Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Back on the blog, and a giant bean sparks city on city crime


So since the death of Houstonsportsandstuff.com, there really is no place for fiction or things that have nothing to do with sports. So I will post things that are inappropriate for SportsMap here from time to time. This was inspired by a giant bean.


For some reason, with any controversy these days, we slap a “gate” on the end. And lo and behold, Houston finds itself mired in just such a national quarrel.

Call it “Beangate.”

OK, let’s not. “Gate” is overused and a copycat term, and since the city is basically being accused of doing just that, let’s use something different. In fact, the impetus of all this is a structure called Cloud Gate.

So maybe we will go with something more simple: “Bean angst?”

It all started when Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts got a new statue, a work by British sculptor Sir Anish Kapoor entitled “Cloud Column.” The structure is similar to a work he did for Chicago, “Cloud Gate,” better known as the famous Bean. Chicago’s structure is awesome and a tourist draw. Houston is obviously hoping for some of the same.

(Plus, who doesn’t want a structure from a “Sir?” It adds class and dignity. And who would not want to have Sir in front of their name? Sir Fred Faour. See? It’s a game changer.)

The problem is our good friends in the Windy City are somewhat upset over Houston getting the new work of art, albeit it a vertical version of the Bean. In particular, a reporter named Kim Janssen of the Chicago Tribune is particularly bothered. Janssen did his best to troll the good people of Houston.

Said Janssen: “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.”

Let’s toss in the headline for good measure: “Unoriginal 4th place Houston gets its own bean sculpture... whatever”

And, of course, now Houstonians are in an uproar over being called a “cultureless abyss.”

That qualifies as trash talk? That gets our city up in arms?

I would love to bash Chicago and come to our defense. But in truth, we brought it on ourselves. The headline on the story linked above in Houston? “Move over, Chicago, Houston has a bean now, too.” Yes, one could see why that would be considered “unoriginal.”

Janssen seems more upset that Houston is going to pass Chicago as the third largest city sometime in the next decade. He writes, “the (Houston) metro area gained 94,417 residents in 2017, while the Chicago metro area lost 13,286 residents. If that trend continues, Houston could eclipse Chicago as the nation’s third largest city in the next 10 years.” Bad news, Kim, that trend has been going on for quite some time...Whatever.

I would love to list all the reasons why Houston is not a “cultureless abyss,” but if you live here, you already know them all. (And you won’t find an actual “abyss” in Houston other than the potholes). And I would also love to bash Chicago. But the reality is it’s a great city. I have spent a lot of time there, especially in the past two years. Sure, it has its negatives -- if you fly in via Midway, there is a *67.5 percent chance you will be murdered on the Uber ride to downtown. (*-based on watching episodes of Chicago P.D.). But it’s not like we don’t have our own questionable areas (“Gunspoint,” anyone?)

Millenium Park, home of the original Bean, is awesome and we have nothing like it here. Chicago’s downtown is loaded with excellent restaurants, bars and amazing architecture. It remains the cultural center of the Midwest. The craft beer scene is fantastic. Lou Malnati’s, Giordano’s and Gino’s pizza are personally responsible for at least 10 of my pounds.

Of the art we have collected for our home, everything is from Houston except two works, both purchased from a Chicago artists. I have Blackhawks gear I like to wear. So I would be hypocritical to bash the city. And I get the angst. Chicago has always been third fiddle in terms of culture behind New York and Los Angeles, and now some upstart is about to pass them for third largest city. Go cry in your multiple sports titles and terrific beer and food scene, Chicago. And, oh, by the way, you still have a lot of unique structures that no one will ever be able to match. 

And I will not give Houston a pass for the “move over, Chicago” bit. Our fine city has long had an inferiority complex. “Dallas gets a TV show. Wah. Austin gets to be the cool place. Wah. We didn’t get a space shuttle. Wah.”

“We get a bean, too, and can be just like Chicago!” Whatever.

It would also be wrong to make fun of the writer who trolled Houston. That’s what trolls want, right? For you to come after them? Why would I take that bait? After all, his name is Kim. Unless you are Korean or a talented Canadian rocker or actor (Kim Mitchell, Kim Coates), your parents are dooming you to mediocrity at birth. I would never make fun of that.

And there is no way I would mention that a reporter for a major newspaper has less than 4,000 Twitter followers. What has he been covering? Bake sales? Dog walks? Only someone from a cultural abyss would go there. So I won’t.

And there is no way I would bring up that newspapers in general are so desperate for relevance and survival they resort to trolling. That would be unoriginal of me. 

