All posts by L. Wayne Ashley

Thanks for visiting!! My name is Wayne, and I live in Houston, Texas. I wouldn't consider myself a "diehard" liberal activist, but I definitely have a Progressive view on most issues. I'm a proud Millennial, and I feel like the voice of my generation in Texas gets overshadowed by the older, more established groups. This is my effort to change that. Please come back and read when you can.

Houston Chamber Choir Receives Prestigious National Honor

Some very big news for one of Houston’s most prominent classical music organizations.  Here’s the story from the Houston Chamber Choir’s Press Release (via the Broadway World Newsdesk)…

Houston Chamber Choir has received the prestigious Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence from Chorus America, the advocacy, research and leadership development organization that advances the choral field. The award will be presented at Chorus America’s 2018 Conference in Chicago June 20-23.

The Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence honors the memory of Margaret Hillis, founder of the Chicago Symphony Chorus, for her more than 40 years of professional achievement and outstanding contributions to the choral field. The award is presented annually to a member chorus that demonstrates artistic excellence, a strong organizational structure and a commitment to outreach, education, and/or culturally diverse activities.

In its description of this honor, Chorus America noted that “the Houston Chamber Choirhas excelled in presenting a daring breadth of repertoire at the highest level throughout its 22-year history, from historically-informed performance of Bach’s Mass in B Minor to rich celebrations of Mexico’s choral heritage to collaborations with jazz musicians Christian McBride and Dave Brubeck. Through commitments to commissioning new works and partnerships with guest conductors, the ensemble maintains a fresh approach to its art, while achieving steady organizational growth. In addition, the Chamber Choir’s educational efforts in the Houston community have brought music back to three of the district’s most disadvantaged schools and established an annual choral festival that is in its 19th year.”

“The Chorus America Margaret Hillis Award is one of the highest accolades an American choir can receive,” says Houston Chamber Choir Artistic Director Robert Simpson. “I am thrilled that the extraordinary work of our musicians, staff and board has been recognized in this way.”

Awarded to a Professional Choir once every three years, the Houston Chamber Choir joins some elite company as the 2018 winner.  Internationally acclaimed groups such as VocalEssence, Cantus, Chanticleer and Conspirare have won the award in recent years.  After Conspirare, the Houston Chamber Choir is only the 2nd Texas ensemble to receive the honor.

In a year that has seen the Houston Symphony claim its first ever Grammy Award, the accolades keep coming for Houston’s classical music and arts scene.  Glad to see that the hard work in H Town is getting noticed.

Check out this special video of the choir, in the midst of recording their next big CD project, the choral music of Maurice Durufle…

 

Texoblogosphere: Week of April 2nd

The Texas Progressive Alliance believes that everyone counts and everyone should be counted as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff takes two more looks at precinct data in Harris County from the primary races.

Socratic Gadfly offers some updates on what now clearly appears to be a weird triangle in Marlin between Houston real estate “flippers,” a former VA hospital building, and the General Land Office and P. Bush.

Neil at All People Have Value again made the point that there is authoritarian/Constitutional crisis on the way.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Luke Amphlett criticizes the San Antonio ISD handbook on SB4, the so-called “sanctuary cities” law.

Therese Odell sees a chance for the Roseanne reboot to open a national dialogue on important issues, but fears it will take the easy way out.

Durrel Douglas unveils a project aimed at placing more Black people on government/NGO Boards and Commissions.

The Texas Living Waters Project reminds us that urban wildlife and people need healthy creeks and streams, not channelized ditches.

Amy Pearl asks who “walkability” is for.

BeyondBones explores the origins of timekeeping.

Guest Texan Aviva Shen examines the primary ouster of McLennan County DA Abel Reyna.

Oh, SNAP!! Beto O’Rourke Posts Massive Fundraising Haul

For Texas Democrats running statewide, what does winning even look like??

No one in contemporary Texas politics knows the answer.  It’s an experience so elusive that you have to go back more than a generation to even ask someone who held statewide office as a Democrat.  That one living person??  Former Lieutenant Governor William P. Hobby, and he served during the 1980s.

1994 was the last time Texans sent a statewide elected Democrat to Austin, with Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock.  So if anyone else tells you they know beyond a doubt how Democrats can win statewide, they’ve probably been out in to pasture a bit too long.

But if we can take our best guess at what that win might look like, I’m going to bet that the Beto O’Rourke campaign is off to a pretty good start on that path.  Here’s the big news O’Rourke’s campaign released today, via Patrick Svitek of the Texas Tribune

U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, raised over $6.7 million for his U.S. Senate bid in the first quarter of 2018, according to his campaign, a staggering number that poses a new category of threat to Republican incumbent Ted Cruz.

The haul is easily O’Rourke’s biggest fundraising quarter yet, more than double his next-closest total for a three-month period. It also is more than any Democratic Senate candidate nationwide took in last quarter, O’Rourke’s campaign said.

