Tuesday, September 15, 2024

Official Summer Fest Video by Mark Armes

posted by Free Press Houston @ 7:26 AM

Monday, September 14, 2024

Saturday's Joe Arpaio Protest

posted by Free Press Houston @ 8:43 AM

If you don't know Joe Arpaio, he is the infamous Arizona Sheriff who forces his inmates to wear pink clothes in a desert tent penitentiary. He is one of the country's foremost anti-immigrant activists and an all around Masengil. He made an appearance in Houston over the weekend and it brought out droves of soft and hard racists in support of him. This here video is the beginning of what we will develop into a regular video blog. ( Yeah, peep that new logo with a 'V' in it!)
Now, you will see a man in an Uncle Sam costume appear.. This is FPH copy editor and contributor Harbeer Sandhu posing as an anti-immigrant activist. At one point he urges 'his side' to chant 'remember Sandy Creek' which is an infamous slaughter of indigenous peoples in Arizona. So they jump right in. Sarcasm is lost in this world...

Friday, September 11, 2024

Hot Lixx Huluhan: The world's greatest air guitarist

posted by Free Press Houston @ 11:04 AM

It's an honor to say that this guy is my friend. While some bands try to push their records and still have to make their own fliers to promote their shows Hot Lixx Huluhan (Not to beconfused with Hot Lips Houlihan) here is
traveling the world, jamming stadiums, and laughing at every guitarist in the face.
Hot Lixx Huluhan is the one greatest air guitarists in the world. Placing first place last year in the world championships and this year placing in second Hot Lixx is the raddest guy on Earth.

FP: People train to be boxers, magicians, skateboarders, and swimmers. You challenged the world through air guitar.
How did it feel to be the greatest air guitarist in the world.

HL: My favorite part was being recognized as a world citizen as opposed to an “American”. I also liked the part where people both respected and laughed at me. That’s having my cake and eating it too.

FP: This year you placed in second place now making you the 2nd best air guitarist in the world. Do you feel stripped away now that the belt now belongs to France.

HL: The way things turned out was poetic. I have been ‘battling’ Ocean for four years now – he wins, I win, he wins, I win…so for both of us to tie, on the world stage, for 2nd place is pretty awesome. I mean, if you’re gonna go down then 2nd place is a pretty good place to drop. And the Frenchman was, in the words of the secretary from Ferris Bueller, a righteous dude. I was proud to pass along my crown to him.

FP: USA's Spark bingin' William Ocean followed at 2nd place. What has USA been drinking to gain such high scores in the AGWC?

HL: I think the U.S. has a very expressive style. An eastern European competitor once told me American routines are like Hollywood blockbusters – always too much stuff going on. He may be correct but I think it helps to have extra showmanship when you are one of 20 people trying to make an impression. Everyone at the world level is exceptional at the craft so to stick out sometimes takes more umph – hence the bombasticity, or “American style.”

FP:What is the thought process of choosing your song that you perform during the preliminary rounds.

HL:Personally, I like songs that are mid-tempo but a little ahead of the beat and aggressive. Something a little uncomfortable but perhaps…intriguing? Also, I like songs that promote awkward sexuality.

FP:And what about your uniforms.

HL:While this is at times my job (how sweet is that???!!) I have no uniform.

FP:As of late there is a new competitive sport called Air Sex. With your knowledge in the air world how do you feel if you pulled a Michael Jordan
and went on to another sport such as Air Sex.

HL:If there is one thing competitive air guitarists can laugh at it is the air sex community.

FP:Now being a female performing air sex you get to perform reach arounds and blow jobs which makes the performance more visual other than a
you air fucking a girl. Would you keep it straight or would you go guy on guy.

HL:I’d probably incorporate some sort of fart erotica. Does anyone in the air sex world just pretend to sit at a computer and masturbate? I’d do that.

FP:I see that a lot of air guitarist all have their "tricks" while you on the other hand like to just perform your song with no gimmicks.
You master your songs to a T without stunts and tricks. Is this part of your package or will we see tricks in the future.

HL:First I would like to thank you for inquiring about my package. While it plays only a small part in my routines (ooo, pun not intended), it is not the centerpiece like it can be for many other air wankers. The trick to air guitaring is make it somehow look like you’re NOT masturbating. I try ‘tricks’ from time to time but they don’t always work so I use them sparingly. One year I broke a fake bottle over my head. The pictures looked good and the crowd seemed to enjoy it but I still lost (to Ocean). Then next year in Des Moines a kid named Joseph of Airemethia broke an actual New Castle bottle over his head and I felt like such a poser. Tricks are cool but I’m more into themes now. Like Tetrad or Awesome (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6RI7UwkAYQ), those guys make characters and just run with them with no regard for cool. I LOVE that!


