As usual, we have a quiet evening planned here at the Boggy Thicket, but here’s wishing you a wonderful new year.
Monday, December 30, 2013
The theologians and the scientists got it all wrong. The earth isn’t flat, and it is not a globe.
The earth is concave – it is a huge, deep bowl with all of humanity stuck down in the bottom!
That is why so many people who are not just sitting around doing nothing at all are running around in circles. Anything else is an uphill battle.
Saturday, December 28, 2013
Once you’ve been around for a year or more, every new day is the anniversary of something - but, some anniversaries are more important than others. Today marks the most significant anniversary of my life.
49 years ago this evening, in a small Methodist church in the Songwood subdivision on the east side of Houston, Honey Cheryl Kimmons became Mrs. Robert Couch.
The ceremony was conducted by a Scottish Presbyterian minister who blessed our union in the name of the “Faaaather, and the Son, and the Holy Sperrrrrut.” And his blessing took – my life has been truly blessed since that evening.
Honey has been my foundation. She has given me the strength to endure the bad times and her presence by my side made the good times immeasurably better.
Happy anniversary, Darling. Please know that I love you more than words can ever express.
Friday, December 27, 2013
A Facebook friend recently posted that she and her husband were planning to get a puppy. She explained that because of allergy issues they were limiting their search to Labradoodles, one of the only breeds that doesn’t make her ill.
That should have been fine, but no sooner had she posted than her left-wing “friends” began attacking her – the very idea of buying a dog when so many deserving animals were languishing in shelters, just waiting to be euthanized!
Now, she was probably the most liberal representative ever to sit in the Texas legislature, and should be perfectly capable of holding her own, but I couldn’t help feeling sorry for her. She even felt the need to point out her numerous awards from animal rights groups, but once the blood was in the water, it became a feeding frenzy.
I almost came to her defense. It would be easy enough to point out a few obvious facts that they were ignoring:
- No puppy chooses where it comes from.
- All dogs are potentially homeless.
- Where a dog comes from is a lot less important than where it ends up.
I almost came to her defense – but, it’s been too much fun to watch.
Thursday, December 26, 2013
For the last few years, we have given our grandkids cash for their birthdays and for Christmas. There are several reasons for this -
- They already have every electronic gadget imaginable.
- We can’t even try to keep up with teen-age fashion.
- It is the one gift that doesn’t disappoint - even if it is duplicated.
- Our grandson, Nash, actually asked for cash for his birthday several years ago.
Finally, a trip to the bank for crisp new bills is a lot easier that fighting the mobs at the mall.
Now, just in time to be too late to matter, MSN Money warns that Christmas gifts may be taxable.
Like anything else having to do with the IRS, the rules are vague, confusing and complicated. They are also easy to ignore, but if you’re worried, you can see the MSN article HERE.
Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Monday, December 23, 2013
Last Thursday, I commented on the Northern bias that is built into Christmas traditions in America.
One person who is fighting that bias can be found here in Texas. He calls himself Pancho Claus, and he comes from the South pole in his low-rider to deliver toys to los niños of the barrio.
Some reports say that Pancho Claus got his start in San Antonio, but here in Houston, Richard Reyes has been Pancho for thirty years.
You may have to sit through a commercial to see it, but if you’re interested, here’s a story about Reyes from AP:
Sunday, December 22, 2013
I came across a website with some vintage magazine ads for Christmas gifts. Here are a few of my favorites:
I can’t remember for sure, but I may have actually given someone a carton of cigarettes – not Chesterfields, though – I do know we used to give my grandfather a big canister of pipe tobacco.
It wasn’t just movie stars making suggestions; even Mrs. Claus got into the act, promoting an ironing board with legs designed to let you sit down while you work.
And finally, anyone who would give this last one as a Christmas gift had to have a death wish:
Saturday, December 21, 2013
Friday, December 20, 2013
You’ve probably seen this already – it’s been on the news and all over the internet – but just in case you haven’t, here it is.
The Canadian airline, WestJet, came up with – and actually pulled off – a fantastic Christmas trick. Passengers talked to Santa while waiting to board their flight, and then, when they arrived at their destination, their gift-wrapped Christmas wishes came rolling down the baggage chute!
Did the stunt get WestJet thousands in free advertising? Of course it did, but that shouldn’t diminish our appreciation for the gesture.
Thursday, December 19, 2013
There’s an awful lot about Christmas traditions that just ain’t politically correct.
