that amount. Or as Leona Helmsley told her housekeeper, “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.” Helmsley later went to prison for federal tax evasion.

This 35 percent corporate tax rate is often cited as being second only to Japan’s rate, and should be lowered. As we can see, it already has been. This is like the oft-heard canard: “Half of Americans don’t pay income taxes.” Keep saying it long enough and people will believe it. Actually, the figure is not 50 percent but 43 percent, and they pay lots of taxes directly or indirectly: fees and fines, property taxes, school taxes, sales taxes, taxes on gasoline, pitchforks and torches. Individual income taxes only contribute 45 percent to the fed’s budget. Everybody pays the remaining 55 percent. Just remember, Texas doesn’t have an income tax, but Austin still wrings billions out of us.

Here’s to bailouts and TARP. Cheers. We’ll have another round, Mitt. 

 

                        Ashby is taxed at ashby2@comcast.net

Get Organized Month

December 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

Houston Professional Organizers Join Forces with IKEA
For “Get Organized Month” every Saturday in January!

Today, people have more space, more stuff, and less time – making clutter and disorganization common. The need for professional organizers is greater than ever before. So, it’s not surprising that according to the National Association of Professional OrganizersÒ (NAPO), more than 148,000 clients were served by NAPO members in 2008. Here in Houston, there are 45 professional organizers in the NAPO Houston Chapter available to help combat the overwhelming feeling people face when they know something needs to be done, but aren’t sure where to start

To help start getting organized, IKEA is hosting presentations by NAPO Houston professional organizers every Saturday in January! The organizers will be conducting interactive presentations in different departments giving ideas and practical solutions to helping others create an organized home or office.

The presentations by NAPO Houston professional organizers at IKEA will be between 11:00-3:00 on January 7th, 14th, and 21st. On the last Saturday, January 28th from 10:00-4:00, along with the presentations inside of IKEA, there will be four companies outside ready to accept donations, recycling, and shredding – and all are FREE. Junk Goes Green will be accepting electronics, Southern Shred will take up to 6 boxes of shredding, Salvation Army will accept clothing, and Houston Computer Recycling Center will be there to accept computers. Donating unused or broken items is the first step to becoming organized.

In our busy society, it’s more important than ever to be organized. It saves time, money, and frustration! Professional organizers improve their clients’ quality of life by transferring organizing skills that last. They serve both corporate and residential clients and specialize in a wide range of services and areas like garages, senior downsizing, moving, time management, paper management, and much more. Join NAPO Houston at IKEA throughout the month of January or visit www.NAPOHouston.com to find contact information for the professional organizer closest to you.

Sugar Land Home and Garden Show

December 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

Sugar Land Home and Garden Show
Get valuable advice from experts
and
Meet the Sugar Land Skeeters!

The Sugar Land Home and Garden Show is returning to the Stafford Centre, Saturday and Sunday, January 21 and 22, 2012, for its second year of bringing the newest products, technology and ideas for the home. However, there are many more reasons to mark your calendars now, for this must-attend event.

Experts offer valuable tips
“Many people think they can find whatever they need on the Internet, and there is a lot of information. But, there is no replacement for knowledge and expertise to know what to do or how to use that information,” said Peggy McGowen, ASID, CMKBD, award-winning kitchen and bath designer, and one of the speakers at the Sugar Land Home and Garden Show.

Those attending the show will have the opportunity to hear almost a dozen speakers, all with the knowledge and expertise on their subject, plus they will be offering the tips that only experts know from experience.

McGowen noted one of her clients found a kitchen sink online and purchased it. It appeared to be the right size and color, and she liked the price. Yet, when it was being installed, there was no room for the faucet, so it could not be used and the client could not return it.

“This is the difference between knowledge and information. On the Internet, it looked like it was the right size, but an expert would have known to look for these details. That is why this show is so important for home owners or future home owners, because they will have the opportunity to hear from the experts and learn the difference between information and experience and knowledge,” McGowen said.

McGowen, who has appeared on HGTV several times and served on advisory councils for industry manufacturers, will be speaking on trends and designs for new and redesigned kitchens, how to develop a realistic budget, how to begin a project, and working with a consultant. She will touch on a number of different topics and will be available for additional questions after her 45-minute presentation.

Organizing 101
Another speaker slated to draw a crowd is Lisa Giesler, the energized and self-motivated owner of A Time and Place for Everything LLC and author of, My Life Is a Mess: Organizing 101.