Ahhhh.... Push It

posted by b.s. @ 8:23 AM

Untitled (Sisyphean Task), 2024

by Divya Murthy

While Devin the Dude performed on the main stage at Summerfest, Frank Olson, Johnny DiBlasi and Matt Keller were attracting a significant audience toiling away in the sweltering heat. While festival-goers tuned in, turned on and dropped out, at the top of the hill Olson and Keller endlessly repeated a performance piece referencing the unyielding absurdity of an endless chore... READ MORE

Thursday, September 10, 2024

Reasonable Doubts Revisited: Reassessing 9/11 in the Obama Era

posted by Free Press Houston @ 9:46 AM

By M. Martin
Image by Tim Dorsey

“...Skepticism is a two-­edge sword. The same attitude that can lead to a suspicion of fringe theories can lead to a suspicion of orthodoxy as well....”
­Ted Schultz, The Fringes of Reason (1989)

Two years ago, I used that quote as the lead paragraph of an article entitled "Reasonable Doubts About The Demon in the Basement: A Skeptic's Assessment of 9/11". Two years further away from the actual event and almost a year into the first post-9/11 U.S. presidency, I felt it appropriate to re-examine my words and thoughts...and see what, if anything, had changed. I continue to approach this subject as both a skeptic and as an agnostic. This is an approach guaranteed to generate scorn from virtually all camps that have a perceived stake in the matter, as well as a certain awkwardness with those, who like our current president, would vastly prefer to simply "move on". Move on... and let all of the incredibly unlikely events of the Bush Era recede into history.

The only problem with that is that in many ways we haven't left the Bush Era. Some of the worst changes wrought upon our society over the last eight years have essentially become permanent and institutionalized. The hope that our current president would bring us back from the brink of absolute corporatist fascism has not yet been proven entirely vain-- but any prospect that candidate Barack Obama's rhetoric on the subject of "change" might be matched by President Obama's policies now seems distant and futile. The disturbingly Teutonic notion of the American "Homeland" is apparently as firmly entrenched in our language as The Department of Homeland Security is within our government. Ideas like warrantless and unsupervised domestic government spying or the indefinite detention of people who are somehow "too dangerous" to receive fair trial have become as familiar as they are contemptible. And at the heart of it all: the atrocity used to justify all the atrocities inflicted upon themselves by a once-free people--unexamined and too sacred to think about-- remains 9/11.

Two years ago, my thesis was fairly simple: that there were too many coincidences, too little untampered evidence, and too much convenience to take the official narrative of the events of September 11 2024 at face value. Further, I felt that any actual criminal investigation acting on the classic formula of "means, motive, and opportunity" would find it very difficult to exclude elements within our then-government from suspicion. Nothing that has occurred in the last two years has particularly invalidated the thesis or the suspicions. To the contrary, there is a slow and steady accumulation of evidence and informed analysis that makes the official narrative ever more difficult to accept. At the same time, there is a troubling lack of evidence regarding key pieces of the official narrative, evidence that should have emerged in the last eight years and has not.

Writing about the inconsistencies in evidence either for or against the official 9/11 narrative is beyond the scope of this article. The information is out there; anyone who wants to can google it in a heartbeat. The problem is that no one wants to. The purpose of this piece is to suggest that maybe you should.

What troubles me the most is how very little has actually changed. We are six months into a transfer of administrations and change of majority parties... and not a single Bush-Era official secrets act of substance has been overturned. To the contrary, there is growing evidence that the current administration is willing to keep the secrets of their predecessors at almost any cost. Among those detainees who President Obama regards as "too dangerous" to ever be tried or released are alleged 9/11 conspirators, many of whom supplied torture-extracted testimony (which, of course, remains secret) to the 9/11 Commission. These people are not comic book super-villains; they are as mortal as you or I and (apparently) permanently sequestered in the most secure prison system in the world. Is the supposed "danger" they pose what they might do... or what they might say in a fair and public trial?

And what of The President's unwillingness to consider the possibility of investigating far less speculative misdeeds on the part of the Bush Administration? More evidence mounts daily that there were indeed war crimes committed. Under both International Law and the U.S. Constitution, the current administration has a legal obligation (never mind the blazingly obvious moral obligation) to investigate what happened, if only to make sure that it cannot happen again. It is not enough for Barack Obama to merely say that "we do not torture" and express a willingness to move on. To do so is to implicitly acknowledge the concept of an Imperial Presidency in which-- like any other monarchy-- laws proceed from the man who holds the office and may change at whim with the man.

A very real argument could at one time been made that Obama had decided to bargain away accountability for the previous administration in return for the minority party's cooperation in an agenda of social reform. If that was ever the case, it was a poor bargain and certainly one that is null and void at this point--now that Obama is all but burned in effigy by ranting mobs encouraged and endorsed by that minority party. If Obama continues to push back on investigation of Bush-Era abuses, it is only because he has decided, for whatever reason, to become an accomplish after the fact to those abuses.

