Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The New (Revised) Houston Political Dictionary (v2.4)

Prologue: The concept of the social dictionary has a long, and distinguished history.  From Voltaire to Samuel Johnson to modern-day thinkers such as John Ralston Saul (with whom I disagree politically, but really enjoy reading) the social dictionary has been used to place the modern, traditional dictionary in it's proper place.  It might have been Gustav Flaubert who first stated that the Dictionary is opinion, stated as fact, in alphabetical order.  Or it might have been Voltaire, the history of the quote (and idea) is muddled.

On the old blog, I attempted to take all things Houston and present them in the same manner, hopefully with some heart and humor thrown in for good measure. Since that time, however, things have changed.  Lose an Eye, it's a Sport has been long-shuttered and Houston's political landscape has changed.  It has also remained much the same.  While that might seem like an impossibility I believe that you'll see, in the entries (and explanations) to come that no matter how many things seem to have changed, history is, at heart, a cyclical thing.

One final note:  The title of this is the "Houston Political Dictionary" but, because Houston is a major regional city, I will frequently include items that are outside of the City.  Quite often actually.  I think you'll agree that pretty much everything I discuss however will have some impact on the place that is affectionately called H-Town by those of a nick-naming disposition.  For the rest of us, those who live here and actually really like it, I think Houston will do.  So, without further ado.......


Activist - One who can be fed anger from sources seeking political or financial gain and channel it with little or no pangs of conscience.
The concept of the political activist has been around for ages.  Back when farmer Joseph felt put upon by the King due to taxes there would be agrarian uprisings which were quickly put down by the power of the sword.  In rare cases (see: The French Revolution) the people were successful in overthrowing the rulers before realizing, hundreds of year later, that the inevitable result of that is Hollande. Today's political activist is nothing more than a mouthpiece for the political party of their choosing who happens to be willing to stand out in the rain holding a pre-printed sign lest the home-made ones contain misspellings of an embarrassing nature.

Aeros, Houston - Houston's explanation of the phrase "out of sight, out of mind".

Alamo - Historically, the mission in San Antonio where hundreds of Texians were slaughtered by General Santa Ana's superior force, thus sparking the battle cry for Texas' Independence.  In modern terms: The Alamo Draft House. A place where hipsters can watch art-house films while enjoying a can of Lone Star Beer

Alief - The part of Houston referred to when someone says "where those people" live.

A-List - A term for the big celebrities, of which Houston has none. 
Probably because they have no truly huge stars Houston's media is fascinated by them.  It's gotten so bad that Beyonce (a true A-list star) is still referred to as "Houston's own" despite her now living and having babies in New York city.

Allen's Landing - The romanticized origin of Houston which is really a dodgy spot on a polluted Bayou whose waters will cause a nasty rash in anyone who tries to swim in them.

Alvarado, Carol (D) - 1. An empty political suit with an odd predilection for "fighting" imaginary enemies. 2. Proof that being "the chosen one" in politics is not enough to succeed in the face of better funding.
Texas House Representative Carol Alvarado was the hand-picked successor of deceased Texas State Senator Mario Gallegos.  Unfortunately the voters didn't see it this way electing fellow empty-suit and fighter Sylvia Garcia to take over the chair vacated upon Gallegos passing.

Anadarko - Bad capitalism and one of the anti-capitalist, green-movement's strongest cases against a comfortable life.

Anvil Bar and Refuge - The central hive for the FoodBorg and leading light in the "no cars are good cars" parking movement. Also, a brilliant marketer.
Anvil co-owner Bobby Heugel's creation of "100 cocktails you must try" was a brilliant way to ensure that his stocks of obscure liqueurs maintains a profitable churn rate.

Apple - Good capitalism and the anti-capitalists' strongest argument for government sanctioned monopolies.

The problem with "capitalism" in Houston is that so much of it is responsible for the relatively good quality of life within the city but the political party of choice for the majority has decided that the oil and gas energy is slightly worse than Satan.  This causes a problem for those of a progressive mind-set due to the fact that they love the jobs, and the tax revenue, provided by the so-called "bad" companies but really want the economy to be entirely made up of the "good". This leads to rather awkward situations at fund-raisers where the progressive politician in question bashes an industry in their stump-speech and immediately follows that up by requesting the abused company write them a check.  Of course, Apple Inc. doesn't attend these parties because their too busy trying to figure out new ways to prevent their users from getting anything done.

Astros, Houston - Minor League baseball for Major League prices.

Astrodome - A metaphor for the City as a whole.
The "Dome" is frequently remembered by most Houstonians in a time capsule.  As a city we're more likely to remember the time when men in spacesuits vacuumed the carpet before games than we are to remember it in it's current state.  At the time of it's commission, the Astrodome was proof of Houston's big ideas and the force of personality of our leaders.  It's rapidly deteriorating condition and the dithering about it's eventual fate is often viewed as a measuring stick for how far local leadership has fallen.

Astronaut - The, cool, end result of a marketing campaign by engineers tired of getting kicked around due to their affinity for pocket protectors.

Astroturf - A truly horrible idea for an athletic playing surface that's morphed into a truly horrible derision for political groups with whom you happen to disagree.

At-large City Council Races - Identity politics.
At-large City Council races have two political differences from the traditional district-based races. 1. They don't represent one small geographic area. 2. The ability to succeed is solely based on one's talents in cobbling together certain ethnic groups.  The idea that Houston's political races are "non-partisan" only really applies if you agree that, across the city as a whole, a Republican is no longer able to win a race against a well-funded Democratic challenger.  Because of this the race-winners are typically determined by who can rally together enough of Houston's racial and ethnic quilt to emerge victorious.

Austin - The capitol of Texas. The home of the University of Texas-Austin.
Being both the political and sociological capitol of Texas provides Austin with some problems.  The first is that, due to the current majority of Republican office-holders in the State what goes on behind the pink dome is typically out of balance with the cultural zeitgeist of the city itself.  The second is that the cultural identity of Austin is perpetually frozen in a time-warp.  Unwilling to build roads because of the evilness of the car and unable to build a good public transportation system due to a chronic lack of funds Austin exists in a time-warp with a 70's transportation infrastructure and a sense of cool (based mainly on South by Southwest) that outlived its useful life at the same time. The main argument why this is so centers around an overabundance of journalists wearing hip, trendy eye-wear whose writing has an impact on how the rest of the state functions.

Auto-Show, Houston - The best place in Houston to see last-year's car models while this-year's debuts are circling the globe at other auto-shows.

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