Highlights from Hair Balls
Are you a thrill-seeker of the highest order, or at least of a middling level? Do you crave well-orchestrated pseudo-danger of the sort that allows you to sport a commemorative T-shirt and boast to your buds at the douche factory the following day? Well then, we suggest you go run with a bunch of bulls in Baytown's Royal Purple Raceway.
Thanks to The Great Bull Run LLC (nothing says thrill ride like "limited liability company" — the words simply ooze menace), idiots in ten cities have the chance to get their Hemingway on.
The Great Bull Run is the brainchild of two former lawyers and has already attracted thousands of runners and spectators in Virginia and Georgia — to mixed reviews. While there have been some broken bones, some participants complained that the event was too brief and felt that the bulls seemed largely uninterested.
To their credit, the latter could be a result of the promoters' stated intent not to mistreat the bulls or to poke or prod them in order to rile them up. Rob Dickens told The New York Times, "People sign up for this, and they're getting what they signed up for. But there's no reason a bull should die."
According to the company's Web site, the bulls aren't abused "in any way. We don't hit them, shock them or deprive them of food, water, light or sleep. In fact, we've taken numerous measures to ensure our bulls remain safe and healthy at all times."
The bulls "have been trained to run the course without physical contact and to be accustomed to large crowds of humans, thereby eliminating any stress or fear on their part," according to the site.
Still, participants have to sign a three-page waiver releasing The Great Bull Run from any liability in the event of an injury, eliminating the ability to sue. (Riiiight.)
Katie Jarl, the Texas director of the Humane Society of the United States, told Hair Balls in an e-mail that some HSUS folks attended the Virginia event and "witnessed an exercise with nothing but manufactured drama for the participants. Bulls were chased by men on horses to run down the center of a quarter-mile track while participants ran alongside for less than a minute. The bulls had no interest in chasing participants and actually tried to avoid the runners...We are still concerned, however, the promoters may try to increase the risk of their events by harassing the animals to fabricate more drama."
Referring to the promoters' practice of transporting the bulls — on loan from a Kentucky ranch — from city to city, Jarl wrote, "Animals shouldn't have to be trucked hundreds of miles to be chased by men on horseback so participants can pretend they are Ernest [Hemingway] for an afternoon. Animals deserve better than being repeatedly subjected to these absurd events. But whether it's boring or exciting, bull running is not a tradition we should import into the United States, and we encourage sensible people to stay away."
The run, originally scheduled for this past weekend, was rescheduled for January 25, thanks to a weekend forecast calling for 39 degrees and sleet. Promoter Rob Dickens said that "all tickets are valid for the new event date; there's no action required on the part of ticketholders. Online registration for this event has been reopened and will now close at 11:59 p.m. on January 17."
Boots Made for Walking
People of Texas and Houston Driving Less.
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According to a report from the TexPIRG Education fund, people in Texas (and, yes, that does include Houston) are ditching the glut of freeway traffic in favor of public transit and biking in greater numbers, a trend that follows other cities and states across the country. The biggest change, not surprisingly, is in Austin, where, according to the report, more than 4 percent of commuters over the past decade have stopped driving a private car to work. Houston has seen a more modest decline in driving by commuters of about a half a percent in the same time period.
This would seem to be in line with numerous reports and studies that have emerged over the past few years supporting the need for more transportation options in big cities. Of course, that is a complicated process in a city the size of Houston. We're never going to be a city that has even a substantial percentage of residents commuting via public transportation or, God help them, biking to work because of how spread out the entire region is.
Still, we are working on it with three new light-rail lines planned and, according to the mayor's office, some "route re-imagining" of our bus lines.
The trend supports a move by younger people, who favor transportation alternatives to the private vehicle. The report states that Americans between the ages of 16 and 34 reduced the number of driving miles by 23 percent between 2001 and 2009.