For anyone who remains skeptical on the previous administration's role in 9/11, it is all to easy to imagine that the ultimate reason for Obama's stonewalling is a clear understanding of just how far even a superficial investigation of Bush-Era criminality might go. Obama ran on the promise of being a reformer on the level of an FDR and a transformative figure on the level of Reagan. While he has certainly been a disappointment to progressives so far, it remains obvious that he intends to pursue a fairly sweeping agenda--one that would only be sidetracked by a full accounting of the Bush Era and that would likely be stopped cold by any sort of wide-scale re-assessment of 9/11. The fracture lines in this country have been made very obvious by the heated debate over healthcare. Wide-scale revelations of complicity in the 9/11 attacks by actors in the previous administration could set into motion acrimony that would make the current disputes look like a lover's spat.

Of course, it's not gonna happen. Even as The President is doing everything he can to kick this particular can of worms as far down the road as possible, American mass-media-driven culture is making sure that within another two years, it pretty much won't matter. It won't matter that ongoing analysis of what little evidence remains of the World Trade Center collapse shows signs of thermite combustion, or that there remains no conclusive photographic evidence of the plane that apparently struck the Pentagon, or that the 9/11 commission itself cannot explain the picture-perfect controlled-demolition collapse of WTC Building 7. It won't matter because none of this is ever going to make it onto a major network newscast or website, except possibly to be taken out of context, marginalized, or mocked.

It won't matter because every break room on every floor of the office building where I carry out my day-job activities sports a wide-screen TV, almost all of which are tuned to Fox News or CNN... and such has been the case with every major corporation I've worked for in the last ten years. It won't matter, because we've already been informed that progressives who suspect Bush of war crimes are exactly equal to rednecks who think Obama was born in Kenya--and we don't want to look foolish now, do we? This country is held together by hypnosis and consumerism, and the only reason John Carpenter's They Live qualifies as science fiction is that (as far as I know) the people responsible for the hypnosis aren't skull-headed aliens...but they might as well be. It doesn't matter what really happened on 9/11 or who was responsible...because knowing those things isn't going to pay for a new game console or a new car or the cool new smart phone we've all been told we have to have.

So....why does it even matter to me, at least enough to write this article? Why should it matter to you, the hypothetical reader? I guess in my case it's because I take it personally when people assume I'm a moron. Perhaps also because I'm just barely old enough to remember when this country was a better place... and probably too old to live long enough to see any real change for the better. If you're reading this and you're part of this paper's core demographic, you should care because you're being handed a shit sandwich called your future... and because--just maybe--if enough of you wake up and get pissed off, you might have some slim hope of living long enough to be something other than a very small part in a very large machine of worldwide corporate feudalism.

Also, writing this piece is, for me, something in the way of debt repayment...or maybe paying forward. You see, for years I didn't think about any of this. The Enron collapse, subsequent recession, and correspondent erosion in the IT job sector gave me plenty to think about in the years following 9/11. I fully understood that the Bush Administration was exploiting the living hell out of a national tragedy, but it never occurred to me that they might've engineered the damn thing in the first place--at least, not until I read a 9/11 skeptic piece in this paper...and had something of an epiphany.

That epiphany was that I had been lied, had not realized it, and had not even considered the possibility. And I am very far from being some starry-eyed defender of the status quo. I watched the Watergate hearings on TV after school, watched Ollie North peddle bullshit under oath in his country's uniform, and watched Bill Clinton lie about trivial sexual escapades and get crucified for it. I didn't buy the excuses for Gulf War 1 or 2, much less the lies trotted out as excuses. Yet somehow, this particular lie had managed to stay below my personal radar. I don't even remember the article or who wrote it, but I am very grateful to them--and to Free Press Houston.

I have no pet theory of "what really happened" I'm trying to advance. I just know that what I'm being told by government and mainstream media seems very much like a lie. All I am asking of you, the reader, is to consider the possibility that you are being lied to... and not just about 9/11.

Then ask yourself if you're OK with that.

Wednesday, September 9, 2024

King Kong or Manny Shaquiao?

posted by Mills-McCoin @ 7:51 PM

There’s nothing “real” about Reality Television. Nothing. It’s scripted; and worse for your health than smoking cigarettes. The only (and by God, I mean ONLY) TV show worth watching to quench your reality TV thirst is “SHAQ VS.”! Holy hellfire, I’m not kidding. You will chuckle chuckle chuckle your ass off.

