Someone at the University of Houston has a puckish sense of humor.
It's one thing to schedule the Harris County Republican Party Convention in one of the school's auditoriums at the same time a history class is meeting there. It takes it to a whole 'nother level when that history class is being taught by professor Bob Buzzanco.
You might not recognize the name, but Buzzanco is a guy who isn't shy at all about expressing his political opinions. Opinions that, he says, got him kicked off of Pacifica's KPFT-FM for being too liberal.
University of Houston
Buzzanco arrived at his once-a-week Introduction to U.S. History class March 25 to find, instead of the usual 100 or so students, a roomful of Republicans.
"[They] were all white and over 50 -- they looked very much like Texas Republicans," he says. "It was like a Stepford campus."
The prof calmly asked what, perchance, was going on -- Buzzanco style. "I frankly said, 'But I have a fucking class here.'" The GOPers asked him to apologize, he says, but then "the guy told me to go fuck myself, so it was kind of ironic."
He wasn't the only one having trouble. Art professor Steven Potter was giving a midterm that day, and he too discovered the room had been taken over.
"There was a Republican political rally in full tilt, with placards waving, people crying and denouncing all of the evils of the Democratic party," he says. "It looked like a convention on TV or something."
What it didn't look like was a good place to take a 100-question midterm on the history of art.
As with Buzzanco, things weren't settled amicably.
"Their demeanor was horrible with us....They were laughing at me and laughing at our students' situation," he says. (Party officials didn't return calls.) The students did their bit, heckling delegates about cuts in education funds.
UH spokesman Eric Gerber said the mix-up was due to a typographical error made when the GOP reserved the room, and steps are being taken to ensure it doesn't happen again.
But if it does, we hope they televise it.
If you were tooling along Memorial Drive last week, you might have noticed an odd sight -- cops on horseback with radar guns to catch speeders.
Now there's a picture -- some SUV comes by at 60 mph; the cop dramatically rears his horse up on its hind legs and takes off in dauntless pursuit.
Until he realizes a horse can't go 60 mph.
That can't work, can it? Outside of the movies, anyway.
HPD Sgt. Michelle Sandoval says, alas, that the horses do not get involved in any chases. Instead, the officers just point at the speeders and signal them to pull to the side of the road.
"Normally, if you wave to someone it's not that difficult...they know they're the ones speeding, and if they keep on going you just get a license plate and call it in," she says.
The horse-radar program has been "very successful," she says.
So if you're speeding, don't just look out for lurking patrol cars. Keep an eye peeled for horseflesh, too.
It's White in Herre
The Houston Dynamo recently began their first Major League Soccer season here, having moved from San Jose.
Houston's obviously a thriving soccer market; Reliant Stadium regularly gets large crowds to watch visiting teams from Mexico play.
So why are the Dynamo crowds at Robertson Stadium so... white? Is it because they first tried the name "Houston 1836," which unfortunately reminded Hispanics of when Sam Houston's Texians defeated Santa Anna in a bloody battle?
We asked Oliver Luck, Dynamo president and GM.
Q. First game, the fans seemed pretty white-bread. Where's the Hispanic market?
A. People said, "Well, you'll be 95 percent Hispanic." No...it's going to take a slow, gradual build to get the Hispanic fan who is rabid about, say, the [Mexican team] Tigras to embrace the Dynamo.
Q. Is that because they don't think the Dynamos are good enough?
A. No. Their first allegiance up until now has been to Tigras. Number two, I think they need to come out and see how good the quality of play is. Sure, I would think the average Mexican soccer fan would think the Mexican club was better than MLS.
Q. What kind of marketing are you doing to reach Hispanics?
A. We have sales reps. They're making a strong push into the Hispanic adult leagues...My assumption was that it was going to be more of an Anglo crowd [at Dynamo games] initially. That's good, because quite honestly the Anglos are buying season tickets, are buying T-shirts. They're used to that. They're season-ticket holders for the Astros. They have Rockets tickets, Texans tickets. It's part of the normal culture of the Anglo world. Yeah, you buy some sports tickets and take your kids out, take your client out.
Q. And you don't think it's as much a part of the Hispanic culture?
A. I don't think in Houston it is. Back home it may be.
Q. Do you think you'll get a lot of Europeans out?
A. Yeah. There's a Swiss guy with a big Swiss cowbell...A bunch of Brits and Germans and French.
Q. What's the [Dynamo's] "Texian Army"?
A. They're technically independent. They're a supporters club...A diverse bunch of folks. We support them.
Q. The European tradition, naming teams by numbers, bit you in the butt with "Houston 1836."
A. Oh, yeah, absolutely...We talked to a bunch of people. We thought it made sense to celebrate the founding of Houston. We were clearly wrong.
There's a nasty e-mail that's begun circulating in Houston that deals with Katrina evacuees.
It says that the City of Austin and the Texas Workforce Commission set up a job fair recently, hired nine buses and vans "to ensure [jobseekers] would be transported in comfort," and went knocking on doors to round up evacuees.
Only one person showed, the e-mail notes. No one applied for a job.
"And yet they still get on TV claiming that the United States Government 'OWES THEM,'" it continues. "I say we don't owe them anything and, if anything, they OWE us -- the Tax Payers that are 'WORKING PEOPLE.'" (Working people with a fully functioning caps-lock key, to be sure.)
There's further talk of "mooching off" the "Tax Payers" for the past year. "It is obvious that they don't intend to work as long as they can sponge off the system," the e-mail says.
Larry Jones of the Texas Workforce Commission has gotten several copies of the e-mail, from all over the country.
"People here all around the agency have gotten it," he says.
Snopes.com, the urban-myth-debunking Web site, notes the e-mail is similar to others describing job fairs across the country allegedly unattended by mooching evacuees. Snopes cites an Austin American-Statesman story -- which Jones says is accurate -- that shows 200 people attended the job fair March 22.
Problems with publicizing the availability of buses, officials told the Statesman, resulted in only one person being transported. The other 199 got there themselves. (FEMA spent about $7,800 on the buses and vans.)
Somehow we're not expecting to get a follow-up e-mail straightening things out.
Stirring the Mierda
We apparently touched something of a nerve with our April 20 cover, an illustration of the American flag with Mexico's green and red stripes.
We thought it nicely symbolized immigrant pride on one hand, and on the other the worst fears of immigration foes scared their country was being taken over.
Calls, letters and text messages came in. "Angry, pissed off! Why not just run some Muslim cartoons next to the flag desicration you ingrates!!" said one.
"It is a crying shame when folks have to Mess with the USA flag...The Houston Press MUST be owned & Run by WET-Back MEXICANS...If you're an illeagal...who the HELL Pays the TAXES & Social Security????" said an ellipsis-lovin' e-mailer.
"You should be ashamed of degrading our American flag...If you don't like America Get out! And take your illegals with you, because if the Senate passes any kind of amnesty, we are running them out of the country," chimed in another.
(Our favorite -- "The cover says it all. There ARE too many Italians in the US!")
What to do? It's obvious: Make a T-shirt out of the cover.
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Unlike our recent Tom DeLay merchandise, this is for real -- these T-shirts are for sale. See www.cafepress.com/houstonpress for details.
Wear them proudly! Or angrily!
Tales from the BBB
There are a million sad stories in the files of the Houston chapter of the Better Business Bureau. Well, not a million, but there are quite a few. And here is one of them: Bergacci.com, which has a Memorial Drive address.