Celebrate Your Pride By Taking a Look and Listen to Music from a Couple of New Artists from Down South, Like Way Down South (America)

It’s June.  That’s Pride Month.  Not to mention the U.S. Supreme Court is merely days away from making a momentous decision on same-sex marriage.  Here in Houston LGBT Pride activities are in full swing, culminating with the daytime festival and evening (into night) parade this Saturday, June 27th.  For the first time, these two events will be held in downtown Houston instead of the Montrose area, where the first Houston Gay Pride Parade took place in 1979.  (Find all the details about Houston Pride here.)

To celebrate LGBT pride here on the blog, I decided to introduce a couple of talented artists who have no fear of showing their true selves in their videos.  I found out about these two young Latin American performers thanks to remezcla.com and since my first listen to one video each, their tunes have been stuck in my head.  They are from neighboring South American countries.  Namuel, from Chile, has just put out this catchy single “Babycakes,” and the accompanying video can only be described as “cute and sweet.”  The video here from Jaloo, out of Brazil, also with an LGBT theme, goes with his “Bai Bai.”  This is a cover from a very popular song of a couple of years ago.  I’ll keep you guessing and not spoil it so you’ll listen.  I don’t understand much Portuguese, so I can’t say if the lyrics are the same, but the music in what I’d say is brega-style (I’m just learning about this genre of music, but I might compare it in a way to reggaeton. No matter the style, this tune keeps playing in my head much more than the original, which I really like.

Check out more great work from Namuel and Jaloo on YouTube and SoundCloud, where you’ll find a lot more by these terrific artists.

Happy Pride, y’all!

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New Chilean Singer Neven Jogs a Mind Trip Back to the Land of “Tren al Sur”

There was a day when the few things I knew about Chile came from 80s-90s band Los Prisioneros, and their hit Tren al Sur and its accompanying video were perhaps the spark that drew me to travel to that  South American country for the first time only a few years after the dictator Pinochet was out of power.  Meeting Chilean friends via the internet really made it all happen in 1995, and then again 5 years later.  Once there, I was intrigued by the beauty of the Pacific coastline paralleled by the snaking range of the Andes mountains and volcanos, which runs the length of the country, and even more so by the kind, soft-spoken people (though I was, and still am, perplexed by the obvious political riff among these same people).

In Chile, I made it as far south to the city of Puerto Montt and the nearby gaelic-feeling island of Chiloe.  I took the bus, not the tren al sur, but it was very much one of the best tourist adventures of my life.  In more ways than one, this video and music still take me there.

I have such a place in my heart for Chile that I’m still ready to have a visit with anyone from there whom I might meet who has made his way up here to Houston.  Likewise, I keep myself informed about what’s happening there, at least that of significant importance.  I don’t hear much music out of Chile these days, maybe because most of my music listening time comes via  SiriusXM radio during my daily commutes.  Somehow, though, by clicking here and there on Twitter, I came across Neven (@Nevenilic).  His style of music might not be exactly the type I hear on my radio most of the time–it’s sort of Justin Timberlake-esque.  What’s more he’s not bad on the eyes.  There’s a brand new video of his most recent outing After Party, but I like even better una que salio´ last year called Bad.  Neven, not to mention the videos, is still a little raw, but he’s got the voice and talent.  Maybe we’ll be hearing more of him here in the U.S.

Take a look and listen. First, comes Bad: 

And now After Party: 

New Gallup Poll Just Out Shows a Preference for Blue Over Red When It Comes to Political Party Choices

GallupAn interesting surprise from tonight’s Rachel Maddow Show is a new poll out from Gallup, which is based on people from each state and their political party identification. I’m not going to paraphrase or quote, because if you’re really interested in the relatively short article explaining the poll and its results, just click over to it here at the Gallup site.

There are some results which do surprise me though:

  • The results from this poll are very similar to those of last year.
  • Texas, where I’ve lived for so long, and Kansas, my home state, both of which are traditionally conservative and vote Republican, now show a competitive balance in party association.
  • Oklahoma, which had no (yes, that’s zero) county give a majority of its votes to President Obama in the 2008 election is shown as leaning Democrat.
  • Only five states are shown as strong Republican or leaning Republican.

One thing to note is that according to the article, the survey was taken of adults 18 or older, not necessarily voters.

If you like politics and demographics, take a look and check out where your state and the country stands politically, at least, based on this survey.

