Terrorists Among Us
Worse than Osama: I agree with Richard Connelly that Houston's "bad air" and "impassable streets" would make a terrorist attack hardly noticeable here ("Uncivil Defense," March 13). However, Houston is not nearly "as likely a target as any other major U.S. city," as experts claim, but luckily has been rejected for these very reasons.
Our streets, reduced to rubble, already look like Afghanistan's, thanks to downtown developers who have leveled our most historic buildings, leaving nothing for terrorists to topple that isn't already next on the list. At the rate demolition has sent nearby residents scattering from their homes -- by force of eviction, eminent domain or fear of asbestos -- it is no wonder terrorists doubt they can compete with that, or with the threat of violence by gangs and police alike, notorious for terrorizing the local population.
Potential attackers very likely reasoned that, heck, with massive crowds of Houstonians jogging and biking up and down Memorial -- breathing high concentrations of benzene and carbon monoxide -- why waste precious biochemicals on these idiots? Why not wait a few years and let these health nuts gas themselves to death? For free?
Why groom pilots to target infidels in greater Houston, where unskilled drivers are using their own cars as tanks to run over each other as punishment for infidelity? Such ingenuity takes the fun and glory out of hijacking airplanes, while using a lot less fuel and relatively little training.
Emily T. Nghiem
Questions and conscience: "All Duct Up" made me laugh. Are we just now discovering that our globe has shrunk? That modern technology and an increasingly global economy now enable the hopeless and desperate in faraway places to reach out and touch us?
Houston is a global port. Much of our economy is based on buying and selling the world's resources. Have we even wondered if life is getting better for these faraway people?
Someone in the world dies of hunger every four seconds. Ending this suffering, according to UNICEF, would cost only $30 billion to $40 billion a year. That's the money people spend annually on golfing or that corporations spend every year on cigarette advertising. And every day, governments spend that huge sum on the military. One day's worth of military spending would buy a year of adequate health care, education, nutrition and clean drinking water for every person on earth.
Do we reap fear because we have sown fear? To build a safe world, should we spend a tiny bit of our military money on bringing good news to the poor? Would being a good samaritan and building up the kingdom of God gain us real homeland security?
Checks and Balances
Deep background: I read with interest your article "A Killer Nanny" [by Wendy Grossman, March 6]. I own a business, Affordable Searches, that performs criminal history background checks. I appreciate the article and hope in the future more people will conduct more comprehensive background checks.
What I'm finding out in my marketing efforts is that people who run businesses such as nanny agencies, home health agencies, nonprofits and nursing homes want to go with the least expensive means of checking a background. Unfortunately, when doing this, they put too much trust in the results obtained from the Texas Department of Public Safety database, which should not be the only resource used.
That Texas database and those in other states rely on their counties to submit correct information in a timely manner, which just does not happen. Also, a Texas check done on someone who just moved here will not show records from the previous state. But this is one of the least expensive means to check someone.
In order to do a comprehensive criminal history check, a person should start off doing a social security number trace, which will report current and past addresses dating back seven or more years. Then each county in which the person has resided should be checked. There should also be checks of federal criminal records, driving history, credit history and the state sex offenders' database.
Such a comprehensive check can be done for well under $100.
Everyone's goal should be to make certain that the person being checked is who they say they are, and to make certain they have no dark history.
Bigfoot bull's-eyes: I quite enjoyed your story on Bigfoot hunter Bobby Hamilton ["Wrestling with Bigfoot," by Mary Lee Grant, March 13]. I, too, stalk the wily beast. But I prefer the more scenic Cascades and believe the area around Mount St. Helens and the Gifford Pinchot National Forest is Bigfoot's lair.
Hunting Bigfoot provides much pleasure, with the prospect of great adventure. Most especially, Bigfoot hunters irritate PETA types.
Another thing: While enjoying the never-ending Bigfoot hunt, the well-armed hunter is never confused with that biological pollutant now all too common in the mountains -- the brightly accessorized, cell phone-equipped urban backpacker.
To those who might take up the sport: Have an ultralight "sheep rifle"-style firearm made to your specifications. I recommend 6.5 pounds maximum weight using a 3-9x variable scope and a reinforced synthetic stock.
Specify either a 300 Winchester magnum or 300 Weatherby magnum, and use 200-grain Barnes-X ammo. These very powerful magnums are plenty for Bigfoot and enough if you get crossways with a big grizzly.
It will kick terribly, but you'll probably never have to shoot it anyway. You will, however, be carrying the thing all over kingdom come, so keep it light.
Animal farm: When I was in high school in 1969, I lived in Quanah, Texas, on a farm near the Red River. One morning at about 6:30, when I was driving to school early, I saw a dark-colored, hairy-looking primate walking across a wheat field about a quarter-mile away. It looked to be about four feet tall.