“Many people lead chaotic lives and they need help or guidance getting and staying organized. Many simply need to know how to set-up a calendar and learn time management skills so their lives will flow. Some people need help with everything from scheduling their children’s activities when they have three kids going in three different directions to organizing their paperwork and computer files. I’ll cover all of these and more in my presentation,” Giesler said.

Meet the Sugar Land Skeeters!
Baseball fans will have the opportunity to meet the Sugar Land Skeeters Minor League Baseball Team’s manager, Gary Gaetti, who will be on hand Saturday, January 21 to sign autographs and for pictures with fans. The Skeeters Mascot will also be at the show interacting with fans and signing autographs.

“Fans are invited to bring items they would like for Gary Gaetti to sign, and we will have autographed cards,” said Taylor McFarland, Community Relations Coordinator and Group Sales Representative for the Sugar Land Skeeters.

Green up your home
Architect, bioneer and building ecologist LaVerne Williams will explain how to approach green homebuilding and remodeling projects. This nationally acclaimed green-building pioneer has the information needed to keep costly mistakes at bay. Exhibits featuring energy efficient and green products, such as cooling and heating options and solar panels, will be available.

Other experts at the show include the nationally acclaimed Dr. Lori, with her Antique Appraisals and Comedy Tour; Kathy Huber, Houston Chronicle gardening columnist; Randy Lemmon, host of the KTRH 740 GardenLine radio show; Michael Garfield, the High-Tech Texan and Sugar Land resident; a booth manned by the Fort Bend Master Gardeners; and color expert Catherine Falgoust will discuss the latest trends in colors for your home décor projects.

The Swinging Door will provide show concessions.

Electronics recycling and document shredding will be offered on Saturday by CompuCycle.

Information
The Sugar Land Home and Garden Show is at the Stafford Centre, 10505 Cash Road in Stafford, TX 77477. Parking is FREE. Tickets are $9 for adults, $7 for seniors, and children 12 years and younger can attend for free. Only cash is accepted.

Times are Saturday, January 21, 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.; and Sunday, January 22, 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Visit www.SugarLandHomeAndGarden.com to print out an online discount coupon for $1 off of show admission and a chance to win terrific giveaways. Also, check out exhibitors’ special offers for show attendees.

Ritz Carlton Vail focus on Wellness

December 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogs

The Ritz Carlton Company continues to push the envelope.  Tom Hays is the first and only Wellness Concierge at the company.  From his home base at The Ritz Carlton club and Residences in Vail, Colorado, he says “wellness is very high on people’s list of what’s important to them.”  The seed of the Wellness Concierge concept is to anticipate needs.

There are so many trends; from Hot yoga, Pilates, P90X to Tracy Anderson, active spa goers have their own routine.  “We cannot provide all of those things internally, so our concept is to provide solutions,” he says.  “I do not teach Pilates, but I will schedule it for you.” And so it goes, Hays consults with guests on such topics as nutrition, allergies, and diet restrictions.  “When you come to the Ritz, you should not have to change the lifestyle you are in the course of living,” he says.  At the same time, Hays and his team help guests explore new healthy options as well.

 

What’s hot right now?

Poolside Yoga.  “Sun salutations should take the cue from the early morning sun,” says Tom Hays.  When the sun is low in the sky, the temperature is cooler.  “We salute the sun with the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop,” says Hays.

 

Body Sculpting.  An older crowd attends this class because the focus is not on lifting weights, but using your own body’s weight as resistance.  The class if filled with push-ups, pull-ups, planks and balancing on the stability ball.  This low-key class doesn’t result in high sweat, rather, it focuses on neuromuscular training, injury prevention, toning and definition as opposed to physical, functional training.

 

 

Credit Card Fraud

December 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

By Lynn Ashby                                                                        19 Dec. 2011

YA GOTTA GIVE ‘EM CREDIT

 

THE PHONE – “You say you were in Texas last Thursday. But our records show you were also in Illinois. How can you be in two places at the same time, putting charges from the XXX Adult Movie Store in Waco and the Sports Stop in Moline?” the credit card lady asks over the phone.

“I was in the Sports Stop in Waco,” I whine. “Why would anyone want to go to  Illinois?” What has obviously happened is that someone is ringing up charges on my credit account. Again? You may recall a year or so ago someone was going around East Texas running up huge bills in my name and driver’s license number. I figure they got that last info from a casino in Louisiana. Those poker parlors are about the only places that ask for driver’s license numbers.