Cruz has not released his first-quarter fundraising numbers yet, but O’Rourke’s $6.7 million total is on a different level than his previous hauls, which ranged from $1.7 million to $2.4 million. Those alone were good enough to outraise Cruz for three of the last four reporting periods.

Furthermore, the $6.7 million total came from more than 141,000 contributions — another record-busting number for O’Rourke.

The big money totals are important, but just as crucial is the huge number of individual contributions from people across the state, and other areas of the country.  But most of that money, 70 percent per the El Paso Times, came from folks in the Lone Star State, with NO contributions from any PACs (Political Action Committees) or corporations.  In other words, Beto is not for sale.

After a year on the road, the Congressman has already visited 228 counties and held hundreds of Town Halls with Texans, while simultaneously meeting his responsibilities to the Texans he represents in El Paso.  He’s had over 90 town halls with his constituents!

For Ted Cruz, whom officially launched his reelection campaign Monday in Beaumont, let’s just say the time spent with his constituents has been, well, a little less frequent.  Though if you can manage to drudge up some national news media, you might have a chance of getting him to show up.

Which is why the O’Rourke campaign had an interesting present for Beaumont area voters to welcome Cruz yesterday… a specially-designed Snapchat filter for the big event…

It’s good to see the Democratic challenger putting that campaign cash to use.

And make no mistake, the one thing Ted Cruz does well is campaigning.  Just because he lost to Donald Trump in his bid for President doesn’t mean he’s going to roll over without a fight.  The whole strategy behind emphasizing his work to help Texans recover from Hurricane Harvey is incredibly smart, mostly because he knows that O’Rourke, from El Paso, didn’t and couldn’t play a central role in that situation. But as Cruz runs around highlighting the ONE TIME he managed to actually do his job after a natural disaster, smart Texas voters should be able to see through the smoke screen to reveal a Senator who’s overall record in responding to and working for his constituents has been abysmal.

Whatever lies ahead, it looks like Texans are going to see a real competitive campaign for Senate in 2018, fights and all.  And if we do know anything about Texas politics, we know that you can’t be a winner without first being a fighter.

Kudos to Beto for taking some shots.

 

TRIED It: How Chicago’s Bean War Will Backfire in Houston’s Favor

So apparently, Chicago has some beef with Houston.

Wait, not beef, but another protein which is essential to a regular diet.  This proxy war is not erupting over beef, but beans.

UGH– Here’s the scoop, from Drew Schwartz of Vice News

Earlier this week, Houston unveiled a 21,000-pound, stainless-steel Goliath of a sculpture outside its Museum of Fine Arts called the “Cloud Column,” made by Anish Kapoor—the same artist who brought Chicago “Cloud Gate,” better known as the Bean.

But seeing as there’s been some tension simmering between the two cities for a while—Houston’s on track to outstrip Chicago as America’s third-largest metropolis, which is a sore spot—things are really heating up now that they both have big-ass metal beans.

On Tuesday, Chicago Tribune columnist Kim Janssen fired the first shot in the battle of the beans with a scalding hit piece: “Unoriginal 4th place Houston gets its own bean sculpture… whatever.” After a kind of lackluster diss about Houston’s bean being “uptight” (because it’s upright) and Chicago’s being “chill” (it’s horizontal), Janssen took out the claws.

“If being surrounded by a cultureless abyss insufficiently communicates to confused tourists that they are in Houston, the bean’s verticality will therefore act as an additional reminder of their poor life choices,” he wrote.

Yep, he definitely TRIED it.

Of course Houstonians could not let such ridiculous shots go unanswered.  You can read the back and forth between Janssen and the Houston Chronicle’s Lisa Gray for further bean drama.

But instead of fanning the flames, Texas Leftist would instead like to thank Mr. Janssen for the robust opportunity.  Instead of bringing us down, the attacks on Houston have yielded the opposite effect, by pouring worldwide attention on to our new sculpture, and the cultural oasis which surrounds it.

Thanks for giving Houstonians the opportunity to highlight our world-class arts institutions, like the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Menil Collection and Children’s Museum of Houston, all mere blocks away from our illustrious new bean.

Of course you may run into a crowd while doing so, as Houston’s Museums are some of the most well-attended in the United States.  In fact, with nearly 2.3 million visitors in 2015, the Houston Museum of Natural Science even outranked Chicago’s famous institutions for that year, and has been growing in numbers since.

It’s no secret that the city of Houston is a king of sprawl, with a land mass nearly 3 times the size of Chicago.  But even with this being the case, some parts of Houston can offer a lot of excitement even for visitors used to more urban, dense environments.  And thankfully, the new bean is at the heart of some of Houston’s most exciting attractions.  Far from the “cultureless abyss” suggested by Janssen, Houston’s offers a ton of world-class attractions, be it music, sports or urban exploration.

So there you have it.  If Chicagoans really want to start a war over the beans, they are welcome.  But in the end, they may end up helping Houston’s ultimate goal.  Houstonians, get your selfie sticks ready.