My suggestion is for you to watch Shaq (self-proclaimed “Manny Shaquiao”) take on Oscar de la Hoya, who actually comes out of retirement for this particular shenanigan. The tale of the tape alone is hysterical. Shaq- seven feet & one inch. De la Hoya- five feet & ten inches. That’s a 16 inch difference. Shaq weighs 325 lbs. De la Hoya weighs less than I do.

Click here to watch

Electric Lazyland : Electric Cars in Houston and a response by Rick Ehrlich of Houston Electric Car

posted by Free Press Houston @ 11:18 AM

by Alex Wukman

Erik Ibarra walks into Coffee Groundz on a Saturday morning in his customary black polo embroidered with the Rev Houston logo and a ball cap. Ibarra and his brother, Justin Jones, started Rev Houston in April 2024--the same month that Ibarra and his brother Sean Ibarra accepted a settlement from Harris County.
In 2024 the brothers sued the county and the sheriff’s department, stating that their civil rights were violated when sheriff’s deputies stormed their home, arrested them and seized film after they photographed a deputy during a drug raid at a neighbor’s home. The suit was settled for $1.7 million.
Ibarra says that he was attending a sports event when he saw electric shuttles (they look like stretch golf carts) and became inspired, so he and Jones decided to start a company transporting people through downtown and midtown for tips. They went before Mayor Bill White and City Council to explain what they were doing.
“The mayor said ‘We look forward to permitting you. We think that plug in electric cars are the wave of the future,’” says Ibarra.
Six weeks after Rev Houston started, though, they received a ticket for operating a taxi without a license. Ibarra feels that the city has cowed to pressure from the taxi companies.
“Taxi companies feel that that we are such a threat that we have to be ticketed,” says Ibarra as he takes a sip from his coffee, “but the last thing we wanted to do when we started this company was compete with cabs.”
Raymond Turner, president of Yellow Cab Houston, states that he and his company have not put undue pressure on the city to ticket Ibarra.
“All we’ve done is ask the city to enforce existing ordinance, these vehicles are clearly vehicles for hire,” says Turner. Since Ibarra is running a company that hires out vehicles, he should be held to the same standard as any other taxi company. “The ordinance requires things like a sign on the top, a meter and doors,” says Turner.
None of Ibarra’s electric cars have signs marking them as taxis; nor do they have meters, or even doors. Ibarra feels that they don’t need meters because they don’t charge their riders a fare--they only accept tips. Not everybody agrees with him, though. Tina Paez, the city’s Deputy Director of Administration and Regulatory Affairs told the Houston Chronicle that since Rev Houston’s drivers accept tips, they are taxis and fall under the taxi ordinance.
The ordinance also requires that taxi cabs have fire extinguishers, something Ibarra finds ridiculous.
“We don’t even have any flammable fuel onboard,” says Ibarra.
Turner isn’t concerned with the fact that Ibarra’s drivers use electric cars, he just wants them to follow the rules.
“We’re not out trying to make life difficult for people, [but] the Rev Houston vehicles look like taxi cabs to us and to the city,” says Turner. Since the city has decided to regulate the taxi cab industry they need to regulate every taxi vehicle—electric or not. To Turner, the issue isn’t about the city favoring big businesses over small or not encouraging green vehicles; it’s about being equal under the law. “If the city is going to take this position that they are going to regulate this industry they have to regulate the entire industry.”
Ibarra counters that being equal under the law isn’t possible when the system is set against you. Ibarra stated that getting a taxi permit in Houston is difficult, because the permit price isn’t sent by the city, it is set by the cab companies. The barriers to entry are too high to start a cab company,. Turner is unconvinced.


Tuesday, September 8, 2024

Interview: Mike Hardin

posted by Free Press Houston @ 10:17 AM

By Omar Afra Photo by Mitch Cantu

Every city should have a Mike Hardin. The frontman for Roky Moon and Bolt and member of American Sharks dabbles in everything and constantly finds ways to push his personal envelope. His glam-laden songwriting for Roky Moon and Bolt draws from the likes of Bowie and T Rex yet is unmistakably Houston. What that means, I am not sure, but they have being playing many a show to much acclaim and played a jaw dropping set at Summer Fest. Hardin has a cornacopia of clutchness planned for the near future including a rock opera, a split 7 inch, and a rumored performance on the rooftop of the Mink. Hardin honored us with an interview and gave us the scoop on it all.

Is this a collective songwriting process or are you the Joseph Stalin of Bolt?

Well I write all of the songs but BOLT arranges their own parts. They basically take the shell of song that I present to them and help me make it not not suck! We make a hell of a team!

Is Five Dollar Fame about someone in particular? Can I have her number?

Five Dollar Fame is about a character I call the lioness. She is a beautiful but trashy celebrity model that is hopelessly addicted to drugs and fame. Oh, and sex and money of course. She is one of the main characters in the rock opera I am working on. You may not have her number because she is mine.
I heard rumors that ya'll and Chase Hamblin may release a 7 Inch together. Is this true and is it possible to have a more effeminate combination?

