The slideshow featured in this entry consists of photos snapped before and during the 2023 Art Car Parade. It is presented without descriptions, captions, or tedious explanations. Just enjoy what some incredibly creative people and groups can do with vehicles.
Orange Show Art Car Week is a celebration somewhat like Mardi Gras in New Orleans and elsewhere—except that almost everyone knows what Mardi Gras is, and far fewer people know what Art Cars are all about.
The culmination of the Art Car celebration is the Parade, which for most of its history has run on Allen Parkway into Downtown and back out. Thanks partly to COVID-19, and partly to the State of Texas scheduling political party conventions on the same weekend as the Parade, until last weekend I had not attended an Art Car Parade since 2019. I didn't realize just how much I'd missed it until I spent Saturday afternoon sweltering in the fickle shade of a sycamore on the median of the Parkway, watching this most H-Town event of all.
I loved the entries from school groups (there were about 20 this year), the SLAB cars, the low riders, the non-motorized entries, the trailers with bands playing on them, the Mutant Vehicles...every bit of it. What I loved most was watching it with a friend from the Burner scene, her daughter who's about my son's age, and her five-year-old grandson. The grandson and several preschoolers near us were seeing the Parade for the first time—or perhaps for the first time they might actually be able to make sense of what they were seeing.
My friend Angie educated her grandson on the distinction between an Art Car and a Mutant Vehicle: the latter typically has a body that does not resemble that of a standard motor vehicle, like the banana and the Aladdin slipper included in the slideshow.
Quite a few of my Burner and Burner-adjacent friends were in the Parade, most of them participating with the Zebra Crew. There are some non-Burner friends and acquaintances as well, such as once-upon-a-time Green Party activist Bev Peters with her car Shep the German Shepherd Rescue Car (a VW Beetle). Bev and Shep have appeared in at least 20 Art Car Parades.
Yeah, it's time for another "I sincerely want to start blogging regularly again, because I have a lot to say, but I'll probably end up posting this and then letting the blog go fallow for another few months" post.
I tried posting this or something like it last week, but Weebly crashed on me three times before I just gave up. That was in Safari; I'm trying Chrome now, hoping that it's more stable.
Just to catch readers up as briefly as possible: After my six-month web development bootcamp through Codeup, I'm still not hired. Also, I didn't fulfill the necessary requirements to be entitled to the tuition refund during the six-month period, so at age 60 I'm on the hook for a hefty student loan. I'm worse off than when I started. My credit score has tanked due to the additional balance. I'm still Ubering to survive; at least that income combined with my wife's modest salary keeps us (mostly) afloat. My parents are helping make up the difference.
The only "consolation" regarding my lack of success in landing a job is that others in my cohort, including a couple of very talented coders, are in the same boat. Since October, there have been no reports of anyone in our cohort being hired. Most of us who didn't get jobs have given up.
In my case, it's not that I've entirely given up; it's that in January I had a mental health crisis that has left me afraid even to open the laptop on which I have written and committed a lot of code and on which I would apply for jobs. I don't even look at LinkedIn or Glassdoor any more. It's not worth the risk of being reduced to a curled-up, screaming, howling wreck who can't hold a knife steady long enough to end it all.
Yes, the pressure of the pursuit of stable employment has left me unstable. At least since that day, having decided to take time away from the pursuit, I've had no similar episodes.
So even though I'm in no position to do so, with limited time and resources and dodgy organizational skills, I'm trying to revive the Harris County Green Party, with a little help from some longtime Party stalwarts and some fresh blood.
On the plus side, I've long believed that mental illness is an important ingredient in political activism, especially on the left. This mental illness results mostly from the cognitive dissonance of seeing people in power who know various ways in which the world is fucked up, and who know solutions to that fucked-upness, but who are unable or unwilling to implement those solutions. To paraphrase Jidda Krishnamurthi, we live in a profoundly sick society, and we are either unable or unwilling to adapt our values to that society's expectations.
Our media-industrial complex constantly reinforces the narrative that the sensible, responsible position to support one of the corporate parties, shut up about war and injustice and the horrors of capitalism, and keep on shopping. The one who dies with the most and coolest shit scored from Amazon wins.
Thus ends the rant.
We're having a reorganizational meetup this Sunday the 23rd at Midtown Bar & Grill, starting at 6:30 pm. Bring your ideas and your appetite. Hell, bring your mental illness too.
Well, shit. Weebly hasn't crashed in Chrome, but Chrome didn't allow me to attach a link to a block of selected text, so voila, the whole paragraph is a link.
This is how I feel after learning all that web development stuff: I fucking hate the Internet.
