Count 'Em Out
Boy, did your article on those goobers at KTRK/Channel 13 strike a nerve [News Hostage, by Richard Connelly, March 18]. Although we rarely miss it, my wife and I love to hate their 10 p.m. news. We play a game and see how many times Shara, Dave and especially Marvin screw up their lines each night. It's amazing once you start counting!
Our biggest peeve is the "Before We Go" segment they do each night. This is a news show, right? But every one of those segments is just Dave reading some really funny or interesting story with no video at all! It totally defeats the purpose of the story that's based on a great visual. How annoying.
Enjoyed your piece. Keep up the good work.
Dressing the Wounds
Loved the piece on the Chron's Best Dressed List [News Hostage, by Richard Connelly, March 11]. I'm embarrassed for the Chron and for the women who are chosen every year. However, I suppose that doing it in the name of charity helps to assuage any guilt they may feel at indulging in such conspicuous consumption. Who do they think they're fooling? News Hostage is great -- keep up the good work!
Thoroughly enjoy your News Hostage column each week. Perhaps you should investigate just what percentage of each newscast KPRC/Channel 2's silly-ass whirling musical graphics take up. I don't know their intended purpose, but they are a good reminder to do the following: see if the commercials on Home Improvement are over; check what's cooking on the stove; remind myself never to watch Channel 2 local news again.
You undoubtedly have your hands full, but I hope in the future we may see the return of "Red" Connelly and his sports column. That was the best thing in Public News (R.I.P.).
I am extremely pleased to see the first focus [News Hostage] I have ever seen brought to bear on the news media. I think the media is far too biased and influential.
About 18 months ago, I got a letter from Steve Wasserman asking my opinion of his KPRC/News 2 Houston. I told him his show should be called Buzz 2 Houston because they are in show business, not the news business. They remind me of a contemporary penny arcade.
I tried to watch KHOU/Channel 11, but most of their show is not relevant to me. I no longer watch local "news" shows. I read the Chronicle, but I don't know why. It's got something to do with coffee in the morning. I have seen a newscast from Victoria (yes, Texas) that was equal to Houston's best. With three-plus stations, you would think one of them could do it well.
Stick It to Them
I have rarely read such a disgusting and shocking article as the one about the overtly homophobic harassment of Chris Boone, a gay man, allegedly by his supervisors and co-workers at Garner Environmental Services ["Fire Alarm," by Wendy Grossman, March 18].
I hope he wins a $10 million judgment under laws that make same-sex sexual harassment illegal. These self-proclaimed rednecks need to learn an expensive lesson about how to treat their fellow human beings.
On the Rocks
Your well-written article "Enron's Earth (Day) Quakes" [Insider, by Tim Fleck, March 18] is really appreciated.
We in the Geophysical Society of Houston joined the Citizens Environmental Coalition because it focuses on public forums on environmental issues important to the people in this region. At the last CEC delegate meeting, I was surprised to hear that Planned Parenthood not only would not be allowed to participate in Earth Day 1999, but that it also had been turned away at the gate in 1998.
My understanding was that all CEC member organizations were eligible to participate in Earth Day. We were informed that Enron decides who participates. I offered to withdraw the GSH from this year's event, because Enron does not set policy for the GSH.
Also, in this region Planned Parenthood is no more controversial than Earth Day itself, clean air, clean water or the absence of state licenses for soil science, chemistry, biology, geology (groundwater) and geophysics.
Thanks for bringing the controversy to the attention of your readers.
Mr. News Hostage, as I understand it, your job is to critique Houston's news coverage in a delightfully acerbic sort of way, right? Well, how about focusing your wit on the Insider's "Enron's Earth (Day) Quakes" story.
What lit Fleck's fuse this time? He talks to Planned Parenthood, and it (gasp! surprise!) confirms the plot to block the group from the festival. Without permission to participate, Planned Parenthood would have to pay for its own event. Again, outrageous!