So yes, Houston now has a bean. Should the brilliant work of a famous artist not be displayed because it is similar to something he did elsewhere? Should it just be locked away somewhere? There was a time when imitation was the sincerest form of flattery. Where someone would say, “hey look, they want to be like us. Cool! Thank you!” Instead, we resort to insults.

Then again, maybe you guys are the copycats; trying to steal our inferiority complex. So...Cool! Thank you!

Whatever.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

No, really, the blog is back for real this time...I have no choice

Yeah, yeah, I have said that before. I had been using this for non-sportsy stuff. But as you might know by now, Examiner.com no longer exists, and I need a place to start posting sports takes.
(No big loss. The site was a bitch to post on and I am not sorry to see it go). The only difference now is I will be doing it for free for the time being.

I am looking at some other sites, but until then, I will be posting my Texans/Houston sports articles here and will hopefully be hitting up some more non sports stuff as well. Now that the novel is finished I should have more time to put stupid stuff on here for your entertainment. (Well, hopefully you will be entertained).

So this is basically to let everyone know where they can get my articles now. If you aren't familiar with this blog, well, now you know. I am working on some new fiction that will be appearing here as well and some TV thoughts, music thoughts and other generic stuff. Hopefully you will enjoy it.

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We just returned from our yearly trip to Saskatchewan, where as usual we had a nice, relaxing two weeks. Clearwater Lake really is in the middle of nowhere. From Houston, it's a two and a half hour flight to Minneapolis, a two hour flight to Regina, and a four-hour drive to the lake from there. But it is a wonderful, relaxing place. (The photo below is our view from the lake house).



The closest town is Kyle, population 500 (roughly). And yes, the photo below is from one of our few restaurant choices. I don't know why I find it so funny, but I do.



Believe it or not, the Chinese food was really decent. I never got around to trying Heidi's burger.

Anyway, thanks for reading and expect a lot of sports and non sports here starting very soon. Really.


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Five TV shows you should be watching...

So there will be no apologies for lack of recent posts or promises to post more. I suck, I know it, no worries. Most of my creative energy goes into the radio show, and most of my spare time has gone into building our audio book business. I had to take a day off from the show to get caught up on this and my other blog, in addition to dealing with some audio book business.

However, I did want to throw out some TV shows you might not know about for binge watching purposes. Banshee is coming back this week, and by now you know that and Game of Thrones are my Nos. 1 and 1A. But if you aren't on the five shows below, you should be...(These aren't in order of preference).

Mr Robot. My good friend Jamin (@rottweiler2000 on twitter, worth a follow) turned me on to this. Best way to describe it? Fight Club, Orphan Black and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo have a threesome and this is their kid. Christian Slater (yeah, remember him?) is amazing. Only one season, but it was outstanding. Drags a little in the middle episodes, but the last four are through the roof.

Tatiana Maslany is my second favorite Canadian. Sexy and a brilliant actress.

Orphan Black. Tatiana Maslany is an amazing Canadian actress who plays several clones. How she hasn't won an emmy is a mystery. Terrific acting, and if you are a sci fi fan, this is a must. First episode is confusing, but if you stick with it, you will fall in love with this show.

Outsiders. I admit it, I had my doubts when WGN was doing a series. But this hillbilly vs. establishment narrative is much better than expected. Solid acting -- very Sons of Anarchy like -- and an interesting plot. Worth the time and effort.

Better Call Saul. If you are a Breaking Bad fan, this is a must. If you aren't? Binge watch Bad and then get on this. Clever, well written and the acting is off the charts. Actually has fewer slow episodes than Bad.

John Oliver's Last Week Tonight. OK, this is out of the genres above, but if you like informed, funny, investigative journalism, this is a must. The current season has focused on more mainstream topics, but past years brought some amazing topics to light. He's funny, topical, down the middle politically and you will learn something each week.

Just missing the list is Vinyl. I was extremely excited about this because it was Martin Scorsese. But it has dragged, become predictable, and is shaping up as a bad Goodfellas. There is still time to salvage it, but they did not have enough subject matter for it to be a TV series. As a 3-hour movie? Would have been awesome.

So that should get you binge watching for a while. And I promise to post more often...never mind.





Thursday, October 22, 2015

Launching a new venture

Today marked the birth of a new business, and one that I hope will bring joy to many people and perhaps change the way we absorb information.

