The Webb Report: Here’s a slogan: Keep Lubbock boring

Also: An Austin company scores big on ‘Shark Tank.’


I get older every year, but there’s a lot I still don’t know about the world. For example, the rules of romance confound and paralyze me. The rules of football are ancient Sumerian to me. I’ve never figured out how to properly invest my millions of dollars in newspaper money. I can’t roller skate.

But there are two things I know to be true, unequivocally. One: Austin lands on a whole lot of questionable internet rankings. Two: Austinites love to beat back Californians, torch-and-pitchfork style. That’s what makes the tale of Steve Kranz so fascinating.

Kranz, you see, is a Californian who seems to pay attention to those listicles that tell you where U.S. cities stack up in comparison to each other. But he wasn’t looking for a city known as one of the best places for paying off debt, vegan food or sleep — all dubiously earned accolades bestowed upon Austin recently. No, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Kranz wanted to go to the most boring city in America: Lubbock.

That’s not my designation, mind you. My only trip to Lubbock involved a post-midnight drive through the West Texas city on my way back from Las Vegas in college. No, according to the Avalanche-Journal, Hub City (that’s its nickname — listen, I’m just delivering the information here) was named the most boring place in the U.S. by a real estate blog in 2014. Kranz, a 30-year-old from Oakland, decided to come check out that claim for himself.

“I wanted to go to a place where people would almost ask, ‘Why there?’ and I remembered Lubbock,” Kranz told the Avalanche-Journal. That is perhaps the most accurate description of Lubbock ever, sir.

A note here: I realized I know a third thing for sure. Austinites love to make fun of Red Raiders. (Well, and Aggies. And Dallas. And Oklahoma. And each other. I might know a few more things than I let on.) If the “Welcome to Austin, please don’t move here” crowd wants to divert some population influx next South by Southwest, they might want to collaborate with the Lubbock visitors bureau. There’s obviously some weird reverse-psychology marketing possibilities here.

According to the Avalanche-Journal, Kranz had a lovely time. He told the paper that he was was surprised that Lubbock was more of a modern, diverse city than he imagined, and he engaged with locals in political discussions. (Sounds like a fun vacation?)

Attractions Kranz visited included Texas Tech (“the most beautiful campus he’d ever seen”), a cotton-field sunset, a community play and a Bible class at a church in town.

If you wanted to engage in a little cross-Texas snark about those Lubbockites, Kranz’s takeaway might make you think twice about your attitude. We’re all Americans. We’re all humans.

“We’re bitter enemies,” Kranz told the paper. “But it was great.”

Sounds like something a dirty Californian would say.

When you’re a shark, you’re a shark

Austin fans of ABC’s “Shark Tank” might have noticed a familiar name on an episode that aired last week. Local company EverlyWell, which sells at-home health test kits, scored a deal with one of the show’s investors (excuse me, “sharks”).

The deal wasn’t just notable for the company’s bottom line. According to EverlyWell, it was a milestone for “Shark Tank” – the largest valuation deal for a solo female entrepreneur ever on the show. EverlyWell CEO and founder Julia Cheek walked away from her TV appearance with a $1 million line of credit from investor Lori Greiner, in exchange for 5 percent equity.

Cheek, who founded EverlyWell in Dallas before heading to Austin, was turned down by the other four sharks on the show before Greiner offered the deal. According to technology news site Silicon Hills, the investor saw timely potential in EverlyWell’s product: “Greiner thinks because of the state of healthcare in the country right now is so precarious that EverlyWell has the right product at the right time.”

EverlyWell offers 19 different health tests, including food sensitivity and fertility options, according to the company.

“You get one shot to tell your story to the sharks and to America,” Cheek said in a statement. “We know that our brand and consumer education is incredibly important to our growth, so it was really a once in a lifetime opportunity to get to pitch the sharks for an investment.”

Austin sinning limits

The Bible states that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Jonathan Edwards once famously proclaimed we are all “sinners in the hands of an angry God.” And now WalletHub has declared that “the U.S. is filled with people behaving badly. No place is innocent. We all have demons.”

Just what are those demons, though? The personal finance website compared more than 180 cities in America based on criteria like violent crime per capita; the amount of excessive drinking and adult entertainment establishments per capita; and, of course, each city’s “Seven Deadly Sins” ranking.

Sixteen Texas cities made WalletHub’s list. Apparently, the most sinful city in the Lone Star State is Houston, coming in at No. 32 on a list of 182 cities. H-Town is ranked 97th in “anger and hatred,” 43rd in “jealousy,” 159th in “excesses and vices,” 27th in “greed,” 10th in “lust,” 23rd in “vanity” and 102nd in “laziness.”

Austin was the fourth most sinful Texas city on the list, making the Top 100 at No. 91. Our highest ranking category was “vanity,” where we landed at No. 15. Color me shocked.

Laredo also made the list as the city with the second-lowest amount of charitable donations as a percentage of income, and Amarillo is the third-least exercising city in America, according to WalletHub.

But there is some less sinful news: Garland and Plano are among the top of the list for cities with the fewest adult entertainment establishments per capita.

As for America’s most sinful city, do you even have to ask? Come on; everyone knows it’s Las Vegas.

— Jake Harris, American-Statesman staff

Book ’em — wait, but not that book

There’s a joke in the film “Logan Lucky” where some West Virginian prisoners stage a standoff with their warden, demanding, among other things, that he get them the next copy of the “Game of Thrones” series for the prison library. The highly specific and outlandish joke hinges on the fact that George R. R. Martin still hasn’t finished “The Winds of Winter” after all these years. But, at least in Texas, the demand couldn’t be fulfilled no matter what.

Parts of Martin’s “Game of Thrones” series are banned in Texas state prisons (for sexual content). So is “The Color Purple” (banned for depictions of rape and incest). So is “Freakonomics” (banned for depicting the working conditions of crack cocaine dealers). And those aren’t the only ones.

But, as detailed in an recent article from the Dallas Morning News, books like Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” and David Dukes’ “Jewish Supremacism” are allowed because they don’t “violate our rules,” according to Texas Department of Criminal Justice deputy chief of staff Jason Clark.

According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s policies, a book can be banned because of any of the following violations:

  • Information on the manufacture of explosives, weapons and/or drugs.
  • “Material that a reasonable person would construe as written solely for the purpose of communicating information designed to achieve the breakdown of prisons through offender disruption,” like strikes or riots.
  • “Graphic presentations” of illegal sex acts, “such as rape, incest, sex with a minor, bestiality, necrophilia or bondage.” (That’s where the “GOT” ban comes in, I’m assuming.)
  • Sexually explicit images. “Naked or partially covered buttocks” does not constitute reason for automatic disapproval. Staff review medical journals, reference materials, art books and other publications containing nudity on a case-by-case basis.
  • Information on criminal schemes or “how to avoid detection of criminal schemes.”

All in all, the Morning News found that Texas’ nearly 150,000 inmates are banned from reading 10,073 books. A total of 248,281 titles are on the approved list.

— Jake Harris, American-Statesman staff



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