Then last December someone picked my wallet at a Houston Texans game – the only offensive play the Texans had that day. Now it seems my credit card number is being pushed across counters in the Midwest. Not the card itself, just its numbers. I’ll bet the alleged perpetrator stole the numbers from one of those catalogue companies we use every holiday shopping season (January-December). We charge from Land’s End to the Waikiki Surf & Shark Shop. Somewhere along the way our card number must have stopped in Illinois.

So once more I am forced to change credit card numbers. Not the company, not the password nor address nor anything but just the numbers. The credit account I use, House O’ Cards, is quite efficient. But, like you, I have several companies that automatically put their charges on my card: electric bill, phone bill, ransoms and kickbacks. That requires that I call each one of them and give them my new number. Good luck with that.

“If you want to speak in English, press one. For Spanish, dos, for hrvatski jezik go back to Zagreb. All our agents are busy right now (we have two and one’s home sick), but you can use our options. If you want to pay your electric bill, press 1, if you don’t want to pay your bill, press 2 for a disconnect and 3 for Vito the Enforcer to visit you some night. Press 4 for all other options but there aren’t any.” We can’t speak to people at businesses over the phone anymore. However, when calling the cell phone company, after three hours of pressing various numbers, getting more recordings and being put on hold, I finally got a live person

“Thank you for calling Cellular Dwellers. My name is Howard. Actually, it’s not, but we’re supposed to say that. You told a recording that you wanted to change your credit card number. Why? Maxed out the old one? I see you’re using House O’ Cards. Boy, your credit must be just this side of Italy’s. I’ll need your password, which for us is always Kickapoo. It’s easier to remember if we just have one.”

After an agonizing and unproductive conversation with Howard, who had the IQ of a shovel, I was transferred to his supervisor, who could match wits with a hoe. It was as though no one in the company’s history had ever changed credit card numbers. “I don’t think anybody has ever changed their credit card number,” the supervisor said.

In 2006, the U.S. Census Bureau determined that there were nearly 1.5 billion credit cards in use in the U.S. A stack of all those credit cards would reach more than 70 miles into space — and be almost as tall as 13 Mount Everests. How many credit cards do you have? If you are the average cardholder, you have three. The average household has five. Like you, I have cut down on the number, mainly because I don’t need a different card for every gas station. No one can agree on how much the average cardholder owes.

Here’s a sign of the times. Some 29 percent of respondents in a recent survey reported they do not have a credit card. That was a more than 10 percent increase from June 2009. Obviously in this economy a lot of us got rid of our cards. It reminds me of the guy who performed plastic surgery on his wife. He shredded her credit cards. Another reflection of our recession is that credit card use has sunk nearly 19 percent since September 2008, the height of the financial crisis.

College students have long been targets for credit card pushers. Some 84 percent of undergraduates have credit cards, and the average undergrad has $2,200 in credit card debt. Additionally, they will amass almost $20,000 in student debt, mostly tuition. Of the students with cards, about 65 percent pay their bills in full every month, which is higher than the general adult population. Half of college undergraduates had four or more credit cards in 2008.

It got so bad that in 2010 Congress passed a law banning credit card companies from issuing cards to people under the age of 18. If you’re under 21 years old, you need an adult cosigner to get a card, unless you can prove that you have the financial means to pay your bill. Good luck on that point. Incidentally, we’ve been discussing credit cards, but 80 percent of consumers currently own a debit card, compared to 78 percent who own a credit card and 17 who own a prepaid card.

My final call is to the power company before they cut off my electricity.  “Thank you for calling the Lite Light Company. You pressed 76, which is ‘Other.” All our agents are busy with other — other customers’ complaints, but if you’ll just wait for.…”

Finally I get a real person. “Hi, caller. I yam Peggy Sue. How help can I?”

My explanation, plus slow repetitions, lasts 45 minutes. The next day they cut off my electricity.

 

Ashby is carded at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

Valobra Master Jewelers of Houston Debuts Exclusive Palmiero Italian Jewelry Collection

December 14, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogs

World-renown jewels available exclusively in the US at Valobra until December 20, 2011

Houston (December 12, 2011) – Valobra Master Jewelers’ Houston location is premiering one of Italy’s most coveted brands, Palmiero Jewellery Design, for the first time in the United States.