The big thing this year is the argument about the ethnicity of Santa Claus.
There have been news stories about a father who was enraged when his second grader was denied the part of Santa in the school Christmas play because the kid is African-American. I can’t blame him for being upset, but the discrimination cuts both ways. A former co-worker was the target of dirty looks and eye rolls at Wal-Mart because he told the (brown skinned) sales clerk that he wanted an inflatable Santa that was white. If there was ever a no-win situation, that was it – if he had installed a dark skinned Santa in his front yard, Somebody would have compared it to installing a Lawn Jockey.
The fact of the matter is that the original St. Nicholas was the Bishop of Myrna, a town located in what is now modern-day Turkey. Chances are that St. Nick had at least a Mediterranean tan - that he was several shades darker than the fat Nordic fellow portrayed in the Coca Cola ads.
When you come right down to it, you have to admit that the whole Santa thing displays a definite Northern Bias. Santa’s home/workshop is supposedly about as far North as you can get, - at the North Pole. The North (magnetic) Pole is somewhere on Ellesmere Island in Baffin Bay, which means that the Jolly Old Elf is a resident and probably a citizen of Canada. Making him Canadian is just good marketing – nobody (except the kids from South Park) hates Canadians – but it does subtly underscore the geographical preference.
Never mind what PETA might have to say about using a whip on reindeer, the whole idea of delivering presents in a sleigh rings false in most of the world.
We have only had Christmas snow on the Texas Gulf Coast once in my lifetime, and, although there was some on the ground south of us, we didn’t get a single flake at our house! Just try talking snow to kids from Florida, Southern California or Hawaii, they may try to have you committed. And what about kids in Australia where Christmas comes right in the middle of Summer.
As my P-C friends are fond saying, it isn’t FAIR!
In an effort to be as inclusive as possible, I posted the picture at the top of this article. It shows members of the scientific expedition in Antarctica working on their Christmas tree. Here’s what the tree looked like when it was done, this time from a Southerner’s point of view:
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Here’s a look at the aftermath of a 16 car pile-up in west Houston yesterday. The whole thing started when the driver of the truck towing the 5th wheel trailer suffered a stroke. There were no fatalities, but six people – two children and four adults – were taken to the hospital.
A lot is written about traffic safety this time of year, even though statistics show the most dangerous month to be on the road is August. Perhaps because of the whole families reuniting aspect of Thanksgiving and Christmas, loss of life and property at this time of year is perceived as especially poignant.
With that in mind, before you head for Grandma’s house, you might want to check out the report below:
Car Insurance Comparison. com, an auto insurance website has published a list of the states with the worst drivers in America. The top ten – with one being the worst - are:
2. South Carolina
8. North Carolina
10. North Dakota
The site claims the best drivers come from:
3. New Hampshire
Even the study’s authors admit their results are misleading. Residents of mostly rural states with little public transportation tend to drive more and drive farther which makes them more likely to be involved in a wreck. A small state with a major urban center, like Massachusetts, will have lots of residents, but many of them won't be getting behind the wheel, which helps skew the numbers in their favor
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Here’s a great rendition of Carol of the Bells by five kids who call themselves the Pentatonix, or simply PTX. You might remember them as the 2011 winners on the NBC series called the Sing-Off.
The last part is a commercial for their tour and their Christmas album, but the first three and a half minutes are fantastic.
I’ll admit that an old geezer like me has a little trouble getting past all their piercings – jewelry in eyebrows, etc. but these kids can sing anything. If you don’t believe that, check out this medley they call the Evolution of Music:
Monday, December 16, 2013
When it comes to Christmas decorations, there are several neighborhoods in the greater Houston area that used to go all-out. We used to make a point of touring a few of these each season when the kids were young, although I suspect that Honey enjoyed the lights at least as much as they did.
There are still a few of these areas where every house is decorated and each block follows a theme, but there are fewer of them now, and the traffic around them is terrible. It almost makes me wish that Houston had a service like the one offered by Guardian Helicopters in Los Angeles.
Their ad invites you to view all the Christmas lights from Santa’s point of view. It says:
Be inspired like never before... Surprise your family with a unique holiday experience they will never forget. Fly high above the Christmas lights and feel your heart fill with glee.
Guardian Helicopters can make this holiday dream a reality with our special Christmas light tour.
See Los Angeles, Hollywood, Beverly Hills and more as you soar like Santa. Our tours depart from and return to our "North Pole" (Van Nuys Airport).
