Archive for March, 2006

More eyes on art and VBB!

Voices Breaking Boundaries (VBB) is a nonprofit arts organization that is opened to artists, organizations, and everyone in Houston (and even to those who are visiting)!

VBB shows a variety of events, ranging from poetry readings to music performances and to interesting installations of artwork. What I really like about VBB is its emphasis on the idea of merging together various cultures, backgrounds, and religions of different people. VBB never leaves you disappointed, because you are exposed to all of these different and fascinating perspectives from people. Hence, the purpose of VBB is to “break boundaries” through the use of art; and creating art is the method of the artist’s “voice.”

The founding director of VBB is Sehba Sarwar, who used to be my creative writing teacher back in high school. She is now my encouraging mentor, who always tells me to keep on writing, and a good friend. I remember how I was selected as one of the featured student writers for VBB, when I read one of my short stories at Borders in Meyerland back then…

Anyway, it’s been a while since I last saw Sehba, probably last summer… And to think that we are both still in Houston, too! Ah, again, I’m blaming it on my busy schedule as a college student. There’s so much to do in Houston! And there are just not enough hours in a day! Well, I’m going to mark a few of these events on my calendar, because I miss VBB and Sehba!

If you love art and learning about different cultures, you should come to these (upcoming) events. And bring your friends along too!

1. “Hardly Soft: A Mixed Media Installation” by Anila Quayyum Agha & Marie Weichman
2. 2006 Valiente Award: Farnoosh Moshiri
3. Cultural Narrative: David Barsamian
4. Words for Peace 4: Dramatic Reading of “Voices of a People’s History”

…and more to come.

Details are at

*Note: Photo courtesy of VBB.

An Immigration Ramble

So, I hear there’s a hullabaloo this week about the possible criminalization of “illegal” immigrants – an issue of some concern in Hou-town. The first shocker in this situation was that it ISN’T a crime to be in this country illegally. Apparently, it’s just a civil offense and those helpful folks in Washington DC are trying to make it a felony. Of course, fairness requires that some of those helpful folks are comparing their compatriots to people who would arrest Jesus or some such. Because there is never just mild difference of opinion in Washinton – everything has apocalyptic significance if the other side prevails. In Houston, of course, Mayor Bob still makes most of the decisions and just tells his proxy what to do and mostly, we all just kind of get along while roundly griping about things. For example, I know folks who complain about Mexican illegals and also think nothing of hiring them to do yard work.

But I digress. I do have a key point to make, one we can hopefully all agree on. That is, the system is broken now. A system of laws that are routinely broken is not a good thing. People risking their lives to cross the border is not a good thing. People refusing to assimilate is not a good thing. Racism is not a good thing.

A year or so ago, while innocently stopped in a traffic jam on I-45, a car ran into me at fairly high speed causing a good bit of crumpled metal. The driver was not legally in this country and the HPD officer didn’t bother to even cite him saying there was no point…he was virtually untraceable and it was less likely that a Republican Congress would arrest Jesus than my accidental acquaintance would show up in court. Instead, the officer merely noted in the accident report that the other driver was at fault, gave me an incident number and waved at the other driver as his car was towed off.I’m sure my fellow residents of Houston can cite hundreds, if not thousands, of similar events.

We live in a nation of laws. We treasure due process and the system of dispute resolution that depends upon the citizen to participate and to accede to the result even when not favorable. And yet, we have created, through our immigration “problem” an underclass of outlaws who are essentially exempt from the rules. Sometimes this is in their favor because they can avoid elements of the system that would punish regular citizens or they can receive benefits that they have not paid for. Sometimes it is very much not in their favor because they live life on the margin, often in terrible conditions and in bad jobs. I imagine that the more we all learn about the conditions of life for the illegal immigrant, the more depressed we would become.

So, something needs to be done. And whatever is done must restore a sense of law and equity to the situation. I haven’t liked many of the proposals I’ve read. I don’t like the idea of an underclass operating under different rules. I certainly don’t like paying taxes to provide services to people who are not legally here. I didn’t much like it when my insurance had to pay for someone else’s bad driving.

If people do not obey the law, we have a far more serious problem than illegal aliens. We have the unravelling of the system. From time to time, force is required to get the law obeyed. From time to time, the law needs reform. I think in this case, both are true. I don’t have a problem with opening the border to any Mexican citizen who wishes to visit and work here. I do have a problem with not doing it in an orderly way.

More importantly, I want the system reformed so the true cost of hiring a foreigner to do the job is borne by the employer and the foreigner and not by the other citizenry. I’ve heard it argued that an illegal alien takes work an American citizen won’t take. I think this is false. Illegal aliens take work American citizens won’t take – AT THAT WAGE. If an American would do the job for $25/hour and an employer can get another person to do the same job for $10/hour, I don’t have trouble understanding the incentive to the employer to hire the illegal alien. But I do think that buries a heckuva lot of other costs into the pockets of the citizenry that the American employee would cover at the higher wage. For example, the rest of us foot the bill for medical care, schooling and insurance premium increases due to uninsured motorists. Those costs – the $15 in my example – are paid for by others.

In Houston, and in Texas, where property taxes only tax people who own houses, I pay about $8k a year in school property taxes for schools that teach a large number of children whose parents pay nothing. If the illegal immigrant had to pay their fair share of the cost to put their children in seats at the school, they could not afford to do a job for $10/hour – they would need to earn a salary more akin to what an American citizen would require to accept in order to keep up with their obligations.

I’m not an economist (obviously). But I think one of the answers to this whole equation is not allowing an underclass to underearn in jobs that should be paying more. And if they did pay enough to allow the citizen to pay their taxes and meet their obligations, I suspect you would see people competing for those jobs that the President doesn’t think want those jobs.

