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Posted by tigerjez on 02-01-2004 07:36 AM:


Seeing as how the big game is here this weekend, here's an interesting article on H-town from a priest. Apart from his being a little out of touch on Rice (Rice having been over 1/3 asian for at least the past 10 years), he makes some good points:

I've seen the future and it is Houston

Father Raymond J. de Souza
National Post

Friday, January 30, 2004

America is coming to Houston for the Super Bowl this Sunday. But in the future, Houston is coming to America.

Post sportswriter Cam Cole reported Tuesday that Houston was 633-square miles of featureless sprawl that left him pining for the delights of Buffalo. That's harsh, but not entirely unfair. Houston was built as an inland port after the 1900 Galveston hurricane left 6,000 dead and persuaded Texans that city life on the Gulf coast was too dangerous. The flat and featureless landscape was considered safe. Houston is called the "bayou city" but the bayous are not a prominent feature -- this is not Louisiana.

Nevertheless, Houston, already America's fourth-largest metropolitan area, may well be the city of America's future. I was most recently there a few weeks ago as the city workers were putting up the Super Bowl XXXVIII banners on the downtown streetlights. I suspected that, in addition to the special events that the more than 100,000 visitors due this week are likely to see, the Super Bowl host city will illustrate what America will increasingly look like.

Much was made in the local press of Houston's three-time designation by Men's Fitness magazine as the nation's "fattest city." This year, Houston ceded top spot to Detroit, but five of the top 10 fattest cities are in Texas. The designation is not really scientific, but it is hard for a Canadian visitor not to be impressed by the sheer size of the people. Evident from the portions served in any restaurant -- 24 oz. steaks are not merely a novelty item --America is getting fatter, and Houston is leading the way.

On the flight down, a private MRI clinic owner (itself a novelty for a Canadian visitor) described how the increasing size of his patients is posing logistical problems. A recent female patient weighed in at 450 lbs. and wouldn't fit into the MRI equipment. The solution? She was sent over to Sea World in San Antonio to the MRI used for the large aquatic mammals. (Canadian reaction: Animals can get MRIs?) Obesity is such a problem that the renowned Texas Children's Hospital has begun doing weight-reduction surgery for kids.

In fact, health care is a major part of Houston's economy. The Texas Medical Center is an immense conglomeration of hospitals in the heart of the city. A pioneer in heart surgery, the medical centre is now a symbol of one of America's most important industries. Americans spend more on health care than any other nation -- almost 15% of GDP -- and it is growing.

The Houston economy still depends on energy, but less so than in the past. The wealth of the city will increasingly come from the new economy, of which health care is a big part. And there is stupendous wealth in Houston. The homes in Houston's richest neighbourhood, River Oaks, make Toronto's Bridle Path look like a middle-income subdivision.

A sizable portion of Houston's wealth -- almost US$1-billion -- has been devoted to a new basketball arena, a new baseball park and football's new Reliant Stadium, where the Super Bowl will be played. Reliant Stadium -- the retractable roof alone cost US$100-million -- is part of Houston's bet that sports and entertainment are key industries for a revitalized city.

Reliant Stadium stands beside -- and dwarfs -- the Houston Astrodome, built 40 years ago as the "eighth wonder of the world." The Astrodome was named after Houston's big 1960s project, the space program. President George W. Bush's recent announcement of missions to the moon and Mars is good news for his home state, where the space centre is named after another Texas president, Lyndon B. Johnson.

Space, sports, entertainment and health care. Houston still relies on oil and cattle, but less so, and America too is moving toward a future where wealth is less related to what comes out of the ground or grazes upon it. There is another America too, also evident in Houston, that does work hard on the land. The corps of workers that tend to the palatial estates in River Oaks is almost entirely Mexican, part of the almost 50% of Houstonians who are Latino. Many of those are living very much at the margins, only spectators to the spectacle of the Super Bowl.

Houston's racial mix is where America is headed. In the late 1960s, Houston had the largest legally segregated school system in the United States. But now the black-white issue has been eclipsed by a city where Spanish is the second language, and other races are making their presence felt. A stroll around Houston's elite Rice University reveals that Asians are now taking a prominent place in American leadership. Next door in Louisiana the son of immigrants from India was almost elected governor. A Texas visitor gets the sense that American blacks are soon to be overtaken in upward mobility by Hispanics and Asians.

This weekend's Super Bowl halftime show will be a salute to "MTV: Music Television." The channel that pioneered the selling of pop music as exotic dancing will be right at home in a city where it seems every taxi carries advertising for prostitution. The halftime show's star, Janet Jackson, is an appropriate representative of the pornografication of America's celebrity-driven popular culture.