Their ad doesn’t list prices, but like they say about yachts and Class A motor homes, “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.”
Sunday, December 15, 2013
Saturday, December 14, 2013
I love the traditional Christmas songs, and most of the popular songs about the holiday (except for Little Drummer Boy, which is just annoying) but I also love the not so correct stuff like Bob Rivers Twisted Christmas songs.
Last year about this time, I posted Merry Christmas from the Family by Robert Earl Keen. This year, it’s a little Christmas ditty from Kevin Fowler...
Friday, December 13, 2013
As I mentioned back in November, the Houston Dynamo, our home town Soccer team, was negotiating to bring professional Women’s Soccer to Houston.
It’s now a done deal.
The new Houston Dash will become the National Women’s Soccer League’s first expansion team, and will begin play in April 2014 with the start of the second NWSL season, a 24-game schedule that includes 12 home games at BBVA Compass Stadium, which they will share with the Dynamo.
So far, the Dash doesn’t have any players, or a coach, or uniforms – but they do have a name, and a venue and a schedule – so they are off to a pretty good start.
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Well, the Couch name is being bandied about all over the news and social media this morning.
Not my name, thank God, but the name of Ethan Couch, a North Texas teenager who was convicted, then given probation for a DWI crash this past June that killed four people. All told, there were eleven injured in the crash.
The 16-rear-old was driving his one-ton Ford at 70 mph in a 40 mph zone when he crashed into a stalled car, killing the driver and three people who had stopped to help. His blood alcohol was .24 – three times the legal limit for someone old enough to drink. Prosecutors said that Couch and the kids in his truck had stolen the beer at Wal-Mart.
His defense did not dispute the facts of the case, but argued that he deserved a break because his wealthy (and separated) parents had always given him everything he wanted and had never taught him right from wrong.
A witness for the defense, psychologist Dr. G. Dick Miller, blamed the boy's parents. He said that Ethan was the troubled product of a broken home who got whatever he wanted from his wealthy parents and didn't understand consequences. Miller called the teen a victim of "affluenza," a rich-kid syndrome that led him to believe money solved everything.
Apparently, State District Judge Jean Boyd bought at least some of their argument. Instead of a possible 20 year prison sentence, she gave Couch 10 years probation.
Finally, just so you know…..
Yes, Couch is my surname – and yes, Boyd was my mother’s maiden name – but to the best of my knowledge, neither Ethan nor the judge is related to me. If Ethan’s parents really are that wealthy, I can be pretty darn sure they are not kin.
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Here’s a local news story that just underlines the stupidity – the whole “what can I find to be offended about” mentality – that I was complaining about yesterday:
Houston Independent School District Superintendent Terry Grier says it’s time to correct a longstanding wrong with the use of Native American images as mascots.
He’s asking trustees to approve a change in policy that would “respect cultural differences, values, and attitudes” by placing a ban on mascots or nicknames that use race or ethnicity.
That includes the Lamar High School Redskins, the Hamilton Middle School Indians, Westbury High School Rebels and the Welch Middle School Warriors.
“The district is providing assistance to principals at those schools to work with their communities to honor the traditions of the old mascots while having new ones in place in time for the opening of school next August.”
I remember in the fall of 1960– back in the days when Texas schools were still racially segregated – I went with the son of the local school superintendant to a football game in Hitchcock, Texas. It was a playoff game between the local colored high school and the Black Dragons from China, Texas. Those kids from China were not offended by the name of their team, they were proud of it, and I still think it was the coolest name for a high school team ever.
Monday, December 9, 2013
A friend of mine posted this chart on Facebook this morning:
It’s a nice thought, but it ain’t gonna work.
Until fairly recently - it seems like no more than a dozen or so years ago at most - it was perfectly acceptable to wish anyone in America a Merry Christmas. If Jews, Muslims, agnostics, etc. were offended, they were gracious about it, or at least they kept their mouths shut.
Then the Organized Atheists ( Do they really exist, or were they just created by the media? Are they a religion or a political movement?) got involved – boycotts were threatened and stores began using Happy Holidays in their commercials.
That lead to a movement among Fundamentalist Christians to boycott companies who failed to “Keep Christ in Christmas.” They are even offended by Xmas, even though they are the same folks who plaster on the backs of their cars.