I have a new job, one that is part of an exciting future. No, I am not leaving radio. The Blitz will continue to endure for the foreseeable future. However, as part of my new duties at Gow Media, I will also be Executive Director of Gow Media Audio Publications, a new arm of the Gow empire. We will be publishing audio books, easily downloadable to both laptops and mobile devices.

To that end, I am pleased to introduce our first project: An Introduction to Sports Betting, Blitz Style, by myself and A.J. Hoffman. It is an original book available only on audio. This is a key part of our vision for this business, but more on that in a moment.

This particular audio book is for those who are interested in sports betting and want to know more of the terminology and strategies. It is designed for a beginner, but it also has several strategies that will help veteran players as well. We specifically do not want to encourage people to bet who aren't already doing it, but simply help people who are do a better job at it. I am very proud of the project and the people who worked hard to make it happen, specifically A.J., editor/producer Micheal Carrell, our internet genius Brandon Strange and Jorge Ortiz, who has been managing the site and helped get it up and running. Without them, this would not have happened.

As far as what's next....we will be releasing an updated version of my how-to horse racing book, Acing Racing, sometime before the end of the year. We also have an exciting project by Craig Shelton on the history of Houston hip hop, which should be out by Christmas. Of all these projects, only Acing Racing is available in print, and the new version will contain significantly more information than the original.

In January, we will move to phase 2, which is an expansion into several new realms. Children's books. How-to manuals. Autobiographies. We want all original content not available anywhere else. Eventually we hope to do text books and more. The sky is the limit.

We will do some audio versions of already published material, but our main goal is to provide original content that fits better in the audio realm. I do not wish to get people to stop reading. I merely want to take advantage of our vast audio capabilities to bring new, fresh ideas to the public.

We are going to keep the unit costs well below what you would expect to pay for an audio book, simply because our overhead and production costs are much lower as we have all the equipment we need as part of the Gow Media operation. If you have a concept that you think would be well-received, email me at faour975@gmail.com with your idea.

In the interim, if you are interested in sports betting, please check this out for the low, low price of $12.99. It's just under three hours of great information, some of which you have probably heard on our show, but all of it in one place. The link is here. Listen while you work out, or while you are trying to ignore people at work.

I am excited about this particular audio book, but am incredibly fired up about what we will produce in the future. I believe we will bring great information to the public at affordable prices in a medium that is still growing.

I am proud to be a part of Gow Media, and I believe this new venture will change the way we get our information in an ever-changing media world. I hope you will join me in embracing the future.



Thursday, June 18, 2015

Auctioning off a piece of Astros history


If you are an Astros fan, you might remember this. It appeared on the front page of the Houston Chronicle on June 1, 2005. We essentially buried the Astros, who were off to a historically bad start. You might also remember they recovered and appeared in the World Series for the only time.

What you are looking at is the original slick page proof. To my knowledge, it is the only one in existence. It is, in essence, the original Astros tombstone and the only one of its kind. It appeared on Fox TV during the World Series. It has been copied and referred to many times since.

It has been sitting in storage, and it's time for it to find a real home.

This is a throwback piece to a day when newspapers were still not just relevant, but the driving force behind journalism. If you want more details on how it came about, check out this article.  It details how I came up with the concept.

This is truly a piece of Houston sports history. I had the original proof framed when I was sports editor of the Chronicle. We often did this with pages we liked or historical moments. This is not newsprint, but a slick version that will hold up over time.

When I resigned, it (along with several other front pages) was a going away gift.

It should go to someone who will appreciate it and understand the historical significance.

To that end, we will be auctioning it off on air Wednesday, June 24 on the Blitz on ESPN 97.5 in Houston. (You can also hear us on espn975.com, tuneinradio and the espn radio app). The auction will take place from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Central time. The call-in number is 713-780-3776. A portion of the proceeds will go to charity -- which charity and how much will be determined by the final price. There is a reserve price on it -- if it doesn't go for a predetermined amount I will keep it and donate it to a deserving home. I'm not looking to get rich. I am hoping to raise some money for a few of my favorite charities. A lot of people have asked about it, so we decided to try this.

The 10-year anniversary happened at the beginning of this month and there was a lot of interest, and enough people remember it that it should be a popular item. The winning bidder will have the option of taking it as is or having it signed by myself and Jose de Jesus Ortiz, who wrote the article. It is truly a collector's item and something that should be on display, not sitting in a storage locker.

If you are interested, tune in to the show on the 24th.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Spoiler alert: Justified will be remembered as one of the best shows of a golden era

First off, a reminder we are still taking donations for cancer research for the Terry Fox run. To donate, click here.