Happy 2/22/22, y'all!
In eight and a half years on Twitter, until yesterday morning I had never posted anything that has generated this many Likes, Retweets, and Follows. I honestly didn't expect the reception that this one received. It's not kerjillions, but it's still a bit of an ego boost. I did expect that people would misinterpret my statement, simple as it is, because of the way people plug messages into their own frames of reference whether they fit or not.
The Tweet was conceived as a pre-emptive response to something I've observed in elections past. A whole week into this year's midterm early voting primary season, I haven't yet seen any selfies on Facebook of friends smiling as if they've accomplished something, sporting their I VOTED stickers, rehashing that horrid cliché about "doing my civic duty." However, when I have seen these selfies, they're from smart, earnest Progressives who cling to the absurd notion that the Democratic Party is an avenue for their ideological aspirations rather than a dead end.
Yes, participating in small-d democratic activities in general is, in my view, a civic duty—i.e., one's duty as a citizen. Voting in a primary election, however, is only a duty to one's political party, not to one's nation, state, or community. It's debatable whether voting in the big-d Democratic Party's primary elections is a democratic activity, given that DNC attorneys have successfully argued in court that their party is not bound by law to respect the will of its voters.
So far, at least, I haven't seen any replies defending the Partisan Duopoly, and for that I'm grateful.
Harris County Greenfolk and other Progressives who have given up on the Partisan Duopoly:
Please clear your busy social calendars to make room for these important upcoming events:
Skip down to the bottom of this entry for a list of important things to remember about attending the conventions.
(Jacket photo would appear here, except that Weebly wouldn't let me upload the image, grumble-grumble. This also appears on Goodreads.)
First, regarding the three-star rating (out of five on Goodreads): This is only partly the fault of the author—and, at least according to the Foo Boss himself, he is indeed the author, with no professional ghost writer in the picture. Also, it is not a reflection of the level of enjoyment I received from reading this rock star memoir: I LOL'ed more times than I could count.
In the late 1990s, I played bass in a cover band with a repertoire that I liked to call "31 flavors of rock." We played everything from Chuck Berry and the Rolling Stones to 311 and Sublime. Our set lists included the Foo Fighters' "Big Me" and "Everlong." The latter of these two was something of a highlight of our gigs: The vocal harmony on the chorus, my bass tuned to a drop-D, and the faces of the young women in the bars singing along combined in ways that were so incredibly right, so incredibly '90s, for reasons I could never explain so don't ask.
The Foos were the real deal. Along with Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden, they stood out from all the pseudo-grunge acts that the big labels were thrusting onto the so-called alternative rock stations. They seemed admirably willing and able to experiment in sounds that could vault them over the walls of the grunge ghetto. But I couldn't envision them as Hall of Fame material, or even wanting to be considered for such an honor.
David Eric Grohl, the Craig Biggio of post-grunge (a Hall of Famer in two positions, drummer and rhythm-guitarist/lead vocalist) has a particular knack for communicating just how awesome his favorite musical acts are without falling back on tired adjectives like awesome. From Little Richard to Elton John to Neil (Rush) Peart to Joan Jett to Lemmy (Motorhead) Kilmister to AC/DC to Naked Raygun to his pal Paul McCartney to the Preservation Hall Jazz Society, Grohl lionizes them all without falling too deep into the pit of clichés. As an aging punker with varied influences myself, I resonate to all of that. More than anything, Grohl is grateful that such people and their music exist in this world and during this time.
Now in his fifties, Grohl is at root a father, a fan, and a Foo Fighter—in that order. Nothing illustrates this better than his story of flying back to California from Australia, mid-tour, to escort his first two daughters to their school's annual daddy-daughter dance. It's a cool story, and it's always pleasant to be reminded that rock stars can be functional, family-oriented people. Grohl is passing on the grace that his mother extended to him, her blessing for him to follow his bliss and his destiny, to his own three daughters.
As fun a read as The Storyteller is—especially for someone like me who turned punk at a young age despite having a mostly OK childhood—the book as a whole just isn't up to the level of quality I'd hoped. The problems are more editorial than authorial. The whole work seems hastily thrown together in places. Particularly in the later chapters, it has a tendency to repeat phrases used a few paragraphs, pages, or chapters ago, sometimes verbatim. It's as if he couldn't decide whether to insert a clever turn of phrase at the end of this paragraph or that one, so he left it in both places.
Another quibble I have with the latter chapters is that they consist mainly of anecdotes in which Grohl meets or otherwise interacts with this or that musical idol. These are all in the service of underscoring just how blessed a life Grohl has led, how he has never allowed himself to become a jaded rock star because dammit he's just a grown-up version of that kid from suburban DC whose whole life was changed the first time he heard (insert godlike artist or band here).
