An account of two Attitudes towards Richard Martinez

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On Friday, May 23, Elliot Rodger killed six and wounded 13 innocent people near the University of California, Santa Barbara. On May 24, the father of victim Chris Martinez said the following – “Our family has a message for every family out there. You don’t think it will happen to your child, until it does.” Choking on tears, he added, “His death has left our family lost and broken. Chris died because of craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA. They talk about gun rights. What about Chris’ right to live? When will this insanity stop? When will enough people say stop this madness. We should say to ourselves, not one more,” before he collapsed in tears and walked off.

In response to Mr. Martinez’ comments, there were two vastly different attitudes that came forth.

 

Mark Barden, Richard Martinez

Mark Barden, Richard Martinez

The first one came from Mark Barden who lost his 7-year-old son, Daniel, in the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting. He wrote the following: “We have not met, but you are now part of our extended family. It is not a family we chose, but a family born from the horrible circumstance of losing a child to gun violence – one that’s growing steadily. My heart breaks for you because I know just a little about the long road ahead of you. We have reached out to you privately but publicly we wanted to say to you and those feeling the sorrow, anger and frustration of this weeks’ shooting, you are not along,” Barden wrote in a letter to Richard Martinez.

The second response came from Samuel Wurzelbacher, aka ‘Joe the Plumber’.

Joe the Plumber

Joe the Plumber

“I am sorry you lost your child. I myself have a son and daughter and the one thing I never want to go through, is what you are going through now. But: As harsh as this sounds – your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights… We still have the Right to Bear Arms and I intend to continue to speak out for that right, and against those who would restrict it – even in the face of this horrible incident by this sad and insane individual. I almost said “Obama Voter” but I’m waiting for it to be official…I cannot begin to imagine the pain you are going through, having had your child taken away from you. However, any feelings you have toward my rights being taken away from me, lose those.”

Mark Barden’s attitude is filled with kindness, love, humility, benevolence, generosity, compassion and empathy. Joe the Plumber’s attitude is filled with greed, arrogance, ego, superiority, antipathy, ‘his right’ and ideology.

America, which attitude will you choose?

The Creation of Adam is brought to life in Midtown Houston

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creation of adam, mural in houston, sebastien houston artist

Photo Credits: Matthew Landry, Alex Saenz, Peter Molick Photography

It’s not every day when you can walk the streets of Houston and see a spectacular work of art worthy of showcase on a side of a building. For the people enjoying their bike ride or stroll on Fannin near Tuam, seeing a 60-foot-high by one city block-wide Michelangelo-type painting in the works is a spectacular sight.

How did this come to light?

French-American artist Sebastien Boileau, in partnership with UP Art Studio and the Texan-French Alliance for the Arts and the Midtown District, teamed up to present the largest mural ever produced in Houston. Not only is this project going to raise public art awareness within the community, but proceeds raised from this mural will help fund a children’s hospital mural project in Houston which will begin production in 2014-2015.

I had a chance to catch up with Sebastien “Mr. D” recently. In his own words….

Sebastien Boileau

Photo Credits: Matthew Landry, Alex Saenz, Peter Molick Photography

 

Eric: If you could tag any building in the world, what/where would it be?

Sebastien: If it was allowed (the illegal days are behind me), it would be the castle of Versaiiles. I was born near Versaiiles and would love to have an art show inside the castle being a son of the city. I would like to do installation and art in the building. As for an outside job, my target building in Houston is the AT&T building off I-45. Every time I am driving on I-45 it calls my name.

Eric: What was the biggest obstacles in successfully launching Eyeful Art?

Sebastien: The language. I came to the US with very broken English. Culturally it was not that difficult. After all, we, Europe and America, are cousins. But picking up the language was the biggest obstacle I had to overcome.

sebastien boileau, mural in houston, creation of adam midtown houston

Photo Credits: Matthew Landry, Alex Saenz, Peter Molick Photography

 

Eric: What are some of the works that you have created that you are most proud of?

