He Won't Back Down

The mayor was threatened -- or maybe he wasn't

No, but when you're the CEO of a Fortune 500 tattoo-removal company, Dave, those parents will change their tune fast enough. RIP, Tank

The redesign of the Houston Chronicle's sports pages (see "Alamo Envy") did more than just inspire yawns. It also killed off Tank McNamara.

The consistently humorless comic strip runs in hundreds of newspapers daily, but it had a special history at the Chron: Its co-creator and writer is Jeff Millar, who for 28 years wrote a humor column for the paper until he retired in 2000. The Chron was one of the first papers to pick up Tank in 1974.

How dead is Tank? "If there is enough outcry it may be added [back] to the daily comic-strip lineup," Chronicle reader rep James Campbell said.

In other words, it's pretty darn dead.

Aspiring to Greatness

We're wondering why Mayor Bill White waited until after the election to discourse on his latest theory of what Houston should be like. Maybe it's because that theory boils down to "Aspen Bad, Port Arthur Good."

White told a real estate/developer group last week that he was fed up with all the permit roadblocks the city imposes to deter good, honest American Dreamers from putting up another strip mall. "If you don't want to live in a growing city, move to Aspen!" he said.

White said a developer told him the city needs to improve customer service in dealing with routine requests for building and remodeling permits. The man said Houston should be as hassle-free as Port Arthur, which is that city you smell on I-10 on your way to Mardi Gras. There, "they were just glad to see somebody coming to build anything," White says the builder told him.

White didn't seem to be joking too much. So we fully expect his first mayoral vacation to be in the lovely Golden Triangle. The Janis Joplin museum is still open, we think.

Wrong Number, Dammit

Sex slaves were back in the news lately, despite the fact that it was a sweeps month on TV.

At any rate, in Hair Balls' never-ending effort to provide the most comprehensive sex-slave reporting in Houston, we noticed that the U.S. State Department's sex-trafficking hot line is 1-888-373-7888. Which turns out to be one toll-free prefix away from 1-800-373-7888 -- "the hottest phone sex line in America."

We called the 888 prefix.

Q. Hello, is this the hot line for sexual slavery?

A. Well, it's for human trafficking.

Q. How does this work, then?

A. If you have a tip or if you yourself are a victim…that kind of stuff.

Q. Oh, okay. So how do we begin?

A. You can tell me what you're calling for.

Q. I'm calling for sexual slavery.

A. You know someone that's being…? Tell me more.

Q. I was just calling to speak to a sexual slave.

A. We don't have that here.

Q. Isn't this 800-373-7888?

A. Mm-hm. We don't have sex slaves here. This is the human trafficking hot line.

Q. Do you have French maids?

A. [Click.]

Alamo Envy

For years, San Antonio was that city south of Austin that most Houstonians gave hardly a thought to. Then Jeff Cohen became the editor of the Houston Chronicle.

Cohen, who cut his journalistic teeth in San Antonio, brought in San Antonio Express-News columnist Rick Casey to much fanfare. The fanfare didn't include any warning that the Chron's Metro column would now be devoting a lot of space to San Antonio, but that's all right. Because Casey isn't alone -- these days the Chron newsroom is looking like an Express-News alumni party.

And suddenly Chronicle readers are supposed to be fascinated by what is apparently called the "Alamo City." (In the two years before Cohen came here in June 2002, the phrase "Alamo City" showed up in news sections just four times. Since then, 20 times.)

Not content to simply sound like the San Antonio Express-News, the Chron is apparently determined to look like it, too. The sports section is the latest to introduce the long-planned makeover of the paper's design, and it's really, really innovative.

If you haven't seen the San Antonio paper. Or any recently redesigned paper, for that matter.

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