Despite now having spent about half his life as leader of the Foo Fighters, Grohl doesn't provide much material about the creative process involved in the band's recordings beyond the first three albums. The tours get plenty of ink, as do Grohl's various side projects, mostly because the Foos have proven over the years to be much more of a live sensation than a prolific recording outfit. Ten studio albums in 26 years? Srsly? It reminds me of the omissions in Elvis Costello's memoir Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink, in which Elvis skips completely over two of my all-time favorite albums, Trust and Imperial Bedroom, as if he has blocked out those unpleasant years 1981-83 either intentionally or due to chemical overindulgence. Nonetheless, Elvis and the Attractions had ten albums out in the space of about nine years, if you count the compilation of singles and B-sides.
Maybe Grohl doesn't find much of interest in the Foos' output beyond 2000. The three songs they played at their induction ceremony were all early material. IMHO, nothing after the third FF album There Is Nothing Left to Lose has had quite the same impact on society or culture, whereas the first three albums introduced some truly fresh sonic flavors, as inspiring as they were inspired by Grohl's omnivorous musical explorations.
The anecdote from this memoir that rubbed me the wrongest was the tale of performing "Who Are You?" in honor of The Who at Kennedy Center Honors for none other than President George W. Bush. By the early 2000s, Grohl was already rock & roll establishment, assured of his place in the Hall of Fame for his efforts with Nirvana and quite likely the Foo Fighters as well. Grohl could not turn down the invitation despite his ideological disagreements with Bush. He rationalizes the whole process as an exercise in civility among people of different partisan affiliations, recalling the way DC used to be. But there's a huge difference between respectful disagreements on policy and facing someone for whom millions of deaths are just the cost of doing business.
Later in the same chapter, he recounts performing in honor of McCartney at the White House in 2010, expressing his great admiration for then-President Barack Obama and...oy, I thought my stomach couldn't have turned any more after reading the parts involving the Bushes. At least fellow Nirvana alumnus Krist Novoselic sees the anti-democratic nature of the partisan duopoly and works on finding ways to wrest power from the duopoly's tentacles.
In 2021, a 79-year-old Sir Paul McCartney stayed up well past his bedtime to officially induct the Foo Fighters into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. As I watched the ceremony, I had no idea that McCartney was a close family friend and frequent dinner guests of the Grohls. Macca shows up in multiple chapters of The Storyteller, an ever-looming numinous presence that keeps Grohl connected to the Beatle-worshipping preteen within, inspiring him to keep rocking into his pre-dotage. Considering the Macca is pushing 80 and still making some quality records, perhaps some of that will rub off on his protégé Dave Grohl.
'Twas the week before Christmas, and, as is my habit, on behalf of Kayleen and me, I cobbled together a newsy year-end letter to enclose with the Syracuse Cultural Workers holiday cards that we sent to friends and relations far and near.
In the writing of that letter, I kept it to what would fit comfortably on both sides of a sheet of letter-size printer paper. That meant taking a "just the facts" approach, a type of discipline that I must consciously self-impose. As a big-picture person, I generally like to include ancillary details (e.g., explaining the peculiar etymologies of words like ancillary), as well as occasional opinions (of which I have many). Doing so would not have worked to our benefit.
Fortunately, I have website with a blog section, albeit one that has been underutilized these past two years. So I have plenty of space to take my two-page letter and expand it to include additional information, plus some hyperlinks that the print edition could not accommodate. Be advised that it contains what appear to be not-so-subtle advertisements for some corporations, very atypical of this blog.
Though I've said it many times and not entirely followed through, I earnestly hope to make this blog less underutilized in the coming months. One of my resolutions for 2022 is to post more regularly.
This summary of our 2021 is for any and all who carer to read it, including those who received the two-pager. The additions are all in red italics.
It may seem as if I have abandoned this blog, despite my promises to post entries more regularly. I have been concentrating on survival issues, family obligations, and some other writing; I am not yet ready to make public the nature or substance of the writing, but I've been rather obsessed with it.
Today, not only do I have the time to put together this post, but also the motivation. I am profoundly moved by recent events that are superficially unrelated but, in my estimation, are connected at a very deep level.
This weekend bleeding into the work-week, the big story in Houston has been the Astroworld disaster. In Glasgow, the big story (although you'd never know it from the lack of mainstream coverage) has been the massive youth-led demonstrations outside the Blah-Blah-Blah Convention, aka COP 26.