Sebastien: Without a doubt I am really happy with this current art project. As for indoor art projects, I am very proud of being able to take part in the first graffiti show in Houston set at the Station Museum. My exhibition at “CALL IT STREET ART, CALL IT FINE ART, CALL IT WHAT YOU KNOW” is one of my proudest works.

mural midtown houston

Eric Melchor & Sebastien Boileau

Eric: Have you ever received any crazy art requests?

Sebastien: Probably one of the most recent, was a building on Westheimer called Biscuit Home. It’s a company that sells all kinds of linen for the house. They fixed up the building beautifully and they wanted me to pour paint all over it. The irony of life. People are starting to ask me to do things to their property that years ago would never have been considered a ‘commissioned project’. Projects that used to get me in trouble are now becoming commissioned works.

Eric Calvillo

Sebastien with Eric Calvillo – one of the artist working on the mural

Eric: What celebrity do you get mistaken for?

Sebastien: All jokes aside, Viggo Mortenson. When the beard and hair is down, I cannot even go into Starbucks without having people come up to me.

(Seriously, he can pass for Viggo quite easily).

Eric: Name one thing about you that most people don’t know?

Sebastien: I am extremely goofy, but only those close to me really see that side of me.

houston graffiti, midtown art, mural in houston

Photo Credits: Matthew Landry, Alex Saenz, Peter Molick Photography

Eric: What is one your favorite quotes?

Sebastien: Michelangelo – “I have suffered more than any man has in labor and bad health yet I remain patient to achieve a desired goal.”

Eric: If you could meet anyone living or dead, who would you meet?

Sebastien: I can’t really come up with a person that I am so intrigued by. There are people who have done great things, but regardless of who they are, they are just like you and me.

Interview closed.

To celebrate the completion of “Preservons la Creation”, come to Midtown Houston on Saturday, June 7th from 3:00 to 11:00pm. Location – 2800 San Jacinto / Northeast Corner of Fannin Street and Tuam Street. Tickets can be purchased here.

 

 

What would Houston Police Captain H.R. Morris Say?

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HPD, houston south central, houston police department

Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with Captain Morris from Houston’s South Central Police Department. South Central covers neighborhoods in/around Midtown, University of Houston, Riverside, Hermann Park, Southampton, Oak Lawn and Eastwood. Very nice with lots of enthusiasm, here is the interview with Captain Morris…

Eric: Which celebrity do you get mistaken for?

Captain Morris laughs…

Captain Morris: I am not sure I’ve been mistaken for a celebrity.

Eric: Have you ever stolen a pen from work?

Captain Morris: No. In fact, I bring my pens to work, the Sharpie pens; those are the ones that don’t bleed.

(I thought I would have an opportunity to perform a citizen’s arrest)

Eric: What song best describes your work ethic?

Captain Morris: Skyscraper by Demi Lovato because it talks about rising up and not letting obstacles get you down

Eric: If you could address hundreds of residents in the community using a bullhorn, what would you say?

Captain Morris: I would let the community know that we need their help. We are here to work with them and improve the quality of life here in the neighborhood, but they need to contact us and let us know where crime is occurring because we cannot be everywhere. They have to be the eyes and ears of their neighborhood. Call us, call crime stoppers anonymously or come to the station and talk to us. We are never going to see all the issues that need addressing without their assistance.

Eric: Are there forums or neighborhood meetings that residents can come to and share their concerns?

Captain Morris: Yes! We have a monthly Positive Interaction Program meeting (PIP) that occurs every 3rd Tuesday of the month at 7pm here at South Central – 2202 St Emanuel St. Visitors have a chance to ask questions or submit forms pertaining to crime or quality of life issues. I along with the other Officers process these requests and address them. We also have a Differential Response Team (DRT) that specializes in dealing with issues related to code enforcements and city regulations.

Eric: Name one thing about yourself that most people don’t know?

Captain Morris: Most people don’t know I enjoy staying up all night.

Eric: What made you decide to become a police officer?