Known for their precious stones, exquisitely-assembled colored diamonds, and the intricate attention to detail of each piece, Palmiero designs are truly pieces of art. This one-of-a-kind haute couture jewelry collection is available for a limited-time engagement from now until December 20th, and is showcased exclusively at Valobra.

The stunning collection of rings, necklaces, earrings, bracelets, pins and broaches feature precious white, black, green, blue, yellow, and purple diamonds, sapphires with the most unusual shades of blue, pink and yellow, intense topazes, brilliant rubellites, and sparkling rubies, all expertly crafted to create unmistakable chromatic mixtures that speak the language of art.

Included in the prestigious Palmiero collection on exhibit at Valobra is the award-winning Optical Necklace. The 78.98 carat diamond necklace won The Best Fashionable Jewellery category at the Premier Middle East Watches, Jewellery & Pens Award in Bahrain.

“Given the high caliber of service and attention to detail offered by Valobra Master Jewelers, Carlo Palmiero decided we were the perfect retail outlet to carry his unique, exclusive collection,” said Franco Valobra, owner of Valobra Master Jewelers.

Until now, Carlo Palmiero’s extraordinary contemporary pieces have only been available in Bahrain, Hong Kong, Italy, Switzerland and Qatar. Because each piece of art in the line cannot be easily replicated due to the extensive craftsmanship, all items are guaranteed to be one-of-a-kind.
Valobra Master Jewelers is located at 4078 Westheimer. 713-961-4500

About Palmiero Jewellery Designs

Palmiero represents one of the most coveted and in demand brands in the international jewelry panorama. Timeless shapes, jewels and even more. It’s all about exercising style, excellence of ideas, and evolution of shapes. These jewels are dedicated to those women with strong personalities, who are ready to be noticed.

Haute couture jewels that speak the language of sculpture through vocabulary proper to the artists, who mould the precious materials to give them soul.

Palmiero has raised the diamonds and the natural stones to their maximum level; he conceived it with strong colours to get the luxurious “arlecchino” effects or fading, thus creating fabulous optical effects.

Gold is molded using the same process: he drapes it, he curves it, taming it to the will of his inspirations, crossing the fleeting borders that divide handicraft and art. Carlo Palmiero the epitomy of top quality and creativity, authentically haut de gamme and authentically made in Italy.

About Valobra Master Jewelers  

Since 1905, Valobra Master Jewelers has been creating and offering spectacular jewelry, designed and manufactured in Italy. Valobra Master Jewelers offers a magnificent collection of estate, antique, and vintage jewels, vintage and modern watches, and top quality art from Italy.

Valobra’s jewelry collection is among the finest in the world with beautifully set rare gems, pearls, and precious metals. Valobra offers classic design and original creations with contemporary touches, all with a distinctive and sophisticated flair.

Valobra features unique and beautiful antiques from around the world. The antique collection also comprises one-of-a kind paintings, unique objects d’art, and the most spectacular collection of Venetian chandeliers from Italy.


Scams are Back

December 12, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

Here is an interesting e-mail. “Dear Wells Fargo Customer, You have been identified as a key person to be a participant in our company’s 360 degree feedback survey process.” The message goes on to say how important I am, and if I’ll simply fill out the form, stick in my account number, password and DNA, then W F will send me $50. This same sender will also drain all my accounts, open up my safety deposit box and steal my birthright.

And another: “I am Martin Moussa Ahmed citizen of Libya, and son to Late General Abdul Moussa Ahmed, a very close friend to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Few days before my dad (sic) death he told me that he had deposited the sum of 11.7 Million USD in a consignment box with a security company.” My new best friend Ahmed will give me 25 percent of his fortune if only I will deposit a small amount of cash just to show my good intentions.

Are you suddenly getting a lot of these scams? A few years ago Nigerian princes were sweeping through the on-line world promising a fortune if only we would help them retrieve their billion dollars from a London bank. We can only wonder how many poor, gullible folks bought into the scheme. But now the con artists are back. “Due to the congestion in all Comcast mail users accounts, the Comcast mail team would be shutting down all unused accounts.” In order to re-open my account, I need to send “Comcast” my name, account number, password and shoe size. Wouldn’t you think my carrier would already know all of this?