I would absolutely love to do a Chase Hamblin split. I just want to find someone to put it out because I don't have any money...BUT I also see many more amazing things that we can do together. Maybe he would be down with the idea of a split where I write the song he plays and he writes the song I play. Maybe just to man it up a little we will hold an arm wrestling competition to win free copies of the record!
Standard regurgitated question: Who are your favorite Houston bands?

BENJAMIN WESLEY! Love him, he rules. Chase Hamblin, for sure. Elaine Greer, Passengers, Ghost Town Electric, anything Bryan Jackson is doing! Springfield Riots, News on the March and Grandfather Child! Muhhamidali and Guitars, Tha Fucking Transmissions.

So you sound Glam but you don't look Glam. When can we expect some mascara and eye shadow?

I think we have decided not to go the makeup route but I would expect a little something special coming soon...Chad is cookin' up some ideas.
Fill in the blanks: Houston is the music capital of the universe because ____ has more ___ than a ___ has ____.

Aaron Echegaray has more soul than a KFC has grease!

Tell us about the Rock Opera you're working on.

The rock opera I am working on is going to be a sci-fi love story adventure. We are doing a couple of different splits but we also want to do our own record and I wanted to do something special. I feel like I am writing the some of the best music of my life and I felt just doing a regular album was something I had already done before and I want this to stand out and be an experience that sticks in peoples' minds for a long time. The piece that I am arranging right now is the beginning of a what I think will be a three part series. I don't want to go too much into the story right now but it will be all about the lioness and this man Avery and how they find each other and how they help each other to grow by relying on the love they share. Meanwhile there are space battles, sex, plenty of drugs and of course rock n' roll all around them and they are met with a series of challenges and they must rely on one another to get through it all. This will not however be soft and lofty. This, as any good rock opera should be, will be littered with screaming guitar solos and huge riffs, thank you Aaron Echegaray, and Jeoaf's signature beat the shit out of the drums thump. Then I want to do an actual stage show when it is complete. With costumes and set designs and stuff, get extra musician to help. Maybe even a string section! I was thinking of trying to convince the guys at the Mink to let us do it on the roof. Maybe clear the back parking lot and have the stage on the edge of the roof....we'll see...

Does it involve boobies?

Yes it involves boobies. TONS of boobies!

What is next for Roky Moon and Bolt: Slow Demise, Blaze of Glory, or Public Shame?

BLAZE OF GLORY!!!! Had I picked anything else Cassie would have quit the band I'm sure (believe it or not she is the wild one of us!)

Monday, September 7, 2024

Prince Rama of Ayodhya, Lord Jeff, B L A C K I E, and A Thousand Cranes 9/14/09

posted by Ramon Medina - LP4 @ 3:09 PM

More promo video weirdness from a thousand cranes this time plugging Prince Rama of Ayodhya, Lord Jeff, B L A C K I E, and A Thousand Cranes on September 14th at Mango's.

Friday, September 4, 2024

WatchWatch ListenListen

posted by Ramon Medina - LP4 @ 6:55 AM

ListenListen's "On the Water" is a pretty cool song. I wonder what would happen if the lads made a video for it? Well, wonder no more! They have! Check it out in the Music Section. (link)

Monday, August 24, 2024

Too Bored's Summer Fest Montage

posted by Free Press Houston @ 10:31 PM

50 cent Shiners at Poison Girl tonight

posted by Free Press Houston @ 3:47 PM

If you have not heard, our friends at 29-95.com are sponsoring 50 cent Shiners at PG tonight. It's always funny when someone you see hundreds of times at bars offers you a drink when they are only 50 cents. Oh well, if it's free- take two.