Want To Track Your IRS Refund? Would You Like To Know the Likelihood of Your House Flooding? Check Out These Great Informational Sites Brought to You by Uncle Sam

unclesam11No matter which side of the political fence you sit on, or even if you just sit on the fence, everyone has something to say about the government.

Politics aside, the government does do some “good stuff” with all those tax dollars that get squeezed out of people, and some of that good can be found right here, by clicking on that keyboard a little more.

One really good site that has a lot of information is at irs.gov. That’s right–the Internal Revenue Service. One thing in particular that might interest you is your tax refund. You can actually track your IRS refund by accessing a link on the main page on the left side. You’ll need to give your Social Security number, your filing status, and an exact refund amount. And it’s free!

There’s also lots of other “good stuff” too, like information about tax breaks on new cars, downloadable forms, and even how to apply for IRS jobs.

Another federal government site, that might interest some of you is that of FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency. If you are a homeowner or a prospective one, at fema.gov, you can use your address to find flood plain maps and check where your property sits in relation to the different types of floods (i.e. 500-year, 100-year). Click on “Flood Insurance, Maps and Information” on the right side of the main page. This site also has lots of other information, including how to apply for disaster assistance.

About the Bayous in the Houston Area and the Houston Ship Channel

The Port of Houston Turning Basin near the 610 Loop Bridge that crosses the Channel.  Beyond the basin, the ship channel becomes more of its original self--Buffalo Bayou with downtown Houston in the background.

The Port of Houston Turning Basin near the 610 Loop Bridge that crosses the Channel. Beyond the basin, the ship channel becomes more of its original self–Buffalo Bayou with downtown Houston in the background.

About Bayous in Southeast Texas and Houston Area

During Hurricane Ike, local officials and residents were worried about the surge from the storm pushing water up into the area bayous and flooding low-lying parts of the city. (For people out of the area, Houstonians call the area’s streams that flow into Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico “bayous”.) The primary bayou, which also flows through a large part of the city and finally down through downtown Houston, is Buffalo Bayou.

In the early days of the city, Buffalo Bayou once was the site of a port in what is now downtown Houston. Later, there was a major dredging of Buffalo Bayou from Galveston Bay, and this is what is now known as the Houston Ship Channel and is the site of the current Port of Houston. However, the Houston Ship Channel ends at the Turning Basin, which is in a part of Houston known as Harrisburg (which, in the early days of Texas, was a separate settlement), several miles down Buffalo Bayou from that old Houston port. Very close to the Houston Ship Channel are some of the primary refineries and chemical plants of the entire Gulf Coast area.

Bayous are a bit different than regular rivers or streams because the water can flow in both directions, moving backwards, or upstream, when the tide is high.

The old port of Houston on Buffalo Bayou that was used from the early days of the city until 1914 when what is now the Port of Houston was started about six miles further downstream.

The old port of Houston on Buffalo Bayou that was used from the early days of the city until 1914, when what is now the Port of Houston was started about six miles further downstream.

My Time in the 6916th Security Squadron at Athenai Air Base

RC-135 and 6916th Sec.Sq. Crew--Circa 1975After graduating from Fort Hays State College (now University) back in 1971, I went into the Air Force. I spent almost 11 months, starting in September of 1973, in Washington, D.C. at the Defense Language Institute (Anacostia Annex) studying Arabic and Middle Eastern culture. I also had a lot of other special training before I went to Athens, Greece, where I was stationed at Athenai Air Base for a little more than two years. I still hold those days in my heart as being probably the most interesting and intriguing of my life. I saw the tanks parked down the street near Astir Beach, when the American-backed dictator Papadopolous was thrown out by the generals in the coup. I remember even then a terrorist attack at the main terminal of Athens (Hellinikon) Airport, which was just across the runways that were shared with coming to and leaving from our base. I remember how the Turks invaded Cypress, and the U.S. did nothing and the Greeks would spit when we walked down the street and our cars got fire-bombed in the neighborhood where a lot of us lived.