I have no idea what it was, but it was a strange sight. I thought at the time that maybe it was a bear or something.
Dead or alive: Sir, the story of Bobby Hamilton may amuse you and your readers. But in my opinion, he and his cronies are bloodthirsty monsters who are planning to kill a Bigfoot just for the money and glory.
That kind of man gets no respect from me. I am a person searching for the truth and looking for and trying to get a picture to just prove that they (Bigfoot) are out there. Bobby is known as the Monster Hunter.
Joseph R. Perry
Goosing the News
Overlooked winner: Oh, Tim, ye of little faith! Don't you realize what broadcast dynamite this is [The Insider, by Tim Fleck, March 13]? The viewers are going to eat this up. You have to remember now that we're talking about Channel 13 viewers, here. These are the same stunned sheep who watch such idiots as Marvin Zindler scoping out ice!
When I read this story in the Press, I felt exactly like you: big deal, not much to report on and what a chuckle that you got a free ride on Channel 13's back.
But you have to remember that when KTRK runs the story, it will get the full complement of their "journalistic" theatrics and special effects: First, it will be teased for two weeks prior to airing; they will add flashy, hypnotic, Japanese-convulsion-inducing graphics and the pièce de résistance, the "dumbfuck's point of view angle."
The DPOVA is achieved by going to the parking lot of Bed Bath & Beyond and ambushing patrons with the question "Do you think it's right that Councilmember Gibbs surfs the store's Web site from her city computer?"
Clear the shelf, Wayne, I see another Emmy in your future.
Picks and Pans
Ambition counts: I agree to some extent with the unfortunate oversight of several noteworthy bands hailing from Houston for SXSW [Racket, by John Nova Lomax, March 13], and credit is due to anyone with ostensibly sincere aspirations of creating an unbiased coalition for local artists. Agreed, there is a definite lack of enthusiasm and support for the local music scene, which is partly the consequence of talented artists lacking ambition or desire to thrive beyond their adoring little Houston cliques.
To claim that those selected for SXSW were a poor representation of the meaningful critical trends in music and entertainment only confirms that lack of awareness in the industry both locally and nationally. Things have changed, and we are no longer being represented by "half a dozen country acts or whatever." While the Houston artists on this year's SXSW bill may still be somewhat underappreciated locally, they have embraced marketability and strive to promote themselves beyond the realm of Houston.
In the case of SXSW, being recognized for diligence and substance takes priority over representing a city that has little to offer for success stories.
Local but international? Each Press music editor has expressed the common theme of SXSW accepting a ton of Austin artists while excluding those from Houston.
SXSW is based in Austin and is basically a local music festival on a grander scale. So it's only natural that Austin bands receive preference. Houston bands are considered alongside bands from the rest of the nation and the world. Most of them are unable to measure up.
The Houston scene is tired. Bands are not as eager to promote themselves as they used to be. The few clubs left booking local bands are more worried about selling drinks. If you want to check out a band, you have to sift through the other five or six acts on the bill. Shows start late and end late. The set changes are often longer than the sets themselves.
Things were not always that way, but those were admittedly better times.
Instead of bitching and moaning about SXSW each year, how about spending four days there each year and seeing local bands from other locales? You will quickly find out that there are good original musicians from everywhere.
The stupidest thing you can do is to attend SXSW and take in showcases by Houston bands (who will, of course, play the same sets they normally play).
How about watching bands you've never seen before? Maybe then you'll find out what you're doing wrong.
Proven pros: Thanks for your recent article on the Hunger ["Appetite for Reconstruction," by Greg Barr, February 27]. Although admittedly biased, as Max is my brother, I'm glad to see them again get some of the recognition they so rightly deserve.
You couldn't speak truer words when you say they are the hardest-working band in Houston -- or anywhere else, for that matter. Over the years the thing that has most impressed me about the guys in the Hunger is their professionalism, dedication and their insistence that every fan buying a ticket or CD be knocked out by the experience.
In an industry filled with one-hit wonders and wannabe poseurs, this alone is worthy of recognition; the fact that they are great guys who truly care about what they do is exceptional.
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Creative interpretation: I was disappointed with Timothy O'Brien's review of Cindy Scott's Major to Minor [Local Rotation, March 6]. As with all genres of music, there is both new and standard material to pick from. Just because someone performs a standard doesn't mean they can't introduce something creatively original to the piece.
Cindy has a great voice, and she is adept at using it like an instrument played in the style of jazz. There is a place for this type of musical interpretation in jazz just as there is in classical music. You don't pan Horowitz because he played Chopin yet again. Your readers might like to visit Cindy's Web site, www.CindyScott.us, and hear for themselves.