Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Shooting a Bicyclist in the Head--Not a Serious Crime, It Turns Out

Regular readers (all three of you) will recall this post, in which an armed lunatic, Charles Alexander Diez, attempted to shoot cyclist Alan Ray Simons in the head. He missed, but the bullet went through Simons' helmet. Don't forget, Simons' baby was on the back of the bike when this occurred, and he was riding with his wife, who was on another bike. Clearly, attempted murder--even against a member of a hated minority (bicyclists)--deserves a serious penalty. Right?

Charles Alexander Diez, the former North Carolina firefighter who shot cyclist Alan Simons in the head, has been sentenced to four months in jail.

In an Asheville courtroom last week, Diez pled guilty to shooting Simons during a July 26 roadside confrontation. Said to be upset that Simons was riding his bike with his 3-year-old child, Diez fired his .38 caliber pistol as Simons walked away after the two exchanged words. The bullet struck Simons' bike helmet, narrowly missing his skull.  In August, a grand jury reduced charges against Diez from attempted first degree murder to felony assault. (Brad Aron,, November 23, 2009)
It appears that North Carolinans just hate cyclists. Yeehaw, fellers! Let's go shoot us sum of them bicycle faggots!
The latest example? Charles Alexander Diez, the 42-year-old former Asheville firefighter who shot at a bicyclist on Tunnel Road after arguing with him about the safety of cycling on a busy street, got four months in prison for the crime.
That’s 120 days for nearly taking someone's life.
I'm not the only person around town mystified by the light sentence.
“So, you can go shoot at someone riding a bike and get four months in jail? Is that the example they're giving to the community?,” said Nancy Jones, a resident of the Beaverdam area and an avid cyclist. “I feel like we should wear flak jackets now. It gives them the OK. When you're talking about a guy (attempting to) shoot somebody in the head, that's over the top. And to see him getting four months, it's outrageous.”

In his defense, Diez said in court he simply fired “a warning shot,” that he was the one who “felt truly, truly threatened.”
Now, I know biking shorts can be scary, but really, who's in charge here — the guy with the gun or the unarmed guy riding a bike with his family? Simons said Diez was pointing the gun at his chest when he approached Diez's vehicle.
If you haven't noticed, there's a lot of anger directed at local cyclists.
Nancy Jones says she's had beer bottles thrown at her and had drivers brandish firearms or “buzz her” — intentionally veering at her. She said some sort of animosity is almost standard when she and her husband, Brian, go riding. To say Asheville is not a cyclist-friendly town is putting it mildly.
The Joneses just don't buy Diez's version of events, and they're outraged by the sentence. So are other cyclists they know.
“I was always taught that if you aim a gun at somebody, you're trying to kill them,” Nancy Jones said. “If it's a warning shot, you fire it up in the air.”
“If a cyclist shot a fireman, judge or prosecuting attorney in his head, in front of his family, what sentence do you think he/she would receive,” Brian Jones asked. (John Boyle, Asheville Citizen-Times, November 23, 2009)

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Man With the Candy

Man With the Candy

I picked up this book a few weeks back at a book show. A piece of scary, mostly forgotten Houston history, it became relevant once again as the remains of another victim of Dean Corll was discovered, nearly 40 years after the fact. The author of this book about the Dean Corll serial killings really has it in for Houston, down to his mocking depictions of people's accents (Author Jack Olsen seems to consider himself a master of dialect).

But one thing he gets right is the sheer awfulness and incompetence of the Houston Police Department. Houston was the murder capital of America, and its police force was undermanned, underpaid, and run by a psychotic, Herman Short, who spent more money on running an anti-subversive unit than on homicides. The disappearance of 26 boys from the Heights was poo-poohed by the police, who wrote them all off as runaways.

Houston's police continued to be a bad joke throughout the 70s (for example, consider Joe Campos Torres and Randy Webster), and the local law enforcement system continues to struggle with legitimacy--challenged every time an exonerated man walks free.

Whatever its flaws, this book is a chilling reminder of how bad things were in Houston and in the Heights. It's hard to believe the affluent Heights of today has anything to do with the white slum that was the Heights in the 1970s.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Guy brags about getting a dude fired for using the word "pussy" (in the vulgar sense) in the comments section of the newspaper. (Hat-tip to Photography Is Not a Crime.)


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Houston Streets 17--Under the Elysian Viaduct

map of ride

This was a really brief ride, almost not worth mentioning. But as short as it was, it was interesting. My intent had been to try to cover a bunch of downtown streets on a Sunday when traffic is light. (Lots of other cyclists had the same idea. Downtown is a popular Sunday destination for the two-wheeled set.) I took a bus into town and got off at Franklin  at Crawford. I wanted to start in the extreme northeast corner and work my way south and west. But that's not what happened. I ended up on the Elysian Viaduct, a freeway-like elevated road out of downtown. (This will apparently be the location of the Hardy Toll Road extension into Downtown. It is my sincere hope that the residents of the Northside fight this abomination tooth and nail.) Once I was on the Elysian Viaduct, I had two choices--turn around and return downtown, or follow it until it ends. So I chose the latter.