Like my grandfather used to say, “Some people would bitch if they got hung with a new rope.” And, it seems that his “some people” is becoming a bigger portion of the population all the time. More and more folks seem to spend their time just looking for a reason to feel offended.
So… Whatever I might wish for you this season, you won’t be hearing it from me!
Sunday, December 8, 2013
The only thing good about Thursday Night Football this last week was that it guaranteed that our hometown team would not lose another game today.
The Texans have fallen so far this season that we couldn’t stand to watch another debacle. We chose to watch Carrie Underwood in NBC’s presentation of the Sound of Music instead. It wasn’t quite as depressing.
NBC, the network that brought you the Heidi Bowl back in 1968, had little to lose – at worst, a live presentation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical could only be their second worst decision in history. As it turns out, regardless of reviews, the show was a hit, drawing 18 1/2 million viewers.
Most reviews began by commending the bravery of Carrie Underwood (and the network) for attempting something of this magnitude but then the knives came out. Lots of really snarky comments of the “can sing-can’t act” variety. And they slammed everything from the sets to the costumes. Most agreed that a “live” production needs a live audience, and several mentioned the “filmed live” description. What the heck does “filmed live” mean anyway – every show (except maybe animation) is recorded live.
Personally, I thought Underwood did an adequate, if not stellar, job. She was a far better singer (and actor) than Steven Moyer, who played the cardboard cutout they substituted for Captain Von Trapp.
My first big problem with the production came in the opening scenes with the appearance of Audra McDonald as the Mother Superior – the likelihood of seeing a black nun in an Austrian convent in the 1930s has to be next to nothing – but she turned out to be the best thing in the show. That woman can SING!
I’ll admit that the Sound of Music isn’t my favorite R&H musical, but I think that if they were going to cast a country singer in the lead they might have been more successful performing Oklahoma. Underwood would be right at home as Laurey Williams.
I haven’t settled on anyone to play Curly yet, but Garth Brooks could easily play Ali Hakim – or for that matter, Jud Fry (he looks sleazy enough) and I would love to see Kellie Pickler as Ado Annie.
Saturday, December 7, 2013
While I relate to this cartoon and find it funny, I’m not sure my grandkids would at all.
In the first place, they would never visit Santa in person, or even talk to him on the phone – if they contacted him at all, they would text him on their iPhones.
To them, what seems to me to be a clever sign of the times may already be hopelessly out of date.
Friday, December 6, 2013
Today the world mourns the passing of Nelson Mandela, one of the most effective and inspiring leaders of the past century.
Unfortunately, I can’t hear the name Mandela without picturing the “Mandela Necklace,” a practice South African rebels used to discourage police informants. Gasoline-soaked tires were hung around the necks of suspected turncoats and set afire in an attempt to make the African National Congress more feared than the repressive South African police.
It became known as the Mandela Necklace when, after the head of the ANC had given a speech calling for the end of the practice, Winnie Mandela – Nelson’s second wife -was quoted as saying “Together, hand in hand, with that stick of matches, with our necklace, we shall liberate this country.”
Thursday, December 5, 2013
No time to chat today – gotta go work on the pool.
It’s 73 degrees at 7:00 a.m. but there’s a cold front headed in. It’s supposed to hit here about lunchtime with rain and rapidly dropping temperatures. High temps for the next week are expected to be in the 40s.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
I’m a big fan of the Salvation Army – have been since they were giving away hot meals after Hurricane Celia while the Red Cross was selling coffee and doughnuts a block away. That being said, I confess that I tend to ignore the bell-ringers that show up in front of stores this time of year.
The woman (yes – that is a woman) in the mug shot above was a volunteer bell-ringer at the Wal-Mart in Porter, TX, so there is a very good chance that I walked right by her in the past couple of weeks. She made the news on Monday when she was arrested for shoplifting and charged with felony theft. Employees said she stuffed over $70 worth of perfume and cologne into her Salvation Army apron and walked out of the store.
There is an old line in advertising that says “No publicity is bad publicity,” but I don’t believe it. Still, I guess it could have been worse. She might have been caught with her hand in the donation bucket.
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Got to thinking about Garth Brooks and his music after his live concert show aired last week.
We only caught parts of the show – we were watching the Barbra Streisand concert on PBS, and whenever they cut to Channel 8 to beg (and beg, and beg) for money, we would switch to the Brooks show. Actually caught a lot of it that way.
I’ve always been a Brooks fan. Honey not so much, and she just about wrote him off entirely when he dumped his wife for Trisha Yearwood.