 

UPDATE:  Point of Order for Houston… Does this sculpture really look like a bean?? Why should we let Chicago name our new thing. Instead of the ‘Houston Bean’ we should call it the Houston Space Pod.  Thoughts??? Put ‘em in the comments.

Texoblogosphere: Week of March 26th

The Texas Progressive Alliance stands with the marchers as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff analyzed the Harris County precinct data for the Democratic Senate primary.

SocraticGadfly offers his thoughts on the lawsuit by Seth Rich’s parents.

Stace offers his thoughts on law enforcement and media portrayal of the Austin bomber.

As if last weekend’s March For Our Lives events weren’t epic enough, Texas Leftist was glad to see some Houston Area high school students start yet another impressive movement. By bringing prominent Democratic and Republican leaders together in ways that political forces have fallen short, the Inaugural Day of Unity Texas is off to a great start.

Neil at All People Had Value made the point that we are facing an authoritarian/Constitutional crisis.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Stephen Young lists ten Texas celebrities who ought to get into politics, a list that might have been a bit more useful before the primaries.

Space City Weather explains why a hurricane forecast for 2018 will be a challenge.

Jeff Balke puts the blame on negligent drivers for the spate of car crashes with light rail trains in Houston.

Dwight Silverman shows how to manage your Facebook privacy settings.

Mean Green Cougar Red takes a long look at the Uber self-driving car that caused the death of a bicyclist.

March For Our Lives Houston

The sound was at once unforgettable.  So loud, so HIGH!! If you’ve ever heard the sound of a gaggle of young girls shrieking for their favorite boy band, you’ll get pretty close to what was heard. But take those same screams, and add the weight of purpose, the energy of determination and the urgency of concerns.

Crowd size estimates are in the neighborhood of 15,000 for Downtown Houston alone, which didn’t include numbers from marches in the Heights, Sugar Land, The Woodlands, and other areas of Southeast Texas.  But wherever they where, those distinguished sounds were one and the same.  The shrieking sound of a crowd full of teenagers is not something one can easily forget.  And make no mistake about it… the March For  Our Lives in Houston was composed of and led by young people.  In fact, high school students were probably the median age for the crowd, as many younger children were out in full force marching to support their families, elder siblings, and of course, their own rights to go to a safe school.

And if thousands of young people can lead this movement in Houston, Texas, there shouldn’t be any doubt who led these marches across the country.

Sorry NRA TV, but you got this one totally wrong.  If y’all had been there… if you could have heard the yells, the shrieking of that crowd, this wouldn’t even been a question.

In Houston, local politicians like Mayor Sylvester Turner, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo not only attended the March, but at one point the took the front line to show full solidarity with the movement. Mayor Turner also announced the creation of a new Commission to End Gun Violence, which will focus on local research and solutions. So even in Houston, the March For Our Lives movement has already yielded substantive results.

As for what lies ahead for this new movement?  We’ll know soon enough. But as for March 24th, the history for that day has been made loud, clear, and HIGH.

 

The March For Our Lives rally in Downtown Houston, near the office of Texas Senator Ted Cruz.  The Senator did not attend any March For Our Lives Events.  

High School Students Hold Inaugural “Day Of Unity” To Promote Civil Discourse

Sometimes words like “historic” just don’t get the job done. But if this weekend’s events weren’t already historic enough to show the capabilities of our nation’s young people with the March For Our Lives events on Saturday, some young Southeast Texans decided to forge yet another new path.

From Patrick Svitek of the Texas Tribune, here’s the story on today’s event…

BELLAIRE — For several hours Sunday, an auditorium at Bellaire High School played host to an uncommon sight in Texas politics: an organized attempt at unity.

Hosted in part by Texas High School Democrats and Republicans, the Day of Unity that was held here drew two of the state’s most well-known partisans: GOP U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Democratic U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio. And it brought together the Democratic and Republican state party chairmen — Gilberto Hinojosa and James Dickey — for what was billed as their first joint appearance ever.

In describing the need for the event, one of the organizers, Adam Hoffman, a student at Robert M. Beren Academy and chairman of the Texas High School Republicans, said the country’s “being ripped apart from within. Our social fabric is tearing.”

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The Day of Unity also featured appearances by U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, and the city’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, who provided a proclamation recognizing the day. On the panel featuring Dickey and Hinojosa, the state’s party chairs, things got chippy on the topic of gerrymandering, through the two reached something of a consensus on polarization being less of a problem when elected officials are closest to their constituents.

Yep, you read that right… the living human known as Texas Senator Ted Cruz actually showed up for this event… in Texas.  An impressive feat if there ever was one.

Oh, sorry… the point of this post was Civil Discourse.  Still working on it, I guess.

In coverage leading up to the event with Houston Matters‘ Joshua Zinn, organizers Adam Hoffman and Alex Kontoyiannis discussed how the goal of the event was to be expressly non-political.  By all measures that goal was a success.  Though the first event occurred in Texas, Hoffman and Kontoyiannis also revealed that the Day of Unity Texas is quite possibly the start of a national movement, as other student leaders from across the country have already expressed interest in hosting similar events.