Sunday, August 23, 2024

FPH visits a Job Fair

posted by Free Press Houston @ 12:13 PM

by Joe the Columnist

Recession porn—it’s everywhere. You’ve heard the stories about how everybody’s scaling back and getting by with less. It’s the hottest topic on TV, on the radio, in so many conversations. Corporations are sharing or leasing jets instead of buying them outright; rich folks are abandoning their yachts because they can’t keep up their maintenance, and having to choose between keeping the nanny or the gardener because they can’t keep them both. The middle classes are cooking mac and cheese at home rather than going out to Applebee’s, and young singles are packing thermoses of home-brewed coffee rather than splurging on Starbucks. And the unemployed? We’re having to attend job fairs in search of cheap entertainment.
I got the email about a week earlier. A forward about the Behemoth.com job fair from a helpful friend of my mother’s. They touted it as some kind of rock concert—a local stop on the Roll Up Your Shirtsleeves Tour. Yeah, right. I laughed.
Not that I’m above that sort of thing, but the kind of people who find workers at job fairs are the kind of people who don’t call workers “workers”—they’re more likely to call them Senior ASSociates or Junior ANALysts or Customer Branding Administrators. The kind of people who, despite how “interesting” they might find us, don’t hire people like me. But I didn’t delete it, and every time I checked my email (which, as an unemployed procrastinator, I am not ashamed to say is pretty often) it became more and more attractive.
It’s not like I had anything better planned for Wednesday morning. It would be like that time I woke up early on a Sunday to check the mega-church in the former sports arena—I still tell stories about that. I pictured myself at a party, surrounded by a cluster of people—them laughing and hanging on my every word, urging me on—as I regaled them with tales of my epic hero’s journey across the toxic bog of new carpet smell, through the cubicle labyrinth of florescent light sameness with it’s minotaur of a manager, his blinding cardboard smile and firm handshake that’s rendered countless, once proud, warriors impotent. Plus, it’d get my mom and girlfriend off my back for at least a week.
So, I updated my resume to include my latest job. I posted it on Behemoth.com and registered for the job fair (I mean the “Roll Up Your Shirtsleeves Tour”). I considered what sort of answers to give if somebody asked me about the gaps in my resume, why I move cross-country so often, and how much information to volunteer about that felony and that misdemeanor without appearing cagey or defensive. (They are both entirely unrelated to work!)
I tried on different outfits. Would a suit come off as trying too hard? I opted for slacks and a shirt, ironed them, flossed and brushed, and went to bed early. In the morning, noting the importance of a balanced breakfast, I had coffee, cigarettes, and cereal instead of the usual (just coffee and cigarettes). Then I had a nice drive down to a fancy hotel near the Galleria.
* * *
At registration, I’m handed a fancy, space-age, Velcro-clapsed folder bearing logos for Behemoth.com and the Roll Up Your Shirtsleeves Tour.
“And here’s your drink ticket!” The enthusiastic young man at registration is all exclamation. He raises his eyebrows and maintains sincere eye contact as he beams a broad smile at me. “It’s good for one free drink at the Behemoth.com bar!”
This might not be so bad after all. I slip the drink ticket into my shirt pocket and tap it once as I stride towards the entrance. The first booth I notice is from Merrill Lynch. That’s right, Merrill Lynch, one of the main “Too Big to Fail” juggernauts that led us into this mess. They’re recruiting “Financial Advisers” at the Roll Up Your Shirtsleeves Tour. Makes me feel safer about the “recovery” already. I think about applying—I’m sure I could do better than whoever was calling the shots there a year ago—but then the blonde woman in a headset delivering a PowerPoint presentation catches my eye. The four rows of chairs set up in front of her stage are all occupied, so I take my place at a standing-room table near the back (beside the “bar,” which, alas, is serving only tea and lemonade) to dig her message and check out the crowd.
She gestures dramatically with her hands as she talks about streamlining the career search to integrate, optimize, and leverage your value-added customer-oriented solutions in this risk-averse environment. You have to be proactive and maintain an active network, she says. You have to check the right boxes to prove that you think outside the box. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, after all, and, at the end of the day, the only way to break through the clutter and get the your foot in the door, to get the face-time needed to make your case in person, to take it to the next level, if you will, is to utilize the best-practices expressed through action-packed verbs, thereby convincing your prospective employer that hiring you would be a win-win situation. It’s just that simple.
There’s a dingy, faded sadness hanging in the room, despite the fine wallpaper and ostentatious chandeliers. Everybody’s sporting their Sunday best—starched shirts tucked in to pleated khakis and women in power suits—but a glance at their scruffy shoes brings everybody back down to earth. A thin, mullet and mustached young man in an ill-fitting, double-breasted suit is talking to his similarly attired buddy about Worlds of Warcraft. I look through the fancy folder, which is mostly empty, containing specially designed pockets for business cards, resumes, and these oversized index cards bearing helpful, bullet-point advice on how to hype up your boring old jobs for your resume. There’s even a blank “Thank You” note to serve as an example of a way to continue groveling to your Human Resources overlords even after the interview has ended. There’s list of employers represented at the fair—some big names, no doubt—but most of them seem to be seeking entry-level, telemarketing kind of sales jobs.
I spot my buddy Jack, a former coworker, and we head over to the bar to catch up over lemonade. He’s been out of work since March, but he’s got the kind of “diverse skill set” that insures he won’t be jobless for long. I notice that the middle-aged lady serving lemonade—a hotel employee—is sporting braces, and I’m jealous of her dental plan.
Jack and I swap resumes just for kicks and he tells me he left out one of his degrees, the Bachelor of Science, in favor of listing more work experience. I tell him I had to leave some BS off my resume, too. We’re having too much fun hanging out so we make plans to meet up later and part ways to do what we came here for.
I notice that the longest lines are for people waiting to talk to temp agencies. Only half the booths are occupied, like the organizers had expected a lot more employers to show up. I talk to people in line.
I meet Debra, who lost her job of 16 years last January. She’s also lost her house and car, and had to move in with her parents. She’s 42 and has three kids. She’s signed up with more than ten temp agencies already, goes on five to six interviews per week, but hasn’t got a call back. I wonder if she’s sending out the wrong kind of thank you card.
I talk to Wei, a seven months pregnant Chinese woman, whose husband’s company wants to transfer him back to China. They don’t mind going, but with her about to give birth to their first child, it’s not a good time. They’re here on his L-1 visa and hoping to find a new job that will let them stay here a little bit longer, until they can make the move more comfortably.
I meet many more people with similar stories—cooks, engineers, graphic designers, EEG techs—and a slew of hiring managers who are thrilled to shake my hand and assure me everything’s going to be fine. The whole thing strikes me as a masturbatory exercise in cheap feel goodism, but then I take a look around at the hordes of people and all the literature they’re exchanging and realize what’s really going on. Think about it—the folders, the displays, the schwagge, the catering, the a/v installations, the promotion—this whole job fair must have put hundreds of copy writers, designers, printers, collators, greeters and administrators to work. Even the recruiters and head-hunters on the other sides of the booths might have been sitting at their desks twiddling their thumbs and brainstorming ways to justify their continued employment if they didn’t have this fair to come to today. They are not here helping the unemployed find work, rather, the unemployed are here to give the recruiters something to put on their own timesheets!
On the way out I’m handed a business card by a short Asian man wearing cargo shorts and Wayfarers who reminds me of Frank Chu or that mobster from The Hangover. I ask him what it’s for but he says he doesn’t know, he just gets paid to hand them out. It’s for a website called kookoo.ws, so I check it out when I get home. It’s for a pyramid direct-marketing scheme. His honesty is refreshing.