The Comcast and Well Fargo scams are a step forward in that I do, indeed, use those companies. In the past I have received requests for information from companies I didn’t use. “We here at the Left Bank of the Bayou need to protect your etc…” Never used that bank. Can you stand another example? This one really pushes the e-mail envelope: “Dear Valued Customer, When we detect irregular activity on your Citizens Online Banking account to help us prevent crime, we need to confirm your identity. This means proving who you are and where you live. As part of our security checks we’ll usually ask you for some personal details.” Right, ask me for some personal details.

In addition to these messages, are you getting phone call versions of the same game? The phone rings. It’s a recording: “Hi, this is Rachel from Credit Card Services. We have been trying to reach you. This is our final call. In order to continue using your credit card (they never identify the card service by name), you must re-apply by answering these few questions.” A dead giveaway is the background noise. Scores if not hundreds of Rachels are making the identical call.

Now, we must ponder a few points. First, they – whomever they are – are continuing to run these rackets because they work. I mean, if the pirates of the PCs batted zero, after a few thousand unproductive calls they would turn to some other rip-off, like running for president or selling beer at NFL games for $15 a cup. So the bunko artists must be pulling in some idiots.

Two, exactly who are these idiots who would buy into such transparent phony offerings? I’d love to observe e-mails and phone calls that reply, and see just who is so easily misled. Probably the same people who buy books written by Sarah and Newt. I’d also love to read the complaints filed at the local cop shop from people who kept waiting for their $1 million check from the First Bank of Lagos. “Officer, all they asked for was my Social Security number and combination to my lock box. They said they were from the CIA and it was my patriotic duty.”

Over the years I have been hit up by phone calls from the Texas Deputy Dawg Backers Society (“We do good things for old deputies”) and e-mails from assorted heirs who only need my help to secure their fortune. A twist on this is the London solicitor who represents the late Crown Prince Akmed of Egypt and writes that I have been selected to help etc. etc.

One of my favorites is the Cases of the Errant E-Mail. Out of nowhere I get this one: “Bunny Lou, as you know, I’ve been dating this guy who’s a veep of  MegaMite, and he told me they’ve just landed a $3 BILLION contract with Homeland Security and the stock is going to go through the roof. Keep this to yourself, but buy MegaMite now! See you at the big party for Alfred. Love, Nanci-May.” By shear luck, I have stumbled into a Wall Street insider’s bonanza and shall make a fortune at the expense of the other suckers.

All of these easy-money rackets are based on a single characteristic of gullible victims: They think THEY are the sly fellows, the insiders, and are pulling a quick one on the bank or government or big corporation. Mix this with a heavy dose of greed and reel in the poor jerk.

Wait, a new version: “Hi, I need your help. I made a stealth trip for a short vacation in London, UK. Unfortunately for me, I got mugged at GUN POINT in the park of the hotel where I stayed, all cash, credit card and cell were stolen off me but luckily for me I still have my passports with me.” The urgent e-mail says the writer’s flight leaves in a few hours, “but am having problems settling the hotel bills. The hotel manager won’t let me leave until I settle the bills. I really need your urgent assistance. Charles.” Everyone knows someone name Charles. Wonder how he made out?

There’s a sucker born every minute, which is why I was very careful to only buy 1,000 shares of MegaMite before it went bankrupt.

Ashby is scammed at ashby2@comcast.net

30A Songwriters Festival

December 6, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Blog

 The Bangles, Indigo Girls, Rodney Crowell, Fastball, Matthew Sweet, and Sam Bush to co-headline the three-day event along Florida’s Gulf Coast in South Walton

The 30A Songwriters Festival announces headline acts for the January 13-15, 2012 event including Indigo Girls, Rodney Crowell, The Bangles, Shawn Mullins, Sam Bush Band and Matthew Sweet.  Theses acclaimed songwriters will join more than 120 talented artists from across the country to share intimate moments with friends and fans along Florida’s Scenic Highway 30A in South Walton along  Northwest Florida’s Gulf Coast.

The three-day music festival will feature more than 125 musicians and over 250 performances in venues ranging from intimate listening rooms to spacious outdoor amphitheaters amid a backdrop of brilliant white sand beaches, turquoise waters and stunning architecture.

Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles described the 2011 event as “a series of magical moments unfolding over the course of the long weekend – old friends reuniting, new friendships being born…Large audiences and performers enjoying days and nights of music, storytelling both poignant and humorous, spontaneous jams, Southern hospitality, delicious food and wine.”