My big-picture assessment is that both these stories represent the responses of teens and young adults to the undeniable fact that they will inherit a world that is becoming increasingly hostile to life-as-we-know-it.
This October 2019 article from Houston Public Media distills the message of Angie Schmitt's important book Right of Way: Race, Class, and the Silent Epidemic of Pedestrian Deaths in America. Auto-pedestrian collisions, including fatal ones, are becoming more frequent year over year, outpacing the growth in population. And we cannot just keep blaming the dead pedestrians or just accepting the inevitability of traffic deaths as the cost of improved mobility.
I am amazed that there aren't a lot more such collisions on Old Spanish Trail. My wife and I live just a few feet from OST, a segment of US-90A that runs about five miles south of Downtown Houston. West to East, it diverges from Main Street near NRG Park, passes through portions of the Texas Medical Center, crosses the South Freeway (TX-288), divides the relatively upscale South MacGregor district from the low-to-mid-level homes mid-century bungalows of South Union, continues through some industrial areas south of the University of Houston, veers northward, and becomes South Wayside Drive just before reaching the Gulf Freeway (I-45).
For most of its length, OST is six lanes plus left-turn cutaways, with speed limits at 35 or 40. Motorists with sports cars, muscle cars, motorcycles, Polaris Slingshots, jacked up pickups and SUVs ignore the limit constantly. Day and night, drivers gun their engines, show off their glass-pack exhaust systems, act like they don't know what a school zone is and even accelerate through the zone to pass the slow-pokes complying with the reduced limit. It certainly doesn't help that somebody built a gigantic sports bar/night club/hookah lounge right at OST and 288.
Pedestrians, many of them low-income POC, many of them seniors with mobility issues (but also schoolchildren and young families) cross OST at random points constantly, day and night, seeming not to care whether a young dude in a modified Dodge Challenger is bearing down on them. In parts of OST, the sidewalks are either crumbling or blocked by trees, bus shelters, or lamp posts that a driver has knocked over—so pedestrians just walk in the highway to get around these impediments.
In other words, OST fits the profile of the hyper-perilous traffic corridors that feature so prominently in Right of Way. It is designed to expedite the movement of cars and trucks...which it doesn't do very well. Particularly from 288 to Spur 5 by UH, the traffic lights are poorly timed. Far too often a driver can encounter red lights at every lighted intersection. So, to avoid the red lights, drivers speed from light to light, maybe treating the red light as a stop sign, maybe just plowing through the intersection.
But enough about my hood. What's so remarkable about Schmitt's book? Top on my list is that it takes a holistic approach to this under-reported phenomenon. Individual crashes may be reduced to a single cause; the rapid, steady increase in fatal auto-pedestrian crashes results from combinations of factors, most of which in turn result from planning that shows callous disregard for the lives of people who walk or use wheelchairs to get around. There's also the heavy marketeering of taller, heavier pickups and SUVs by the auto industry, mostly because the profit margins on these vehicles dwarf those for sedans. In just a few years, these motorized behemoths have practically erased all the progress toward improved fuel efficiency and curtailing climate chaos that has been made since the 1970s, the advent of Tesla and other electric vehicles notwithstanding. (She even mentions, as an aside, how auto companies are making their trucks and SUVs look meaner, appealing to the untamed ids of car shoppers, as well as outfitting them with "bull bars" and other such dangerous accessories.)
Second, Schmitt dives into the details to show that these factors actually cause increased traffic violence rather than merely correlate with it. How? By citing examples of places that have applied fixes and seen their traffic fatality numbers decrease instantly. Fixes include redesigning streets and roads in line with Vision Zero guidelines, reducing speed limits, adding crosswalks (too often crosswalks are too far apart, potentially adding half a mile to one's walk), installing traffic-calming devices, removing auto traffic entirely from specified business districts, and educating the public about safe navigation of urban streets. Maybe government agencies can eventually concentrate on discouraging citizens from buying those god-awful SUVs.
Third, Schmitt has collected material from sources all over North America and beyond. That source material includes not only the stark statistics kept by advocacy groups and government agencies, but also the anecdotes of regular folks whose loved ones were killed by drivers who mostly faced no consequences for their "accidents." Schmitt constructs a big-picture view of the root of the problem: over-reliance on statistics, but not all the relevant statistics. In an attempt to appear "evidence-based," agencies and policy makers tend to make decisions based partly on the stats, partly on budgetary considerations; however, they tend to work only with the stats that support their plans. They tend not to listen to the people who will be or have been harmed. It's only when a politician or local luminary takes up the cause of those harmed that media outlets pay attention and the issue enters public consciousness.