Athenai Air Base (1973)--taken from atop one of the barracks towards the flight line with the sun setting behind some of the Aegean Islands and a U.S. Navy ship (maybe one of the carriers) on the right

Athenai Air Base (1973)–taken from atop one of the barracks towards the flight line with the sun setting behind some of the Aegean Islands and a U.S. Navy ship (maybe one of the carriers) on the right

I also remember the scent of the orange and lemon trees that grew close to my apartment on Metaxa Street in Glyfada and the strange movie theater a couple of blocks away, where in the summer you watched the first half of a movie inside, and then after intermission, everyone went up on the rooftop, and you could watch the second half of the movie shown on a white-washed wall and sit and enjoy the refreshing Mediterranean air. Likewise, I remember a time during my last few months in Greece and the Air Force, when I took several days of leave, hitched my backpack and pup tent over my shoulders, took the ferry to Mykonos for the nude beaches of Paradise, Hell, and even the notorious Super Hell, which I finally trekked over the hills to one day, only to find a nearly deserted beach and a little taverna. I opened the door to that little non-descript place, which sat there on the almost desolate beach and entered a gay bar for the first time in my life. It was probably something that I had been hoping in the back of my mind to find, but when it happened, I was so scared, that all I could do was order a beer, take a swig, put the bottle back on the counter, and head out the door.

This picture shows one of the planes I flew on, an RC-135. Our missions over the Mediterranean Sea could sometimes last 8 or 9 hours, and that didn’t count the pre- and post-briefings on base. During the first year, I was at Athenai AFB, we flew on the RC-130B’s (tail numbers 524, 531, 532, and 535 were used, according to my flight records, which I still have). They were big, lumbering 4-prop planes, which are still used a lot for transport and other duties these days. On my 16th flight, we had to abort because 3 of the 4 engines had stopped, but those old planes are “go-ers”; we made it back to base with that one remaining engine still purring. In June of 1974, SAC (Strategic Air Command out of Offut AF Base at Omaha, NE) started flying us in the RC-135’s (tail numbers 131, 132, 139, and 842, during my time at Athenai AB) . My last flight on the 130 was on June 8th and my first on the 135 was the 16th. (There’s a great site dedicated to the RC-135’s here, with photos and a lot more.)

We had a 6-day-on/3-day-off work schedule. The six days of work could be grueling because the days flying were long, and sometimes I flew two or three days in a row, even though the idea was to fly one day and work on the ground the next during the cycle. The three days off were great–time to catch up on sleep, take advantage of the beach, or soak up the Greek life and sights. My first flight was on the 2nd of September, 1973, just for the ride (as I remember it now) with my trainer; however, working at my own position came soon enough–and often enough. I’m lacking a couple of months of flight records in my folder, as from what I see now they were processed in Germany–but based on the records I received when I got out and calculating for the missing months, I flew on approximately 150 flights between that September and the 31st of July, 1975, when I got out of the Air Force, right there in Athens. However, even with all that time spent flying, I never really overcame my fear of flying at high altitudes, especially over water. I had always told myself if the plane were to go down, I would be going down with it. Even with the special training we had had at Homestead AFB in Florida, practicing all the bail-out procedures , jumping out high over the Mediterranean Sea was not something I could have imagined myself doing.

(Updated and edited the above and added the photo below, July 13, 2015) Sometimes an inadvertent discovery can bring back some of the memories and perhaps a bit of history.  I took hundreds, maybe even into the thousands of photos developed into slides during my time in Greece, including many of trips outside of Greece.  I still have some of them, but due to a stupid choice “back in the day,” the majority are gone.  So it was a delight to find one lone box of slides among some of my nieces possessions.  Actually, at one time might have been just a box of discarded slides, not worth keeping with those more likely to be looked at.  But now some 40 years later, the mix of slides inside took me down a trip down memory lane.  Though some were out of focus, and others of poor color, they took me back to a trip to northern Greece, a month spent in Great Britain, including the Lake District and Edinburg, Scotland, Christmas displays in Piraeus, my Siamese cat of French lineage that made the flight back with me to the U.S. and that later was adopted in a friendly takeover by my mom and dad.  Among these odds and ends of images was this nice one of the base.  That blue bus takes me back to all those god-awful early, pre-flight briefings and the ride down to plane on flight line.

This shows the main road that went from the main gate down to the flight line.  The larger building on the right is the base movie theater.  I think this may have been taken from near the tennis courts, but I'm not sure of that or what the other buildings were.

This shows the main road that went from the main gate down to the flight line. The larger building on the right is the base movie theater. I think this may have been taken from near the tennis courts, but I’m not sure of that or what the other buildings were.