The third annual festival, produced by the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County (CAA), presented by Visit South Walton and sponsored by Seaside and 30A.com, has quickly grown into one of the premier songwriters festivals in the country.  Representing diverse styles ranging from folk and country to rock and alternative, the 2012 line-up features nationally-acclaimed songwriters and musicians including The Bangles, , Shawn Mullins, Matthew Sweet, Indigo Girls and Fastball as well as David Wilcox, Steve Forbert, Mary Gauthier, Sam Bush, Randall Bramblett, Tommy Talton, Jeffrey Steele, Chely Wright, Chuck Cannon, Corey Smith, David Olney, Davin McCoy, Lori McKenna, Tommy Womack, Kevn Kinney, The Shadowboxers, Larkin Poe, Emily Lynch, Joseph Arthur, Matthew Mayfield, Rachel Platten, Callaghan, David Berkeley,  Garrison Starr, Jeff Black, Joe Leathers, Ben Glover, Billy Montana, Chas Sanford, Brian and Karyn White, Greg Barnhill, Forrest Williams Band, Kyle Jacobs, Kelsey Anna, Reed Waddle, Meg Huthchinson, Brigitte Demeyer, Daphne Willis, Shannon Whitworth, Suzi Ragsdale, Georgia, Ashleigh Flynn, Joanna Cotten, Bryan Kennedy, Matthew Kahler and over 75 more.

“What sets the 30A Songwriters Festival apart from others in the country is, one: we create listening rooms in truly unique beach resort venues and two: we book musically diverse artists,” said Russell Carter, event organizer and chair and president of Russell Carter Artist Management. “Rodney Crowell and the Bangles have both scored numerous number one hits, but I am willing to say that only at the 30A Songwriters Festival are you able to hear Rodney sing  ‘It’s Such a Small World‘ and  ‘I Couldn’t Leave You If I Tried,’ and then run across the street and hear the Bangles belt out ‘Eternal Flame,’ ‘Walk Like an Egyptian’ and ‘Manic Monday.’ Rodney will perform with a full band as will the Indigo Girls and Sam Bush. Matthew Sweet will perform “Girlfriend” in its entirety to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the release of the platinum certified album. Audiences who truly enjoy music will not want to miss this event.”

Scenic Highway 30A in South Walton meanders along the Gulf of Mexico through charming beach neighborhoods, including Santa Rosa Beach, Grayton Beach, WaterColor, Seaside, Rosemary Beach, Alys Beach as well as state parks and more than a dozen rare coastal dune lakes.

“The relaxed, laid back vibe of the beachside resorts along scenic Highway 30A creates the perfect atmosphere for this world-class event,” said Jennifer Steele, event organizer and executive director of the CAA. “South Walton already celebrates a thriving arts community, which includes a vibrant music scene and an abundance of talented musicians. We are delighted to bring such high-caliber songwriters, performers and up-and-coming artists from around the country to 30A to play for music savvy audiences.”

Proceeds from the 30A Songwriters Festival benefit the CAA.  Early bird ticket pricing of $100 for a three-day pass is still available for a limited time. For more information on the 2012 festival, including a full list of artists, venues, accommodations packages and how to purchase tickets, visit 30asongwritersfestival.com. To learn more about South Walton and Scenic Highway 30A, log on to visitsouthwalton.com, 30a.com or sowal.com.

 

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WHISTLING DIXIE

December 5, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE MUSEUM – “This is a map showing the North and the South in 1861,” I say, pointing to a large map on the wall.

“Where’s Disneyworld?” I can see it is going to be a most interesting visit to this museum which is currently featuring a large and well-done display of artifacts, maps, guns, photos and everything else having to do with the Late Unpleasantness. I am the Natty Bumppo to my three grandsons, and shall show my unworthy and unappreciative descendants my deep knowledge of American history. “Here is….”

“Abraham Lincoln,” interrupts one of my flock. “When he was assassinated, his wallet contained a Confederate five-dollar bill. The Grassy Knoll Society says this proves Lincoln was a Southern spy.”

So much for my Lincoln speech. We come to a photo of Robert E. Lee. “In 1859, Lee was visiting his family in Virginia when John Brown, that’s him there, seized an armory at Harper’s Ferry and tried to free the slaves. Lee was ordered to arrest Brown, so Lee led a group of US Marines up to Harper’s Ferry and took him.”

“If the US Army was trying to free the slaves and John Brown was trying to free the slaves, why did they arrest him?”

