By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
Allen doesn't do Swamplot alone. He works with other writers, and he relies on people in the community. What Swamplot has done on the demise of the Wilshire Village Apartments is a great example of that. The blog's efforts to get to the bottom of the complicated saga of the 70-year-old apartments at the corner of West Alabama and Dunlavy, whose tenants were evicted before it was razed, have taken, well, a village. Swamplot has continually asked its readers to help unravel the mess, and they have complied.
The latest on the property is that it will be turned into a Montrose H-E-B. What would Allen like to see happen there? All the players, together: "I'd like to see Matt Dilick, Jay Cohen, all the former residents of the apartments, city building inspectors, the officers of Wedge Real Estate Finance, and maybe a few sharp-witted Swamplot commenters all mysteriously stuck in the same H-E-B checkout line," says Allen, "for a period of several weeks."
When Houston got the Texans in 2002, nobody was happier than Stephanie Stradley. "I thought, 'Oh my goodness, we have a miracle here,'" Stradley says. "Houston wasn't supposed to get an NFL team, and they did."
Stradley, who's had season tickets since the beginning, was a finalist in the team's ultimate-fan contest — four times. The finalists got to run out on the field with the team waving a Texans flag. "I got to do that four times, and it is the most amazing experience in the entire world," she says.
But for Stradley, football isn't just about tailgating or wearing goofy outfits on Sundays, although she does those things. She's also a serious student of the game — "I don't purport to be a football expert, I just pay a lot of attention," she says — and back around 2004, she was frustrated that she couldn't find more in-depth information on her team. Stradley started posting on message boards, and eventually started writing for the Houston Chronicle's FanBlog: Texans. Today she blogs for AOL FanHouse and for the Chronicle as Texans Chick.
A popular 2006 blog post by Stradley is a good example of what she does — write about topics she would want to read about, but isn't seeing. Amid the media's coverage of the city's disappointment that the Texans had landed Mario Williams and not Reggie Bush or Vince Young, she hadn't read much about what Williams could actually do. So she compiled "The Ultimate Mario Williams Compendium," with all the information a fan could ever want about his prowess as an athlete. The blog was both useful and prescient. Today, of course, Williams is one of the best defensive ends in the NFL.
A lawyer, Stradley also blogs about sports and the law. She likes to get silly, too, advising fans on "NFL Attire: What Not to Wear." Stradley isn't afraid to call her team out (see "Texans Defense Is the Worst in the NFL," October 2009), but win or lose, the Texans have a true fan in her.
"Houstonians have had a unique opportunity in that we are getting to see how you build a team from scratch, and it's been interesting just watching that process," she says. "You can be a fan only when times are good, but in my thinking, a team needs their fan base more when they're struggling to become good."
People love to bitch about the Houston music scene's lack of exposure. But David Cobb is someone who has actually gotten off his ass and done something about it. He started his blog, Houston Calling, seven years ago.
"My focus is to help the local scene," says Cobb. "It is just a labor of love. I was sick of going to shows and it would be just the bands, their moms, and the bartender and me. It still happens, but it's gotten a lot better. I'd like to think that I'm a little part of that, but it's a big city and there's a lot of good bands."
When he started Houston Calling, Cobb says, "I basically sent e-mails to almost every band I could find in Houston online. I would hit their MySpace up to interview them." Today Cobb is still at it, but often the bands come to him. "I get tons of e-mails and tons of music from bands who are not only coming to town but also local," he says. Right now he's also posting each day on bands playing South By Southwest.
Cobb, a project manager at a consulting firm, has been a music lover all of his life, and his wife shares his hobby. Some bands that are really standing out to him right now are The Gold Sounds, Chase Hamblin, Robert Ellis, Roky Moon & Bolt, and Something Fierce.
It blows Cobb's mind that more Houston groups haven't found national success. Mentioning successful bands from other cities, he says, "We have bands just as good. Why are those bands nationally known and the musicians in Houston having to work five jobs?"
Houston Calling is a music lover's attempt to help. "With the Net anybody can find anything," he says. "If I post something and someone in Japan buys it, great, that's what I want to happen. I don't want musicians to have to struggle to make ends meet. It's ridiculous."