If you are not already in the Garth Brooks camp, it might be hard to explain his appeal. He is far from being the best guitar picker to come down the pike, and his voice – even for a country music singer – is mediocre at best, but he has a way with a song that is remarkable.
I think it all comes down to timing. His phrasing, like certain old jazz singers – Frank Sinatra comes to mind – makes his rendition of a song more dramatic, more compelling, than any other version.
Brooks has also written some of the best country songs of the last 30 years, songs that were strong enough to transcend the Country market and become pop hits.
Oddly enough, my favorite Garth Brooks song is one he did not write, isn’t in his concert repertoire, and is one you may have never heard. Written by Dewayne Blackwell and Larry Bastian, it was track #2 on the 2006 album titled Garth Brooks -
Nobody gets off in this town
Trains don't even slow down
My high school sweetheart's married and gone
They met on a bus to San Antone
The Greyhound stops, somebody gets on
But nobody gets off in this town
Nobody gets off in this town
Old folks 'round here wear a frown
Now let me see if I can set the scene
It's a one-dog town and he's old and mean
There's one stop light but it's always green
Nobody gets off in this town
Nobody gets off in this town
High school colors are brown
They can't drag Main because it kicks up dust
Their cars and their dreams are all starting to rust
The high school dances are always a bust
Nobody gets off in this town
Nobody gets off in this town
They oughta just tear it down
'Cause in the winter, you freeze
And in the summer, you fry
Utility bill's the only thing that gets high
I'd go for a drink but this county is dry
Nobody gets off
Nobody gets off
Nobody gets off in this square, old merry-go-round
No, nobody gets off in this town
Monday, December 2, 2013
The Oak Forest area of Houston produced quite a few interesting folks over the years, but to me, the most interesting may have been a fellow named Hubert Mewhinney.
He was a widely-read columnist who wrote for the Houston Post. His wife was a sixth grade teacher at Oak Forest Elementary, and his daughter, Nona, was a classmate of mine, but I first met Mr. Mewhinney when I stopped to talk to him as he stood in his front yard.
His yard, at 1229 Dubarry Lane, stood out to say the least. While every other yard on that street was carefully tailored and impeccably maintained, Mewhinney’s was a scruffy tangle of vines and weeds. With all the tact of an eight year old, I pulled my bike to a stop and asked him why his yard looked like an abandoned homestead.
Rather than take offense, he explained that it was a sort of experiment – he was trying something called Xeroscaping. He said that it was the coming thing, especially in arid climates, and he wanted to see if the same principles would apply in an area as damp as Houston. I told him that I thought it was a great idea since (even at my young age) I was sick of mowing the grass.
We became friends that day, and whenever I saw him on my neighborhood rambles I would always stop and talk.
His interests were eclectic to say the least, and the subject matter of our conversations ranged from entomology, to etymology to wolves.
As far as I know, the book pictured above is the only one he ever published, and it is still available on Amazon today. After reading an article about flint knapping, he gathered up a bunch of stones and taught himself to make primitive tools. That experience led to his writing the book. The “manual” published in 1957, is described by Amazon as the first of its genre.
I would say that he was ahead of his time – he was an environmentalist well before the term was coined – but in another way, he picked the perfect time to live. He was able to make a very good living writing intelligent, thought-provoking columns about anything that piqued his interest, something the decline of newspaper publishing would make almost impossible today.
I’m not the only one who considered Hubert Mewhinney remarkable. Another Post columnist, who went on the write for the Houston Chronicle for years, was Leon Hale. Two years ago, Hale mentioned Mr. Mewhinney on his blog:
Hubert Mewhinney was the most unforgettable character I met in the newspaper business.
Wonder if anybody out there remembers when he was carrying on his strange Jack Wray Wolf and Wildflower Project in Colorado County. He’d spend nights out in the pasture, sleeping on the ground with a bottle of bourbon and what he called his “trenta trenta,” meaning a 30-30 deer rifle. The reason Mewhinney spent days and nights in those Colorado County woods, he was interested in hearing the howls of what he called wolves, which were probably coyotes, and he was also trying to get a variety of wildflowers established in the area where he camped. Far as I know,the whiskey and the rifle were not necessary to Mewhinney’s project. He was known, however, to be fond of guns, and whiskey as well.
The newspaper business at one time produced eccentric, often highly intelligent individuals, but I don’t hear about them now, if any are still around.