Fleck dials up Enron's Mark Palmer, who says letting them in would force Enron to give a pro-life group equal access, something they'd rather avoid. Yes, it's hard to believe that a major energy corporation willing to underwrite a quasi-environmental event would at the same time be unwilling to also subject itself to a more controversial and potentially embarrassing political situation. Enron's paying for the party and thinks it can decide who gets invited. The duplicity of it!
Fleck implies that because Enron CEO Ken Lay personally supported Planned Parenthood in the past, then it is something of a cop-out for him to refrain from foisting his pet political projects into the Earth Day event.
What a pathetic attempt to stir up controversy.
Share the Wealth
I met Georgette Mosbacher at the Women's Leadership conference at the McLean Hilton in Virginia. While I agree with some of your points ["How to Divorce a Millionaire," by Lisa Gray, January 28] -- particularly her using a sad occasion to bring up ownership of a house -- I think you've been too harsh. A lot of folks from humble beginnings want to be rich. And who cares how she did it?
My impression of her was that she'd been hurt very young in life and she used her feminine power to get what she wanted. I say more power to her. Assessments like the ones you have made only further exacerbate the stereotypes of ambitious women -- that somehow rich women are not virtuous.
TV Ad Nauseam
Okay, Debra Danburg is not perfect. She's not a saint. But she is well above average ["Contributing Factors," by Stuart Eskenazi, March 11].
Regarding elections and money, what if we did this: No individual or organization could give more than $100 to any one candidate. And no candidate could accept more total money from organizations than he or she receives from individuals.
And candidates who meet some threshold, like having 2,000 voters sign petitions, get enough free radio and TV time so they can state their positions.
How would something like this work?
Shaila Dewan's article "Adding It All Up" [February 28] touches on a longtime practice of our public schools: If it doesn't work, try to justify that it does.
When the community questions why these kids don't seem to be learning anything, those involved with public education create a standardized test. They dumb down the test until they reach acceptable numbers, then brag about the results. Everyone knows that these numbers are meaningless, but their existence leaves nobody accountable for the problem.
The absolute shame here is that there are a few teachers who try to teach in a way that they feel is productive. Suddenly little Joey has to study, but he doesn't want to. He fails the test, and the finger is pointed at the teacher. The school gets complaints from parents because little Joey is an A student. The teacher gets chewed out by the school and quits. The replacement is a great discipliner and is willing to make kids do stupid, worthless tasks such as diagramming sentences. Nobody complains.
And we ponder the value of the TAAS test.
Curtis A. Cummins
I thoroughly enjoyed reading your two articles on the situation surrounding the TAAS ["The Fix Is In," "Adding It All Up," by Shaila Dewan, February 28, March 4]. I graduated from Sam Rayburn High School in '97 and missed only about five questions on the entire TAAS test. I feel really sorry for people who can't pass such an easy test.
I grew up in the gifted and talented program and still had TAAS objectives and methods shoved down my throat ever since elementary school. It was quite detrimental to the creative mind.
If the test is supposed to cover material everyone should know, why does the material need to be taught every year? It's sad that it is just used as a tool for administrators.
Charles Sykes, in his book Dumbing Down Our Kids, points out how SAT scores have been steadily declining in American high schools. I think the TAAS crap is part of this problem.
You had two great articles that informed people of the TAAS situation.
I am happy to see at least one federal prosecutor doing his job [Insider, by Tim Fleck, March 4]. Whining seems to have hit the United States Attorney's office here, as these fine men and women seem upset that the hit list for crooks has dropped from $50,000 to $5,000.
I was sitting in a deposition a couple of years ago when the defense attorney in our case remarked that he was representing a fellow who embezzled $60,000. The attorney was trying to figure a way to channel $10,000 back to the innocent party so that his client could avoid jail time.
Not content, the attorney figured that his client could then file bankruptcy and have the remaining debt discharged. I suspect that he was successful.
Reducing the threshold to $5,000 may be a political move, but it will catch the attention of many criminal attorneys around here. I say good luck to Jim DeAtley. Go get the bad guys.