“Let me get back to you on that. Anyway, Lee spent more time in Texas than in the Confederate Army. His last US Army command was at Fort Mason northwest of Austin. He had an astute observation: “We made a great mistake in the beginning of our struggle, and I fear, in spite of all we can do, it will prove to be a fatal mistake. We appointed all our worst generals to command our armies, and all our best generals to edit the newspapers.”

“Gramps, you’d make a terrible general. Grandma says you weren’t even a very good lance corporal.”

“Shut up,” I explained. “Now, keep an eye out for a picture of your ancestors, General Turner Ashby and his younger brother, Captain Dick. Known as the Brothers Ashby, they were cavalry officers in the Army of Northern Virginia. No, they were not responsible for Ashby’s Rout and Ashby’s Humiliation. That was another ancestor, Major AWOL Ashby.”

“Did you know him well?”

“I’m not that old. Moving on, here is a display of the POW camps of both sides. Everyone knows about Andersonville, but what about Camp Douglas? It was a Union camp for Confederate POWs on the edge of Chicago. A trolley line was built out to the camp and bleachers set up so Chicagoans could go out and watch the Confederate soldiers in rags behind barbed wire stumbling around in the mud. A class act.”

“Never heard of it.”

“History is written, or not written, by the victors. Next we have this banner which is commonly called the Confederate flag, but actually it is the Confederate Battle flag. You see it displayed by the Ku Klux Klan which is why it is no longer displayed anywhere else, especially on Texas license plates. What’s that? Yes, you can change history. Indeed, a lot of our history is changing. There used to be sports teams, like UT-Arlington, named the Rebels. No more. When was the last time you heard a band play ‘Dixie’? Wonder what would happen today if someone tried to name an army base Fort Hood, Fort Lee or Fort Polk? As Grant told Lee at Appomattox, fugetaboutit.”

“Did the Union Army ever come to Texas, like in a battle?”

“Yes, they attempted to invade from the east, at the Sabine Pass. But a Houston saloon keeper named Dickey Dowling and a bunch of his Irish buddies beat them back in the most lop-sided battle of the entire war. Just think of the outcome if they had been sober. And Yankees took over Galveston for a couple of years, but got tired of the crowds at spring break, and surrendered.”

We come upon a glass case holding medical instruments, and photos of soldiers on both sides missing arms and legs. One lad asks: “Is that where the term ‘disarm’ came from? But nobody says ‘disleg.’ And why did they call the North the ‘Union’ when they never went out on strike?

“You ask too many questions.”

“Why was it called the Civil War?”

“Not everyone did. Your great-great-grandmother called it the War of Southern Independence or the War of Northern Aggression. Of course, she also thought damnyankee was one word. This is a picture of Sam Houston. He wanted Texas, which had only been a state for 15 years and still had the same leaders, to go back to being an independent country and sit out the conflict. Sort of like: ‘You two go ahead and war. We’ll just watch from over here.’ Texas joined the Confederacy, but its draft laws exempted any male who owned 15 or more slaves. Talk about a rich man’s war.”

“What about slavery? It was legal in New York until 1827. Kentucky didn’t ratify the Thirteenth Amendment ending slavery until 1976.”

“Next question. Actually, slavery was all a matter of economics. If they could have raised cotton in Boston, we’d never had the war. By the end of the conflict in 1865 the South was more devastated than either Germany or Japan after World War Two. Reconstruction, an ill-fitting word in this case, gave us the expression, ‘Yankee go home.’ It didn’t work. They’re still here, and more are coming every day.”

“What happened to the Brothers Ashby?”

“They were both killed by Yankees.”

“And AWOL Ashby?”

“He, too, was shot….by his own troops.”

 

Ashby rebels at ashby2@comcast.net

RAISE THE GANGPLANK

December 5, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE INTERSTATE – Just look at this line of cars. Bumper to bumper. Surfboards tied to the roofs, marijuana plants sticking out of the trunk. Californians, here they come. There is a surge of Left Coast (pardon the cliché) folks moving to Texas, more than from any other state. The Census Bureau reports that more than 363,000 Californians moved to Texas over the past five years. Just in 2010, almost 70,000 of them arrived here. It is not clear how many Texans moved to the Golden State; mostly high school football players like Heisman candidate Andrew Luck (Houston to Stanford).