The Super Bowl is a Texas-sized cultural event that will highlight Houston as a city of excess. For good and for ill, it's America's future.

© National Post 2004


"You people with your fancy lawyers and courthouses think the Lady of Justice is blind? Down here on the street, the Bitch got eyes."

Posted by Smug Git on 02-01-2004 08:47 AM:

Never heard of Rice university, but then, there are precious few decent physics universities in the whole of the South (Texas A & M has Steven Weinberg, however, and he is a smart guy).

If sea levels rise as they appear bound to, Houston's future may be underwater. But what are de Souza's real points? Houston isn't as bad as other people say it is? I'm prepared to accept that; I've had two friends who moved there and they both found it more than tolerable (although they both returned from whence they had come, in the end, so many people do). If Houston is a picture of racial harmony and equality of opportunity for all (starting with education) then we can all hope that is a model for everywhere else.

I might be in the Houston later in the year, actually, although we might instead head into DFW and on from there.


I want to live and I want to love
I want to catch something that I might be ashamed of

Posted by Nutrimentia on 02-01-2004 11:16 AM:

However good or bad it may have been, it's bound to have gotten better since Bondo moved there last month.


The Law of Fives is never wrong. CzEch yerself b4 joo rEck yerself. Hi-yo!

Posted by funkyrooster on 02-01-2004 02:25 PM:

Is is still full of fat bastards?


Ein Reich
Ein Volk
Ein Rooster

Posted by SimpleSimon on 02-01-2004 02:33 PM:

Originally posted by Nutrimentia
However good or bad it may have been, it's bound to have gotten better since Bondo moved there last month.

I quite agree.

Houston would be a virtually uninhabitable misquito infested swampy hellhole were it not for air-conditioning. Daytime highs in the high 80's can be expected by March, with 100+ by August - all accompanied by humidity never less than 90% and as high as 99% throughout the hot months of March to November.

If the icecaps melt and the seas rise, Houston is doomed. I live 25 miles north of downtown by road - about 18 miles north by straight line, and my house is at an elevation of 62 feet. Almost all of the city is less than 40 feet above sea level.

It rains - unbelievably hard sometimes - 3 days out of 5, with downpours that flood a major portion of the city every year. 2 years ago we got almost 40 inches in 24 hours when a tropical storm hit the city and sat there. In '92 I sat on the bank of I-10 inside Loop 610 just west of where it crosses Buffalo Bayou and watched the water rise in the cut below me. In 45 minutes all of the cars and trucks were completely underwater - water deep enough to cover the top of 18 wheeler cargo boxes (typically at least 12 feet high). My car was in the bottom of the cut along with about 1,000 other vehicles. It took 2 days to get the last of them out after the water went down.

This city is crazy.

[edit] Yes, it is still full of fat bastards. Houston hasn't slimmed down to become #2 - Detroit got fatter.

Posted by tigerjez on 02-01-2004 05:59 PM:

actually, SS... the british ambassador's office still classifies houston as a "hardship" position because of the weather. i dunno why, but it makes me laugh to think of us lumped in with say... beirut.

although i think the fact you haven't heard of rice says more about you, smug (), than the university, de souza's real points i took to be, as he said: houston represents the direction the US is going in, or perhaps is a good benchmark for the US as a whole. houston has huge immigration & ethnic diversity. ironically, it is one of the reasons we are such a "fat" city. nevertheless, houston was founded and has always been a boom town. it's also been on the cutting edge of US advancement. energy being a huge factor in such. culturally, houston is interesting because it really is an enormous city of immigrants-- both foreign and domestic.

-- tj


"You people with your fancy lawyers and courthouses think the Lady of Justice is blind? Down here on the street, the Bitch got eyes."

Posted by Smug Git on 02-01-2004 06:07 PM:

I only really know about the good physics universities, and they are primarily North East (and Chicago, etc) and California. I'm just talking about research, really, particularly in theoretical physics; I don't know how teaching standards are in the South (I imagine those are high enough, though).


I want to live and I want to love
I want to catch something that I might be ashamed of

Posted by tigerjez on 02-01-2004 06:12 PM:

fair enough. after all, grants down here bein' contingent on figurin' out how ta return tha darkies to tha field...

all kidding aside though, texas a&m, UT, & rice standout. rice is more the elite, though. it is unique because it consistently ranks in the top 20 and up & is an incredibly small, private school (about 2500 undergrads). it tends to alternate with caltech for best buy of colleges.

-- tj


"You people with your fancy lawyers and courthouses think the Lady of Justice is blind? Down here on the street, the Bitch got eyes."

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