I have seen something like this phenomenon up-close, especially in the last few years with the proposed North Houston Highway Improvement Plan (NHHIP), also known as the I-45 expansion. The Texas Department of Transportation's own impact statements include estimates of the number of residents and businesses displaced, the number of schools and parks brought within 500 feet of the freeway's exhaust cloud, etc. Following a longstanding American tradition, those displaced are mostly (you guessed it!) low-income African American and LatinX folk.
Nevertheless, TxDOT and the Houston-Galveston Area Council have pushed ahead with the plan despite impassioned testimony from residents and advocates, including Houston's legendary furniture guy Jim "Mattress Mack" McIngvale. It has taken a lawsuit from Houston and Harris County government to block NHHIP on civil rights grounds, but even that injunction is temporary. I've also seen commuters on Facebook and Twitter saying basically that they don't give a shit who gets displaced as long as the North Freeway gets widened and their commute times lessened—but guess what, guys! That solution is also temporary! More lanes lead to induced demand, as we've seen on the expanded Katy Freeway; those lanes will fill up again, especially with more housing development along the corridor and more subdivisions springing up around Conroe, so...you see where all this is going, right?
In recent years, I have also seen our city and county governments respond positively to the need for alternative and multi-modal transportation options: improved pubic transit, protected bike lanes, bike racks on the fronts of buses, better connectivity between hike-and-bike trails, etc. Gentrification is often an unfortunate side-effect of these improvements, but that would be happening with or without the addition of bike lanes in traditionally black and brown neighborhoods. Sadly, real estate development trends and heavy demand for heavier vehicles are working against local governments' efforts: Pedestrian fatalities are still increasing. We have a long way to go to catch up with the Portlands of the world, let alone the Copenhagens and Amsterdams. We have a lot of attitudinal barriers to overcome, which is nice way of saying there a lot of sociopaths making and influencing policy, especially in Texas and elsewhere in the Sun Belt. As long as they get paid, these assholes don't care who lives or dies as a result of their decisions.
Indeed, if there's any way to summarize the combinations of factors contributing to the increase in pedestrian deaths, it's assholes. Whether those assholes are driving policy or driving (or selling) Hummers, they are creating the conditions that make walking in the US a high-risk activity, especially in Sun Belt cities. Making our society less assholish is an uphill battle; Schmitt and other transportation wonks, including myself, are grateful for the people waging that battle to halt traffic violence.
Ye gods, I abhor violence!—including the various forms of violence perpetrated against the People by the Elites through their minions in government and government agencies, such as:
Pretty soon, the situation will become so desperate that the People will start fighting back. And I don't mean sternly worded letters to the local paper or impassioned testimony at City Council meetings. I mean that shit is gonna get really real, really quickly, really intensely.
It will be about survival for future generations on this planet.
It will feature Americans risking death, like the labor protests of the 19th century, because life either has become intolerable or very soon will.
It won't be organized or orderly. (Who has money or time to organize effectively when the 1% has taken it all?)
It won't have an intellectual vanguard framing it in class-conscious terms.
It won't fly a partisan banner.
This is a variation on that old proverb, "Those who make nonviolent dissent impossible, make violent dissent inevitable."
I'm not endorsing a violent revolution, let alone a violent uprising with no unified purpose other than getting back at the billionaires & bankers. I'm just saying that, once people peel off the blinders of propaganda that keep them "in line," Katy bar the proverbial door.
This train of thought began with Briahna Joy Gray's observations (below) on the OH-11 special election about which I blogged earlier this week. The replies were full of Democratic loyalist trolling, which is typical for one of Briahna's Tweets. After all, she has actively campaigned to get Senator Not a Real Democrat (I-VT) nominated for the presidency. Normally I avoid wading into such an environment; however, the trolling included some abuse of the term "progressive" that I could not leave unanswered.
It chaps my whole nether region when I see centrist, incrementalist Democrats referred to as "progressive." It irks me even more deeply when that leads to McCarthyite tropes hurled at anyone to the left of Nancy Pelosi, as happened later in the thread.
The question in my reply had a twofold purpose:
My reply made no reference to the Green Party itself. But of course my Twitter bio is quite candid regarding my partisan affiliation. So, relevant to nothing in particular, up came the "What Has the Green Party Ever Done?" line of argument. To that I replied (not shown below), "Far more than a single Tweet can encapsulate" and promised to put a complete answer on this site later. Well, more complete anyway, because I'm sure that my bulleted list below leaves out some important achievements.
Blogging Sporadically since 2014
Here you will find political campaign-related entries, as well as some about my literature, Houston underground arts, peace & justice, urban cycling, soccer, alt-religion, and other topics.