To participate, click here: 

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Justified ended its six-year run on Tuesday night with a finale that was a damned near perfect microcosm of what the show was about.

Spoiler alert: Yes there are spoilers here so stop if you have not seen it yet.

The show itself is part of a golden age of TV. The last few years has brought us Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad and a slew of other near-great shows. Non-network TV allows writers and actors to take chances and delve into subjects that the big boys will not.

Raylan did get to kill one more character (FX photo)
In the final analysis, Justified will go down as one of the all-time great shows. From the snappy, clever dialogue to the excellent acting, the show always stood out from its contemporaries. And unlike shows like Mad Men, it never fell off a cliff into writing oblivion. And unlike Sons of Anarchy, it provided a perfect finale that didn't try to shove maudlin, overdone imagery down our throats.

Some scenes truly stood out. In the end, it was Boyd who killed Avery and his minions, when it looked all along like it was headed for a showdown with Raylan. And of course, that led to the Boyd/Raylan showdown we waited for six years to happen.

And unpredictably, Boyd would not participate. It was a fitting and surprising moment.

The incredibly greasy and unlikeable Boon did draw on Raylan, however. And it was another moment that we didn't really see coming.

Moments before the showdown, the "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive" music plays as Raylan and Ava are driving. Then Boon hits the car from behind and they face off in the street. Raylan kills Boon, but is also shot and appears dead.

For a moment, you actually thought that was the end for Raylan. It was perfectly set up. But he was merely grazed. Ava escapes, Raylan says his goodbyes (including an incredibly powerful scene with Art) and the timeframe ends.

It then jumps ahead four years to an epilogue, which rarely works with a show. But this one did. The presumed main characters are back where they started. Raylan is in Florida doting on his daughter. Boyd is in jail and back to preaching.

The characters who truly moved on are the females -- Ava and Winona. Ava has escaped and is in hiding in California, presumably with a chunk of the missing money. (The rest, we presume, is with the ultimate cockroach of the show, Wynn Duffy). Winona has a new man who seems to get along with Raylan and is living a normal life.

In the end, it might have been Ava and Winona who were driving the show all along, and Raylan and Boyd were the bit characters.

The scene with Raylan and Ava was charming and closed the door on their relationship, with the big reveal being Boyd's chunky son, which evokes yet another snarky line from Raylan.

And the final scene was pure gold. Raylan and Boyd one more time, with Raylan pretending to fall back on their old code to outsmart his nemesis once again to make Boyd think Ava is dead.

A few things are left to our imagination, notably whether or not Loretta becomes the queen of Harlan County. But those are good things to speculate on, and the shows final moments were simply perfect. Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins brought the characters to life like few ever have.

It was filled with emotion. Snark. Great acting. Just like all six seasons. The show ended at a perfect time with a result that was neither forced nor unbelievable.

The characters we love most all left Harlan alive, and went right back where they started. The six years in between marked a wonderful ride for all of us, one that will eventually be remembered as one of the best shows in a golden age of television.


Friday, April 3, 2015

A plea for help...but the blog is back

So I know this blog has been dormant for a while. I promise to fix that (I know, I have said that before). But my son has shamed me into writing more and who wants to disappoint their kid? (I am extremely proud of him. He wants to get in the creative writing program at UH. He will be a big star someday. His writing is phenomenal. He thinks it is better than his dad's, but what teenager doesn't?).

This is pretty straightforward. I will be back with some new fiction soon. I miss doing this blog. Going back and looking, there is some fun stuff on here. I need to get back to that.

As you all know, I hate cancer. Most of you knew Terry Hayes and her struggles before she passed. MD Anderson was terrific to her.

We have all lost someone to cancer or known someone who beat it. Those of you who know me have seen me post all these running photos lately. I have gotten into running 5ks and 10ks and biking like a fiend.

So the Terry Fox Run -- which the Canadian Club of Houston has brought to our fair city -- combines all those things. A hatred for cancer. A chance to run. Oh yeah, a Canadian connection, which never sucks, since my Canuck friends have branded me an honorary Canadian.

I'm hoping you will all participate and then we will all go downtown and party like fiends after. If you can't, please donate a few bucks here. Let's let cancer know we think it sucks and we hate it.

This is a cool run. There is no set donation, so you can donate a dollar and run. It's all about what you can spare, and more importantly  raising awareness. So let's do this together.

I promise more weirdness here soon. But for now, let's treat cancer like it is Ed Norton in the shower in American History X.