Behest of Houston?
Poll-ite protest: Each year I eagerly await the annual listing of the Best of Houston [September 21]. Perhaps it will lead me to a new unknown restaurant or introduce me to an obscure place to shop for that perfect gift. Yet I remain perplexed as to why you devote so much space to your choices and allow only a slight mention of the results of your Readers' Choice poll. Often the winners conflict with or contradict those of the readers. I am left with the impression that perhaps the categories selected may be influenced by the amount of ad space purchased each year or by staff friendships.
I suggest that you totally revamp your process by expanding the categories, lengthening the timeline for voting and including only the results of the readers. All those signs around town on various establishments that announce "Best of Houston," are they able to use this designation based on your choices or ours?
Editor's note: What you propose would likely knock the little-known restaurants, obscure shops and small independents out of the Best of Houston issue entirely, because majority votes obviously tend to favor high-profile places and chains. (Case in point: The '98 readers' nod for best dessert? Ninfa's.) The Readers' Poll is valuable, but it will never replace the Press's selections, which are based on staff experience and area knowledge. Friendships and advertising don't influence our picks.
Paranoia by the Pack
Getting no respect: You printed a very sad letter [Letters, "Ashes to Ashes," September 14] from a man whose wife lost her life to breast cancer. The sadness was compounded by the fact that, in the natural search for someone or something to "blame" for an untimely death, the husband focused on smokers at his wife's workplace, despite what I feel is very mixed scientific evidence on even primary smoking itself and breast cancer.
Smokers have become the acceptable universal "hate objects" for our society ["Live Free and Die," by Wendy Grossman, August 31]: They are labeled addicts, criminals, smelly, purveyors of disease and corrupters of children. It's okay to hate smokers since their habit is "voluntary" (even though two minutes later the speaker will bemoan the lifelong addiction of children as smokers). It's okay to add taxes of 50, 100 or even 200 percent on cigarettes, although smokers tend to cluster at the bottom half of the economic ladder.
Wait till they come after the drinkers again, or until the PETA lobby gets control of the White House and goes after the meat eaters and milk drinkers. It'll be okay -- drunks and corpse eaters aren't any better than smokers, are they?
Outside in: Sometimes the "outsiders" get it right and it makes me cry. Your story of Christie Lee ["XX Marks the Spot," by Lisa Gray, September 14] was poignant and moving.
Christie is as female as any woman will ever be. She went through all the hoops of the dog-and-pony show required by society and its legions of gatekeepers to correct a birth defect. And that's all it was, a birth defect.
I don't blame those who don't understand us. We are an enigma most of us don't understand, and we are the ones inside this boy-girl body. Maybe in time, with people like you, society will understand we are not the freaks and misfits Jerry Springer parades across his stage.
Elk City, Oklahoma
Jim's jag: It was good to see John Royal plug Jim Rome's tour stop at Enron Field in Night & Day [September 14]. Rome's clones do have a unique jargon, and John almost had it, as he summed up the article, "The self-described pimp-in-the-box from C-town is going to make a lot of jack for running smack at this stop." Jim Rome is from SoCal.
Novel blasphemy: Generally I have found the film section of your newspaper less than helpful thanks to your use of a small army of reviewers, which prevents familiarity with any of them. Until the last issue, however, I still thought that your writers had some talent and aesthetic appreciation. But when I read Gregory Weinkauf's startling admission that he found Dostoyevsky "terminally boring" ["Unusual Punishment," September 14] and was assaulted by his reference to Raskolnikov as a "depressed jerk," I realized that at least some of your recruiting must be done in remedial writing classes at alternative high schools. Doesn't contempt for the author who is often referred to as the world's finest novelist disqualify a person from having his criticisms of artistic endeavors published in a reputable newspaper, or even the Houston Press?
Life After Alison
Fantastic food critics: A few years ago, when your restaurant reviews were written by someone else (I think her name was Alison something), I used to read them before anything else in the paper. Not only did she know her subject, but her writing was a pleasure to read. I was sorry when she moved on.
I waited to see if you could find someone who could equal her high mark. I waited and waited. Your dining section went through some rough times after Alison left. I kept reading the reviews even though I knew I was exposing myself to the dreaded adverb virus. Frankly, the writing was so bad I didn't want to eat at all.
Now our long nightmare is over. Robb Walsh knows food and knows how to write. Congratulations on finding him. George Alexander is pretty cool, too. His polysyllabic erudition adds the dash of humor that makes the recipe just right.
Charles K. White
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How dare he: As a patron of La Estancia's, I feel that Robb Walsh was way off ["Immigration Problems," August 10]. Just because Mr. Walsh has been to Argentina and eaten its food, this does not give him the authority and/or enough knowledge to criticize this restaurant the way that he has.
I appreciate what the owners of La Estancia have done by bringing a bit of Argentina to Houston. I thought the lomo was incredible. Mr. Walsh cannot expect for this beef to come all the way from Argentina and retain the consistency it had before it was frozen and shipped. As far as the wine, I have been to several restaurants/bars and have seen the bartender begin to pour a drink with one bottle and top it off with another.
Can Mr. Walsh honestly expect Americans to pay big bucks for steak that is accompanied by fries? I have been to La Estancia several times and will continue to eat there.