To put it simply, this is a great piece of journalism ["Saving Baby Angela," by Lisa Gray, March 23]. It is touching, real, and was handled with the care and respect the subject deserves. It also is very informative of how CPS works and the dedication the caseworkers must have to do their work.
So many times the public hears of CPS only when it misses the "signs" and a child ends up in the hospital or dead. I was also impressed that you didn't allow yourself to devise a "happily ever after" ending, but left it with the uncertainty that real people suffer through.
To get across the true message of this particular case, you wrote about the real difficulties faced by all parties and the worry to make the right decision. Caseworkers know the one to pay for a bad error in judgment would be the child, and very possibly with its life.
I hope we can have a follow-up. The way you presented it left this reader eager to know additional information about Angela and her family. When you can do that, you know you have really accomplished something as a writer.
Olga M. Sheible
There was something in your overall tone throughout the story on Marshall Ball ["Mommy's Little Angel," by Brad Tyer, March 16] that I did not like. I can't really pin it down to just one phrase or comment. I just think that you did a poor job of reporting. I think you let your own skepticism, jealousy and resentment seep into the story. Maybe you ought to ask yourself why.
I was enormously inspired by your story about the silent child who speaks to angels, and vice versa. How fortunate young Marshall is to have parents who seem to know how to help him grow to his full potential as a media darling. (When it comes to making a life, it looks like Dr. Becker really knows how to take the Ball and run with it.)
The Ball family has taken what could have been a tragedy and has turned it into the American dream. Think of it: a seven-acre compound in the beautiful Hill Country. Being on Oprah. Written up in People. Having a worshipful worldwide following. This story really got me thinking: Why not me? It suddenly hit me that I, too, have a miracle in my midst.
I share my home with a blind, diabetic whippet (which is a good beginning right there, since a whippet is a dog, and we all know what "dog" spelled backward is). This very special whippet doesn't do his business just by lifting his leg against a vertical surface. I was struck with one thought: "Why, it is almost as if he is deliberately aiming his stream -- like he's writing something."
I was right.
Using a special black light, I was amazed to see that he had streamed the word "GO." Obviously he had run out of "ink," as it were, before he got to the last letter. He wrote at the rate of approximately one word per session and, being the prolific eliminator that he is, soon had completed numerous poems that, I dare say, are nearly as profound as some of those quoted in your story. All contain important messages about angels, healing, God and poetry festivals led by large women in leopard-print pantsuits.
I soon developed a form of "dogmented communication" in which I would gently guide and "balance" him, and found that his poetry became even more eloquent. Except for those few occasions when some of the eloquence accidentally splashes onto my shoes, it has all worked out well.
And so, obviously, it is now time for a book. Transcribing is hard work, but if one whippet's words can lead just one person to healing, it will all be worth it. Next stop: Oprah! And I owe it all to you.
Connie L. Schmidt
I am one of the many police officers who patrol the Westheimer area on weekend nights. After reading your article ["High on Speed," by Lisa Gray, March 23], I was surprised that nothing was mentioned concerning the negative consequences that result from the immature and illegal behavior of street racing. You simply glamorized this activity.
Numerous deaths and injuries have occurred because of racers speeding on our streets. It's usually an innocent citizen that is injured or killed, not one of the racers.
Most police officers on Westheimer have zero tolerance when it comes to racers. I have written citations to all of the racers you have named. The article will be valuable evidence when their cases are heard in court.
It would be great if the racers had a local spot to race in a safe and legal manner. As long as they race on our city streets and jeopardize innocent citizens, many cars will be towed, many citations will be written and many racers will become familiar with the city and county jails. They can also expect higher insurance rates. It's not worth the consequences.
The next time you see two patrol cars sitting side by side in a strip mall parking lot, I can assure you they are not talking about doughnuts, as one racer in your article mentioned. They are probably counting their citations and booking blotters.
I enjoyed reading your article. I have raced on Westheimer since I was 17, and I am now 25. You would think I would outgrow it, but you can imagine the adrenaline that pumps through your veins when a Viper or 'Vette pulls up next to you and you know what is about to happen. Wow, it makes my heart beat fast just thinking about it. I guess now I pick my battles (and where they happen) a little more carefully than when I was younger, but it is still just as exciting.
Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks for an alternative viewpoint on the street scene instead of the typical rednecks with 1970 primer-gray Gremlins and beer cans pouring out of the passenger seat, running over children and elderly ladies.
Dome's No Dinosaur
I think you got it back-asswards ["Imminent Domain," by Richard Connelly, March 16]. It's not the Astrodome that's a doddering, outmoded relic; it's the ponderous and decadent new $367 million football stadium that's obsolete before it's built and has failure written all over it. In contrast, the Astrodome is sleek and refined, a true visionary concept, way ahead of its time.
In terms of architectural excellence, the new sports facilities are totally lacking in visual beauty, originality and graceful design. Enron Field can be described only as a butt-ugly money machine and an embarrassing piece of bad design, but perhaps it's the perfect sports palace for our decadent SUV Lincoln Navigator Konsumer Kulture.
Save the Astrodome! We better do it fast, before the American sports industry eats another of its young and calls it progress, chomp chomp chomp -- another billion-dollar burp!
Will the new NFL stadium be the Ninth Wonder of the World? More like the Ninth Blunder of the World, another behemoth atrocity polluting the athletic landscape of America.
Lapping It Up
The DancerDorm.com Web site was never down ["Porn at Peace," by Melissa Hung, March 9]. You were unable to view the site behind your company's firewall. You were also using a Netscape browser that was not the current version.
Had you done as instructed, you could have performed more diligent research on the site and actually talked to some of the members, who would tell you the site had been running consistently since November 18, the date of the launch.
Also, I would like you to take note that Rick's stock is at a 52-week high.
Eric Langan, president/CEO
Rick's Cabaret International, Inc.
Editor's note: We congratulate DancerDorm.com for being up and running. During the reporting for the article, multiple efforts were made from different computers to access the members' area. In one call, Langan himself was unable to get into the members' site (he explained it was a temporary problem). And Houston Press computers had no problems getting live feeds from other Web-cam porn sites.
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