Captain Morris: I had never thought about becoming a police officer until I took a criminal justice class while in undergrad. I found it very interesting. Prior to taking the class, I had this perception that a police officer is someone who spends most of their time chasing criminals. In that class, I learned that there are boundaries, there are rules. When I finished that class, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I’ve been an Officer for 15 years now and highly encourage people to find out more about joining the police department. Initially it was never my intent, but it has turned out to be a very rewarding career.

South Central Police Station

Eric: In the past 3 years, what is a major decision that HPD has made that has made you very proud?

Captain Morris: Scenario based training. We are not just sitting in a classroom learning techniques or discussing ‘what if’ scenarios; we are actually getting out in the field and incorporating ‘real life’ scenarios that can happen while on patrol. For example, car chases and active shooters using Simunition Ammunition.

Eric: What is one of your favorite quotes?

Captain Morris: “If you don’t do it right do it over”

Eric: If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would you meet?

Captain Morris: Ronald Reagan because he was able to accomplish a lot of things on a bi-partisan level that have benefited us today.

Eric: If you had to take a leave of absence for one year from HPD, and could say a few sentences to your Officers, what would you say?

Captain Morris: I would share with my Officers that what they do enforces what they believe the Houston Police Department should stand for. Their actions need to be in accordance with what HPD stands for and the values of the Department. If they base their actions on Integrity, Honor and Respect which are the core values of the department, then they can’t go wrong. Lastly, don’t be afraid to have fun.

[Story closed.]

Affirmative Action should no longer be based on Skin Color

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I am not a fan of Affirmative Action, but if it has to exist, it should be based off of class.

affirmative-action

Imagine this – a talented, hardworking white kid with good grades of a poor single mom loses acceptance into a University by an upper-middle-class minority student. Why should this happen? Because the grandparents of the minority student suffered discrimination decades ago?

When Affirmative Action was introduced by President Lyndon Johnson a half-century ago, minorities could expect to face humiliating economic and social discrimination. But today, affirmative action should be focused on class, not race.

Why?

Today one in six Americans now marries a person outside his or her own race which makes the job of determining racial preferences more convoluted. Does the child of a dark-skinned Bolivian with an Anglo father qualify? What about the mixed-race child of an African-American college professor and a white millionaire?

Skin color is no longer a clear indicator of privilege, but wealth certainly is. 92 percent of black students at elite colleges come from families in the top half of income distribution. Clearly, black (and white and Hispanic) at the bottom of the economic scale are being left behind.

Original talking points “Should race still matter?” featured in The Week, May 9, 2014.

4 Building Materials that can Drastically Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

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Did you know that in the US, buildings and skyscrapers use more than 40 percent of the country’s energy? Skyscrapers are bigger power hogs than the transportation and industrial sectors. So one way to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to use different materials when constructing these skyscrapers.

Here are 4 materials that can be used when building skyscrapers that will dramatically reduce power consumption:

Zero-Carbon Building Block
zero carbon building block

Replaces: Cinder blocks
Manufacturer: Lignacite

How it works: Carbonated aggregates (CO2 mixed with sand, cement, and water) plus recycled materials create one of the first carbon-negative chunks of masonry.

Heat and Light – Blocking Windows

heat and light blocking windows

Replaces: Old-school glass
Manufacturer: Heliotrop Technologies

How it works: An electro-chromic coating lets a relatively inexpensive glass composite window adjust heat and light transfer to reduce energy consumption.

Pollution-Eating Concrete

Pollution eating concrete

Replaces: Concrete
Manufacturer: Marshalls Paving

How it works: Titanium dioxide in “Noxer blocks” traps nitrogen oxides and potent greenhouse gases and converts them to water-soluble nitrates.

Solar Shingles
solar shingles

Replaces: Roof-mounted solar panels
Manufacturer: CertainTeed

How it works:
Building integrated photovoltics, or BIPV, have been around since 2005, but they were not as affordable as they are today.

Portland – a Vision of what a Shared City Could Be

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portland

 

A city that is shared..

What do you think of this idea? Does it sound radical? Well it’s not. Cities are the original sharing platforms. Formed from ancient crossroads of trade that grew through the sharing of resources. And now, Airbnb wants to bring this idea back and help build a future where space isn’t wasted, but shared with others.

