Shots in the Dark
Thank you for your article on "Shooting In the New Year" [News, by Steve McVicker, December 29].
Here are a few ideas I had in regard to this public safety issue:

1. Gun stores could sell and promote the use of blanks.
2. Public service announcements from HPD on the dangers of firing handguns into the air.

3. If one must discharge one's weapon on New Year's Eve, point it at the ground!

It's getting closer to midnight -- excuse me while I find a sturdy piece of furniture to hide under.

Buck Dawson

Shoot, Go to Jail
Re your story on New Year's gunfire [News, "Shooting In the New Year"]. My middle-class neighborhood sounded like a war zone for 20 minutes on New Year's Eve.

I have never heard such prolonged shooting of automatic weapons. I urge the mayor next New Year's Eve to station unmarked police vehicles in neighborhoods to apprehend these idiots who have no respect for others' peace of mind and safety.

A resultant stiff fine and a few days in the pokey might cause some to think before they pull the triggers.

J. Brownfield

A Different Picture
I wish to express my disagreement with Susie Kalil's review of FotoFest 1994 [Art, "Losing Focus?," December 1]. It seems that she takes the approach of many reviewers by writing about the discrepancy between her experience of FotoFest and the experience she wished it had been. She was disappointed that it was "tame," that it didn't provide her with any "shocking revelations" and was without a "physical engagement."

Her points are well made and she has good insights into some of the same components of the event that I found particularly compelling, such as the concentration on issues of identity within the "American Voices" and her political analysis of "Fashion: Evolution/Revolution." Her references to the organizational and financial difficulties are important to consider, but her impatience with the extravaganza presumes that those efforts to reach a wider audience are either superfluous or misdirected. I agree with her praise of those activities such as Literacy Through Photography and the other ongoing efforts between festivals that use photography toward social analysis and change, but I question her dismissal of the exhibition feature of the festival because it is not cutting edge.

As a professional photographer, I found multiple layers of very satisfying participation in this year's festival. Crucial to my continued growth as a photographer is the International Meeting Place. The opportunity to review my work with dozens of experienced critics from around the world and discuss their questions, challenges and provocative insight to new developments in my own work is impossible to imagine within any other venue.

How could I afford (or gain access) to critics and curators and publishers from Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Canada and the United States? The magnet of this heated exchange brought me into contact with photographers whose work I might never see otherwise. It was an extraordinary moment. The time spent in the Meeting Place also gave me the time to view the exhibitions in George R. Brown Convention Center repeatedly, in long and short duration, to return to certain works for repeat viewing.

Kalil's complaint about the headache of viewing 11-by-14 prints implies a naive or elitist or lazy approach to photography (maybe all three), but sure it's a smorgasbord. Why does she think they call it a festival? There are many experiences I treasure from the month. Seeing additional work from a Puerto Rican photographer whose work I had seen the week before on exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. The exquisite work by the Cuban photographer based on Cuban stamps. The delight in perusing the extensive stock of quality photography books available throughout the photoeye display. The overheard conversation among three young boys looking at the photograph of a Russian boy being treated for exposure to fallout from Chernobyl.

I accept that Kalil is trying to improve FotoFest, but the overall tone of her review was so disapproving that I wanted to emphasize my positive response to this major effort that occurs right in our own backyard.

Paul Hester

Devilish Dining
We really enjoyed your menu from Hell [Cafe, "The Menu from Hell," by Alison Cook, December 22] and would like to add one of our favorites from the Seoul Gardens on Blalock and Long Point -- "Marinated Intestines Barbequed On Your Tale." Thanks for all your great reviews in '94 and happy eating for '95!

Bob and Cynthia Card

Anxious Response
Pardon me, Houston Press, but your left-leaning liberalism is showing! Re "Ethnic Cleansing" in "The Year of Living Anxiously" by Alison Cook [December 29]. Correct me if I am mistaken, but the candidates listed on the ballot are classified by party affiliation and not by the color of their skin! The electorate (you know, this we, the people stuff) made a very clear statement that the poor results turned in by the Democratic Party in its stewardship of the state, county and judgeships was the issue, not someone's skin tone!

I find it almost laughable to listen to the hue and cry from all the rejected Democrats about how it is imperative that we change the way judges are selected now. This is from the party that has controlled the governing process in this state for better than 125 years! If they had wanted to, it would have been a piece of cake to get it done at virtually any time in the past, but why change the good-ole-boy-yellow-dog-democratic-way, huh?

I fully support a restructuring of the way we select our judges, not because it will ensure that more minorities are placed on the bench, but because it will ensure that more qualified men and women will be the interpreters of the law. I am also confident that when that change takes place it will be because Republicans have delivered on the promise to make our country truly color-blind!

Kevin Hromas

Left, Right, Wrong?
Based on the unfairly biased article by Jim Simmon concerning new members of the State Board of Education [News, "Condoms! Homosexuals! Lesbian Adoption!" December 29], I would guess that Jim is one of those "atheist, far left-wing smear artists" unlike the "right-wing smear artists" that he refers to in his article.

I am a moderate who gets extremely angry when liberals try to scare people and slander religious groups that stand up for what they believe in and on occasion win an election. The Press should undertake a data search of its articles to see how often during the last year phrases like "right-wing religious fanatic" are used versus "left-wing liberal fanatic." Your findings will be interesting.

Why not try a little harder to lay out the honest facts of a situation and let people decide for themselves. Must you always fan the flames of dissension by branding people with emotional labels?

Tom J. McNatt

Editor's note: One point of the article -- and we know it might have taxed your attention span to read it in its entirety -- was that the candidates of the religious right had branded their opponents with "emotional labels" to scare people. And as far as can be determined, neither "right-wing religious fanatic" nor "left-wing liberal fanatic" has appeared in the Houston Press in the past year, although the phrase "health food fanatic" may have slipped in a time or two.

Tops in Toxics
I loved your holiday wrap-up ["The Year of Living Anxiously," December 29], specifically the item about the toxic releases this year. In September, we released a report showing that Harris County is not only number one in basketball but also number one in toxic chemical accidents.

We even included a handicap and excluded accidents relating to petrochemicals. Still, Harris County surged to the forefront with almost one accident a day during the period studied. The continuing inventory of toxic chemicals that leak, spill or escape into our Bayou City underlines the importance of changing the way we think about safety. Industries should not plan for how to cope with accidents but plan to prevent accidents. Maybe with a little foresight we would have less mystery clouds.

Karen Jaffe
Houston Campaign Director
U.S. Public Interest Research Group

That Cute Newt
"Tom Tomorrow" and other Houston Press writers: You know, I think it's hilarious that you guys are so terrified of Newt Gingrich and other conservatives.

I used to be scared of shit, too, when I was a little kid and too ignorant to know any better. Keep the laughs coming!

Eric Beasley

Editor's note: We're hardly terrified by Newt Gingrich. It's people like you who don't make any sense that really scare us.

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