This is not to say that I don’t have respect for the self-sacrifice it takes to cross a border, work hard and send a lot of money home while living in poverty here. It is to say that by allowing employers to pay wages below what the real cost of the labor is to society, we help create the situation that encourages the illegal alien to come here in the first place.

Does any of that make sense?

FotoFest 2006: Delilah Montoya book signing

This afternoon at Project Row Houses in Houston’s Third Ward, photographer and UH photo professor Delilah Montoya will be signing her new book Women Boxers: The New Warriors from Arte Público Press. The reception and book signing is scheduled for March 25, 2006 from 4:00-6:00 p.m. at Project Row Houses (2521 Holman, Houston, Texas 77004 between St. Charles & Live Oak St.) with Montoya, scholar Teresa Márquez, and Houston champion boxers Yolanda Swindell and Akondaye Fountain. Later that evening, women sparing matches will be projected onto the El Dorado Ballroom building (2310 Elgin @ Dowling) from dusk until 8:30 p.m.

Pajama Party Next Friday at the Continental

I’m informed by my good buddy Jay (of the Flying Fish Sailors) that next Friday at the Continental Club will be a great show with Clouseaux, Aqua Velva, and the Flying Fish Sailors. The FFS will start at 10. Prior to the FFS, Molly and the Ringwalds will, as always, be doing their happy hour show from 7-9. And, this show is special, if you wear your pajamas, you get in free!!! And all the bandmates should be wearing theirs as well. So break out the PJs and drink one for me at the CC next Friday!

New Metblog kid on the block — Chennai, India


If you’ve got a second this week, be sure and swing by our newest member of the Metblog family: Chennai, India

Also check out the Chennai Metblog Flickr group, for tasty visual treats.

Friday Catblogging? The Astros make it possible.

Okay, so how exactly does one combine Houston Metroblogging with Friday Catblogging?

Glad you asked.

Spring Training for the World Series Runners-Up Houston Astros is almost finished, and the exhibition games at Minutemaid Park begin with a matchup on March 31st at 7:05PM against the Kansas City Royals.

Just in case you’re wondering if Lima Time is coming back, it isn’t on the 31st. The Royals discarded former Astro Jose Lima in the off-season, so you’ll have to wait and see if the Mets rehabilitate him to the point of putting him in their rotation or bullpen, sailing homers over another former Astro’s head: Carlos Beltran.

After that, it’s Opening Day on Monday April the Third, but unless you’ve already got tickets, you probably won’t even manage to get the SRO’s sold at the Astros site. Sorry.

And that’s why Piperkitty is so mad. She waited until the last minute to get tickets, and she lost.

Poor kitty.

Interested in having a Super Happy Fun time?

This weekend a local music venue, Super Happy Fun Land, is celebrating their 3rd anniversary with a two day party!

Swing by 2610 Ashland Street (in the Heights) for: live music, an art bazaar, a barter fair, a garage sale, a record swap, a comic book & zine fair all in one!

12-5pm with a Potluck Vegetarian BBQ at 4pm

The Seasons Switched

You know, I live in Houston all my life, and there are times when I still can’t figure out which days I need to wear a sweater or to just simply wear shorts and flipflops. The weather is usually unpredictable, because it doesn’t stay constant in one day.

EVENTS – Bayou City Art Festival – Memorial Park

Bayou City Art Festival

(Time: 1:05)

206-202-3644 Call in your news!

via This Week in Houston

Hello! Crime is bad, mmkay?

So, hello.

I’d like to start out by being uplifting and cheerful, but instead of that, I’m going to ramble about the thing most on my mind.


Smarter people than I can determine what percentage of our recent surge in home invasions, shootings and other media-ready events can be attributed to some of the less than the nice elements visiting our fair city after storms destroyed their other criminal turf. As a father and husband who is the one who locks the house up at night and whose path to the front door includes collecting a baseball bat, I spend a lot of my free time thinking of what I can do to ensure the safety of my clan.

In my single days, even though I lived in a rougher neighborhood, I had more and larger dogs and I kept a shotgun next to the bed with a round chambered. While this was admittedly a risky practice, the fact that I lived alone balanced out that risk. When I got married a few years back and bought the current residence, I took more appropriate safety measures to keep the guns out of the reach of kidlets. In the event I have, say 3-5 seconds from door destruction to meeting some uninvited guests, the odds are I’m going to be stepping up to bat rather than meeting them at High Noon.

And that, frankly, isn’t an optimum strategy for taking on a number of armed people likely to be significantly more numerous than I am. So, of course, I made a point to meet the constable who patrols our area, and I make sure the doors are locked. And I ordered a security system. But none of this gives me peace of mind.

Over the Christmas holiday, I proved my naturally superior intelligence by locking my keys in my car and needing assistance in getting the door open. As luck would have it, some of Houston’s finest were nearby and willing to help out. I took advantage of that to ask what we could do to improve security in Houston and I got a shockingly simple answer:

Hire more cops.

When a thousand or so officers take early retirement, it is hard to imagine how the police department can provide anywhere near the same level of policing, no matter how significant the overtime programs are. When an influx of new residents arrives with some percentage of shady characters and miscreants attached, simple math tells us that less police plus more criminals is going to increase crime.

I like parks. I really do. And nice summer activity programs. And I don’t mind it when city employees get legal bonuses they probably more than deserve. And I know the mayor likes his “we know better than you do” programs like Safe Clear and stoplight cameras. But there is one simple thing that can be done to improve this situation.

Hire more cops.

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