What is Airbnb?

One of my favorite brands out there. I’ve used the site while traveling to D.C., San Diego, Austin and Galveston. Airbnb is a website that allows people to rent out their private rooms, entire apartments/homes, boats, and other propertieis. Airbnb has listings all over the word and every property has a host whose profile includes recommendations by other users, reviews by previous guests, as well as a response rating and private messaging system. Hotel too expensive or want a different experience? Check out Airbnb.

airbnb shared city

 

Back to the ides of a Shared City….. Airbnb has launched a new initiative to help civic leaders and communities create more shareable, more livable cities through partnerships and concrete actions. The first of these cities is Portland, Oregon. Working with Mayor Hales and his staff, Airbnb has created a vision of what a Shared City could be by:

-          Airbnb has made free smoke and carbon monoxide detectors available to hosts in Portland in order to help their hosts make their homes safer

-          Airbnb is offering to cut red tape and to collect and remit taxes to the city of Portland on behalf of their hosts

-          In addition to Airbnb’s disaster relief program offering free housing in cases of emergency (pretty cool huh), they will work with Portland’s Bureau of Emergency Management to establish training programs to help their hosts respond to crisis

-          Airbnb will work with Travel Portland on joint campaigns to promote the city as a destination to their global community, highlighting its unique characteristics; and sending visitors to local small businesses throughout the city

-          They will make it easy for Portland hosts to donate the money they earn from Airbnb to a local cause, and will match those donations as a percentage of their fees

portland shared city

 

Interested in having your community become a Shared City? Email your thoughts and ideas to Brian Chesky at Brian.chesky@airbnb.com

For a list of other shared goods and service companies like TaskRabbit and Uber, click here.

 

Why Paternity Leave is Good for the Kids and Wife

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Fathers who take a long period of leave (two weeks or more) after a birth are more likely to regularly engage in early child-caring tasks such as feeding and reading bedtime stories than fathers who do not take time off.

Dad's who take paternity leave
After the baby comes, most men have to return to work immediately because of financial reasons. And of course, the employer has no obligation to pay the father for parental leave. Unfortunately that is the law of the land. But in some other countries like Norway, Sweden, Australia and soon Britain, fathers do and will receive paid time off for paternity leave. The idea is encourage men to become more involved in caring for their children, share the role of caregiver at home, and help women return to the workplace. While the obvious happens – Fathers become more involved in childcare activities such as helping a baby to eat, changing diapers, bathing and reading to a child, there is now further evidence to conclude why paternity leave is good for the kids and wife.
why paternity leave is good for wife
According to new academic research, findings show that:
  • The children of fathers who take long leave after their birth are more likely to perform better in cognitive development tests and are more likely to be prepared for school at the ages of four and five
  • In almost any way a child can be better off, they are better off for having an involved father in their lives. Kids stay in school, do better in school, get into less trouble, get arrested less, get divorced less, have better health
  • Having men help at home can help women establish breast-feeding and can also increase a man’s sensitivity to his partner’s needs, strengthening family bonds as a whole
  • With Dad stepping in to help out, it helps make returning to work for Mom much easier. Returning to work after maternity leave is a huge stressor for many moms because of having to re-arrange work life around the new baby. With dad helping out, Moms can make a smooth transition back into the work place by arranging to have flex time or just work part-time
  • It gets men more invested in the household from the get-go. “When a baby comes, it sort of recalibrates the division of labor at what one economist has called a crucial time of household renegotiation. It has surprising ripple effects further down the road, particularly with regard to routine chores that have to be done every day or every night, and therefore frees up women to work longer hours”

I think in a few years the stigma associated with men who take extended leave when a baby is born will disappear. Moreover, since we’re in a situation now where women in many cases are better educated than men, it is imperative for countries and companies to find ways to keep these highly productive women in the workplace. But enough talk about the chores, the beauty of this idea is that it helps fathers bond with their children – and that is priceless.

About the author – Eric Melchor is a native Houstonian who resides and serves on the Midtown Management District in Houston Midtown, is a former adjunct Professor at UHD, and has lived in NYC and Europe.