South Texas citizens are fed up with the bickering in their court system, and from your article "Fed-up Feds," this is exactly what acting United States Attorney Jim DeAtley has brought to the table.
Is it ego or control, or is he just carrying out an irrational budget allocation policy dictated by Donna Bucella's office in Washington? Although said tongue-in-cheek in your article, transferring him to Laredo would only move the problem -- not eliminate it.
Sounds like our Ms. Bucella is the real problem here.
All That Jazz
I must confess that as a publicist and a journalist, I am a fervent protector of free speech and a free press. I even support freedom of choice. But the Margaret L. Briggs review of Sambuca Jazz Cafe ["See. Be Seen. Don't Eat," March 18] was a breach of the free press concept of fairness and borders on slander.
She should be ashamed. Her negative attitude that this place is devoid of any redeeming value seems jealously petty and intentionally hurtful. I've frequented Sambuca, as have many of my friends, clients and colleagues.
The garlic was not my enemy, the furnishings were refreshingly funny and affable, the views were exciting and challenging, and I could hear the music from each of my many table experiences. Let us, the real diners and purveyors of pleasure, make our own decisions. Sambuca, keep up the good work. I'll be back, to see, be seen and -- yes -- to eat.
Din of Inequity
Let's face it: Houston is a "scene" oriented town. Trends come and go, but there is an insatiable thirst to be part of the scene. Sambuca seems to be the flavor of the month: part of the downtown vitalization (it has never been vital, so re is not part of the ethic), an attractive decor, and it supports some serious jazz music.
I have been there twice to hear music, and both times the din wins over nuance. It is difficult to understand why people would pay a $10 cover as they did to hear Terrence Blanchard, and then yell at each other as the music was playing. This is not audience participation night.
I think they are just part of roaming, vapid, cultureless schmoozemongers. If you want to hear music, go to Ovations or Cezanne, places that are booked and run by musicians. There are some wonderful players here in town that deserve to be heard and supported.
Poetry in Motion
Expand your verse!
So. You think you're a poet.
Now's your chance to prove it.
April, sometimes referred to as "the cruelest month," is also, by sheer coincidence, National Poetry Month, and we're celebrating by having the first ever Houston Press National Poetry Month Contest. Lately we've seen evidence that the Bayou City is percolating with poetic fervor: excitement and support for a proliferation of open-poetry mikes; feature readings through the Nuestra Palabra series and organization; packed-to-the-rafters prose shows at the Atomic Cafe, Brasil and DiverseWorks; DiverseWorks's popular "dial-a-writer" project, PhoneWorks; and the recent screening for the documentary film of poetry-slam contenders, SlamNation. Not to mention the continued success of the Inprint Reading Series ("First Friday" and various author events) and writing classes, plus both Rice's and University of Houston's (world-renowned) creative writing programs. So we thought we'd provide yet another outlet for poetic expression, right here on these very pages.
Enter the contest and win a prize, to be announced, as well as publication in the Press. First-, second- and third-place winners will be spotlighted, as will other noteworthy poems received, if space allows. There is no entry fee.
Here are the rules:
There are no subject, topic or form restrictions for the poems. Rhyme, free verse, sonnet, sestina, haiku, we don't care. Just make it good. (Hint: Walt Whitman, good; Jewel, bad.)
Poems must be the sole property of the person entering them and must be previously unpublished; plagiarism is obviously prohibited.
Poems must be typed and double-spaced and can be no longer than two typed, double-spaced pages (approximately 400 words).
Each entrant may submit only one poem.
Deadline: 5 p.m. April 19.
Publication date: April 29.
Your poem will be judged by editors and staff writers at the Houston Press.
No poems will be returned; do not send us your only copy.
Send typewritten copy to: Poetry Contest, Houston Press, 1621 Milam, Suite 100, Houston, TX 77006, attn. Kirsten Bubier.
Include a cover sheet with your name, the title of your poem, and your address and telephone number for verification. Or e-mail it, along with all of the above information, to firstname.lastname@example.org with "Poetry Contest" in the subject header.
No phone calls, please.
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