Friday, August 21, 2024

Human Nature Political

posted by Free Press Houston @ 10:12 AM

by Dean Liscum

Whether or not the end is near, its close enough. Charity in the billions is doled out to the über-rich by their own underlings. The poor live and die without air conditioning or basic medical care. If the pundits won’t profess it, at least artists will paint the picture. The installation Human Nature Planted does not present itself as overtly political, but it plays out that way. Curated by June Woest and Claudio Franco of Urban Artists at the Nature Discovery Center of Bellaire, Planted is a group sculptural installation by twelve innovative Texas artists. The official theme of the show is to “explore the human handprint in the natural world and how it positively and negatively influences the environment,” but the show resonates with current socio-political-economic turmoil. Nathaniel Donnett’s Myke’s Clubhouse captures the crisis from the vantage point of the forgotten poor and vulnerable; Cornell West accusing Obama of neglecting those most in need. Merging fantasy with nightmare, Donnett constructed a tree house and foreclosed it, with a red sign and a foreclosure listing in the paper. June Woest’s Pharmacy Domesticus forms a field of bamboo-like columns out of plastic prescription bottles, makes a visually stunning side-effect of our fascination with better living through pharmaceuticals. Lucinda Cobley’s tree+cipher proposes a vibrant new taxonomy for nature that makes one cry out for a new political discourse. Amie Adelman’s untitled, Mari Omari’s Gifts and Orna Feinstein’s
Eco-librium enhance or alter the existing environment; binding, weaving, and clumping leaves, stems, branches, and grasses; regulating nature in quirky, unanticipated ways. Kathy Hall’s I say Poaceae, You say Poaceae introduces non-native grasses into the park and forces us to confront the unpredictable nature of complex systems.

Recessions depress but they can inspire innovation and reinvention, every tool becomes a weapon when held just right. Kathy Kelley’s The birth of destruction deconstructs automobile tires and fashions them into boulder-sized spheres that remind one of objects of play or meditation. Andis Applewhite’s Soul distills man-made and natural fragments to serve as objects for meditation. Jason Dean Moul’s Water, Seed, Pollen, Leaf hints at moving away from Christian salvation through salary and inserts customer designed stain glass windows in the intersections of the pecan tree branches. The trees etched on plexiglas in Keith Hollingworth’s Arboretum may serve as a memento mori for the park in anticipation of a coming environmental crisis. Michael Crowder’s frozen birds will have melted before this exhibit even ends, but you could find yourself, decades from now, peering at the two glass ones-- wondering how quickly the next ice age will come.

Thursday, August 20, 2024

Ken Lay, City Money, Small Polynesians, and Mayoral Forums

posted by Free Press Houston @ 12:30 PM

By Mills-McCoin
Image By Shelby Hohl

I made the decision to attend one of the many Mayoral Forums that Gene Locke, Roy Morales, Annise Parker and Peter Brown have been attending since the start of the Mayoral Race. They seem to be doing their part; so I should do my version of due diligence. There’s a mayoral forum on August 18th from noon to 1:30PM put on by the Houston Area Table, Houston Tomorrow and the FPH. For more information, please call 713-782-8833.