This is a photo of a stable at Maury and Lyons. If you have ever taken a carriage ride downtown, this is where they keep the horses. The place looks pretty shabby, I have to say. After I came back down to earth, I shot this photo:

horse with dyed mane

You can see a horse feeding and it looks pretty healthy to me (it's hard to see from the photo, but its mane was dyed purple! This was the day after Halloween.) So even though the place looks a bit shabby, the horses seem well-taken care of. That said, looking at this urban stable made me think of the one in The Wire, the place where Bubbles buys a "hot shot" and where Dukey ends up. Brr.

I finally came down at Brooks and started heading back downtown on Maury. I was freaked out because the street was covered with literally thousands of caterpillars. They all looked like this:

caterpillar on maury

And they were booking! I've never seen caterpillars move so fast.

Then I stumbled across the most interesting discovery of this ride, Blumenthal Sheet Metal.  The official address is 1710 Burnett St., but it appears that their facility takes up a whole block--Leona on the south, Burnett on the north, Hardy on the west and Elysian on the east. Blumenthal is a sheet metal fabrication plant, which makes them on the face of it no different from hundreds of small industrial firms in Houston (the secret engines of our city's economy). Blumenthal has been in business for over a 100 years, which definitely distinguishes them, but what also distinguishes them is that a lot of the fabrication they do is for artists.

1709 Leona sculpture

Like this piece in the "back yard" of the facility. I don't know the artist or if it's even finished, but wow! A nice thing to stumble across when riding through a run-down industrial neighborhood.

Here is the "front" of the complex.
1712 Burnett

To the right of the door was this sheet metal column.

1712 Burnett metal sculpture

It is covered with lots of witty little details, like this one:

1712 Burnett metal sculpture detail

Then at Burnett and Maury, you see these lovely undulating screens.

Burnett @ Maury

On their website, they have a list of artists they have worked with, many pretty well-known locally (Hanna Hillerova, John Runnels) and even internationally (Carlos Cruz-Diez). I urge you to check out the site--you'll be surprised at how many well-known pieces around town were fabricated here.

I am convinced that Houston needs more "lawn art"--privately owned sculptures in people's front yards. We're a sprawling city with lots of big front yards which have little utility (we don't barbeque in the front yard, or keep a pool there, for example). But it is the entry, physically and visually, into your home. Therefore, a perfect place for a sculpture or other piece of lawn art. Pieces like the screens and the columns are perfect--tough and weatherproof, heavy (not likely to be stolen), attractive... All you homeowners with disposable income, about to redecorate your house for the fifth time--pay some attention to the front lawn and get some lawn art. I'm sure the metal-bashers at Blumenthal could hook you up with some excellent artists.

I made my way south, this time at ground level. I crossed I-10 on this pedestrian bridge that at first glance appeared completely derelict.

pedestrian bridge under elysian viaduct

Then I rode back downtown, hitting every street north of  Minute Maid Park (pretty boring--mostly parking lots and sports bars) and then swinging around to Discovery Park. Two things worth noting--Second Seating, an art exhibit in a space next to Irma's Restaurant (at Chenevert and Ruiz) and the Globes in Discovery Park. But I am writing about them on my other blog, The Great God Pan Is Dead (see here and here).

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

This is Totally Sick and Wrong and I Would Buy It If I Had Money to Burn

DALLAS — The $16.50 gray fedora worn by Dallas strip club owner Jack Ruby when he fatally shot Lee Harvey Oswald in 1963 is for sale.

Heritage Auctions scheduled an auction Saturday for the Cavanagh fedora. President John F. Kennedy was slain on Nov. 22, 1963. Oswald was arrested for the assassination. Ruby fatally shot Oswald on Nov. 24, in an attack captured during a live TV broadcast as the suspected assassin was being escorted by law officers.

The auction house estimates the fedora, with Ruby’s name embossed inside in gold and the cost of the hat, will sell for more than $35,000. (Associated Press, The Houston Chronicle, 11/4/2009)


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Person I Assumed Died Long Ago Dies
Claude Levi-Strauss, 1909-2009


Monday, November 02, 2009

Hasn't He Suffered Enough?

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua — Disgraced Texas financier R. Allen Stanford is being stripped of his knighthood in the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda, the head of the government panel that approves the awards said Monday. (Anita Kentish, Associated Press, Houston Chronicle, November 2, 2009)

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Sunday, November 01, 2009


I saw this billboard driving north on the West Loop.


Then saw this one coming south on I-45 just before hitting the North Loop.


Any idea what they are all about? An homage to the great X song?