So you have trouble getting a parking place? Long lines to see your parole officer? I’ll bet you have to wait hours at the ER. That’s because not only Californians are arriving, but so are immigrants from every other state along with the rest of the world. As of the 2010 Census, there were 25,145,561 people living in our state, up 4.3 million since the last Census in 2000. That is a 21 percent increase (I’m rounding off these figures) in 10 years which is more than twice the national population increase of 9.7 percent. For total population growth, it is as though between 2000 and 2010 every man, woman and child in both Los Angeles and San Francisco moved here, and sometimes I think they have.

This is counting not only the immigrants but new-borns, because Texans love to reproduce. Our birthrate is significantly higher than the national rate: 13 per 1,000 people for the nation compared to 15.4 per 1,000 for Texas. Our state’s Hispanic births accounted for nearly half (49 percent) of the state’s 386,096 births last year. Today Hispanics make up 38 percent of the state’s population. The Texas State Data Center projects that by 2040 Hispanics will account for over 50 percent of all Texans, while one-third of the population will be Anglo. Blacks are expected to make up 9 percent of Texas’ population in 2040, and other races (not Anglo, black or Hispanic) are expected to grow to almost 6 percent. Oh, and Texans are younger than the rest of the nation — our average age is below the national average.

This army of newcomers from out of state shows up in different ways. For example, at pro sporting events you’ll see as many fans rooting for the Dodgers or the Bears or the Knicks as you will find cheering for the Texas team. The Dodgers ARE the home team. Ever notice all the LSU and OU bumper stickers and front-yard flags reading Ole Miss, USC and Cornell? Then there are those parents from Ohio or Michigan who don’t want their children saying “Ma’m” and “Sir” to their elders. It’s a Texas thing (or thang), but others feel using such titles is demeaning. And many of these Pilgrims just off the Conestoga can’t understand why their children have to study Texas history in school. “We didn’t have to study New Jersey’s history.” The comebacks for such a statement are too numerous to list, but do you get the idea the Border Patrol is watching the wrong river?

Incidentally, we have not yet mentioned the rest of the world which is trekking to the Not-So-Lonely Star State. An example: among Houston ISD students 84 different languages are spoekn. Almost one out of every four Houstonians is foreign born. No wonder the Bayou City has 87 foreign consulates. Where are these newcomers ssetting up shop? Mostly to the Houston area, the Metroplex and the I-35 corridor (Georgetown-Austin-San Antonio).  No one moves to Pampa. Would. You?

It would be tempting to say, “I’m on board, so raise the gangplank.” But all studies show the vast migration here is going to continue. This, obviously, begs the question to our Yankee put-down artists and eastern media elite: If we’re so bad, why does everyone else want to join us? They’re voting with their feet.

So our new immigrants and new babies are here and will stay here. This means we need more schools, more roads and bridges, more of everything, and more taxes to pay for them. It means our air will only get dirtier, so will our water, which we’re already lacking. And it means our Texas state anti-pollution agencies will have to come up with even more excuses as to why they’re in the pocket of the gods of smog. The good news is that we’re getting four more members of Congress. The bad news is that we’re getting four more members of Congress. The ones we have now are quite embarrassing enough without adding to their number.

GTT of course, is not new. Four Irishmen signed the Texas Declaration of Independence (we had our own), and 100 were listed in the rolls of San Jacinto, comprising one-seventh of the total Texan force in that battle. Eleven Irishmen died at the battle of the Alamo and 14 were among those with James W. Fannin at the Goliad Massacre. Until after 1877, German-speaking Texans outnumbered both Hispanics and Anglos.

At the Alamo the defenders came from 20 states and six countries. There were only 11 native Texians in the mission, all of them Tejanos, while 22 of the defenders just appeared, and to this day no one knows where they were born. At San Jacinto, the Texas Army came from 24 states, 11 countries, and Texas. Again, the only native Texians were 30 Hispanics from San Antonio. (Remember, Anglos were the original illegal immigrants.)

A witness the morning before the battle described the Texas Army: “A scene singularly wild and picturesque presented itself to our view. Around 20 or 30 campfires stood as many groups of men: English, Irish, Scots, Mexicans, French, Germans, Italians, Poles, Yankees, all unwashed and unshaved, their long hair and beards and mustaches matted, their clothes in tatters and plastered with mud. A more savage-looking band could scarcely have been assembled.” Our Californians should feel right at home.

 

Ashby carpetbags at ashby2@compass.net