My odd and questionable preparations for this forum included a plane ride to visit a semi-forgotten Houstonian- Kenneth Lay.
If you really believe he’s dead... well, that’s adorable. Ken Lay lives on a remote island in the south Pacific... because that’s how much money he stole.
Don’t forget, Ken Lay lived in Houston for a very long time; and is well-versed in how his city operates. Ken Lay was a baaaaaad man; there’s no doubt he shook the Devil’s hand a few times. So I figure he could probably shed some light on what exactly I should ask a candidate running for Mayor of Houston.

After I landed on the makeshift airstrip, I made a direct route to the beach which is where I was told I would find Ken Lay. Sure as shit, there he was- donned in tropical attire and large and in charge... of some of the smallest polynesians I’ve ever seen. He was sitting in a beach chair, being fanned, with a drink in one hand and a stick in the other. There was a medicine bottle at rest on the table next to him.
I approached softly.
“Hey asshole! Get off my property!” I yelled at the top of my lungs. He turned around and smiled at me, which was very creepy at the time.
“HA! I’ve literally never heard that one before. So who the hell are you?” he asked as though he’d been a gentleman his entire life.
“Just a concerned citizen of Houston, TX,” I answered.
“Oh... well come on down.”
As I walked down to the shore, I saw several of Ken Lay’s pint-sized manservants run to fetch me a beach chair and a drink. Oddly, the drink was not served in a coconut. It was served in a chalice covered in jewels.
“Sorry, we ran out of coconuts. Soooooo, how can I help you?”
“Mr. Lay, you can tell me everything I need to know about a Mayoral Race in Houston.”
“Oooooh yeah, that’s comin’ up, isn’t it? Probably in November.”
“Probably. But there’s a mayoral forum on the 18th of August that I’m preparing for.”
“Well, my strange visitor, you should definitely look into Ordinance #2006-1001. Also known as the Limited Use Banner Sign ordinance. It requires businesses to obtain a permit to display any sign constructed of cloth, canvas, light fabric or other light material, not to exceed 40 square feet in size.”
“How much is the permit?”
“Altogether it’s $150. And that gets you seven consecutive days in any 30-day period to use the banner.”
“You’re kidding?”
“Hell no! I’m not kidding. It’s a travesty; a horribly non-creative way of using small businesses as revenue capillaries. Not to mention it puts a shit load of red-tape out there making it harder for small businesses to advertise and generate revenue for themselves,” he exclaimed in a squirrelly voice.
I began writing frantically on my notepad.
“Okay, ok, ok... you got anymore?”
“Damn, son! Wake up. There’s probably hundreds of these knick knack permits and fees and ordinances that take money out of modest pockets,” he said as began to pick up the momentum of a crazy man. He picked an odd time to be honest, I thought.
Ken Lay ranted and raved, continuing to open my eyes about the red-tape injustice that comes out of City Hall. He detailed the levels of vanity in which these ordinances are founded; claiming they “help keep the city stay clean and maintain a proper metropolitan appearance.” He referenced innane bike ordinances, poor pay structure for city workers, ridiculous street closure prohibitions, etc... And by that point, Ken Lay was standing up, yelling and swatting the polynesians with the stick. I was forced to get him another drink and calm the crazy crook down.
He popped a pill out of the medicine bottle and slowly explained to me the approach I needed to take.
“Listen, you’re a smart kid. Obviously. You found me. So channel that energy into finding where the City’s money comes from and where it’s going. That applies to these Mayoral Candidates as well. They have donors. They have big name contributors. Peter Brown wants a giant fast train that stretches from Houston to Dallas and San Antonio. So, I’m betting there’s some contractors that contribute to his campaign... blah blah blah... Boy, this is basic politics.”
I could tell he was getting tired from a lonely life on an island, exiled from the world for his wrongdoings. I felt sorry for him almost. Ken Lay made me realize that there are some silly evils that go unnoticed because we spend most of our time gawking at the giant ones. Like Enron.
His eyes were growing weary, as well. I think it must’ve been the pills because I didn’t taste any alcohol in the drinks. So, I gathered my things and got up to leave.
“Mr. Lay, thank you for your time. I really appreciate the lesson,” I said with the utmost sincerity.
“No problem, strange visitor. I’ll be rootin’ for ya. Come back anytime... Hey, I heard Mattress Mac torched his ware-...” his voice trailed off as I made my way through the jungle, back to the plane.

Don’t forget. Mayoral Forum, August 18th. 713-782-8833 for more information.