Grade Charade
The TAAS test should be a comprehensive barometer of a student's scholastic aptitude ["The Fix Is In," by Shaila Dewan, February 25]. By someone's changing the answers given, students have no idea how much they are learning. While improved scores may translate to more funding for a particular school, they shortchange a child's education. It would be a shame to see children passing tests without being able to read the questions. Aren't these kids worthy of the truth? You bet they are.

Chris McKown
via Internet

Test Answer
The beast of a law that has Texas education cornered is the section in Texas SB 1 which mandates, "...a statewide assessment program [TAAS] that is primarily performance-based." This one statement is forcing Texas, as we speak, to transform its TAAS tests from objectively scored instruments into subjectively scored assessments (What do you think...? How do you feel...?).

The legislature could set our schools on the right path just by changing the wording to read "primarily knowledge-based." Then tests would be based upon knowledge skills with right or wrong answers -- an essential requirement for such a high-stakes, state-mandated test.

When multimillion-dollar real estate deals are decided upon a school district's TAAS scores, the idea of subjectively scored test questions will only lead to further erosion of the public's confidence in the TAAS data.

Donna Garner
via Internet

Cult-ivating Followers
Insider: This article ["The Devil, You Say?" by Tim Fleck, February 25] is such a refreshing change from Mark Smith's stolid, redundant, narrowly focused reports in the Houston Chronicle!

Lynn Crook
via Internet

Eating It Up
Until today, I have never cut out an article written by any of your staff and belabored my friends with bits of it as they were trying to eat their lunches. Brian Wallstin's article "Fatal Illness Claims Renaissance" [February 25] was cleverly written and told the tale well.

Toni Rudersdorf
via Internet

Buy and Bye
When I heard what Houston Renaissance was doing a few years ago, I started buying property. I work for a living and make only a decent wage, but I was able to borrow a little bit here and there. When all was said and done, I owned one nice house, two small buildings and a six-unit apartment, all in the Fourth Ward area. Am I to believe that Houston Renaissance, which had all that money, doesn't own half of the ward by now? What a sad, sad situation. Shame on Lanier, Julio and all the rest involved.

Jack Holman
via Internet

Abuse of Power
Your article [Insider, by Tim Fleck, February 18] on City Councilman Michael Yarbrough is one of the reasons I appreciate the Houston Press. You presented facts and issues with frankness, substance and clarity. I can relate to Ms. Smith and how the councilman took advantage of her.

I experienced something along these lines. Yup. The creep is still there, too. I guess these kinds of men like us inexperienced girls. And, if allowed, they use anyone (and their money) to slide into positions of power.

Thank you for presenting the story. I believe it. Keep up the good work.
Name withheld by request
via Internet

Crayon Compulsive
I share Wendy Grossman's concern for oppressed minorities ["Eh Oh," February 18] but wish to draw attention to the one oppressed group which both the Gay Coalition and the Press have pretended to ignore: Men who use crayons as sexual objects.

Typically these men are made the object of ridicule, derision and job discrimination, for example: an Air Force major who required surgical removal of the crayon. He was referred to me for a psychiatric evaluation to determine whether it was safe for him to work with atomic munitions. I explained to the Air Force that there is a difference between crayons and nuclear devices and recommended that he be returned to duty. Another psychiatrist opined that because he lost control of the crayon, he might lose control of a Type M nuclear device and destroy, say, downtown Vladivostok, thus ending his career.

Society should afford these men equal protection under law. They harm no one by what they do with consenting crayons in the privacy of their own homes. Moreover, little boys who wish to play with crayons should be taught in school to "find themselves" (but to not discriminate among crayons of different colors).

Readers who wish to learn more about these subjects should watch for subliminal messages of PBS's Couch.

John D. Griffith, M.D.

I find it hard to keep my composure after reading Stuart Eskenazi's "rendition" of what Texas Monthly is all about ["Why Are These Men Dull?" February 4]. I happen to love the magazine and feel it's better than ever. It almost seems that the author of this Houston Press article is jealous of Mike Levy's success. Perhaps Texas Monthly would be interested in hiring Mr. Eskenazi as an assistant editor.  

Sarah Stephensen
via Internet

Rid of Rodman
Thanks so much for your article on Texas Monthly. My husband and I were wondering if we were the only ones who thought that they were doing everything in their power to lose subscribers! They lost us with the cover of Dennis Rodman (Most intriguing or influential? Puh-leeeze!). Our subscription was up for renewal that month. Believe me, the renewal notice was trashed.

Kudos to Joe Nick Patoski for his initial attempt to voice his opinion about Mike Levy. Too bad he felt the need to recant. Good luck, Joe Nick! Sounds like you're gonna need it.

Ruth Clay
via Internet

Aunt Bea's Best
I have a contender for Texas Monthly in dullest journalism. It's the Houston Chronicle Lifestyle and Entertainment section. Houstonians have to endure feature-writing that seems right out of the Aunt Bea Mayberry RFD School of Journalistic Writing. Recent offerings include a story about an attorney who tends to the mental health of attorneys, a social club in Texas City and cell-phone safety.

I predicted that the "Best Dressed of Houston" article would be similarly dull, a dreary recitation of the volunteer activities of these ladies. It could have been a fun and interesting article with pizzazz, but that would have gone against the Chronicle's seemingly new penchant for cornpone articles.

Mary L. Bell

Running Off
With regard to the revisions to the city's development ordinance ["Inner-city Shootout," by Brian Wallstin, February 4], the increased runoff from new rooftops and concrete paving will overburden undersized storm drainage systems in the Neartown neighborhoods. The receiving streams will see the runoff more quickly during storm events and will create a greater flooding threat.

Mr. Wallstin makes a good point about the plundering of these neighborhoods for the sake of development. Intelligent development (which the ordinance should reflect) takes into consideration the capacity of the existing infrastructure before jumping headlong into the morass.

The article, sadly, shows that the development community would rather defer the need to upgrade the infrastructure and burden taxpayers and the federal flood insurance program when the waters rise later.

An enforceable comprehensive watershed management plan is needed. It will help developers and the city make intelligent decisions without compromising the lives and safety of the people they serve.

Mark Janzer
via Internet

Witch Ever
Hey! Great job [Night & Day "The Witching Hour," by Lauren Kern, February 11]. It's about time that young pagans had a place to go and learn about their religion and the responsibilities of being pagan. And your positive spin on our beliefs makes me happy to be a reader of the Houston Press! Like we said in the Navy, "Bravo Zulu!" Brightest blessings to all.

Todd Rainer
via Internet

Crafting Coverage
Thank goodness for a nonsensational type of article on something decent being done by the local witches. Here witches are trying to steer young people clear of the stupidity of Hollywood images of the gentle religion of witchcraft. Reality is so much more satisfying than the hokey fakery of Hollyweird. It is sad that distortion is considered entertainment in the movies.

It is even sadder when the news media follow the same route to create more entertaining news. So I want to thank you for writing a fair article without the need to dress it up to make it more noticeable and salable. Things have generally improved in the media since I started in the craft 16 years ago. All religions should be treated with fairness and without stereotyping.

Christopher Blackwell
via Internet

Interracial Raves
I want to compliment you on a beautiful article on an "inter-ethnic" couple: Jamey Lacy and William July ["Book of Love, by Wendy Grossman, February 11]. They were so cute I could not resist cutting out their picture and posting it on our office board in the spirit of sharing their love with others in the office.

Inter-ethnic marriages promote evolution of mankind in various facets. Genetically, the gene pool is bigger and better and tends to protect offspring against certain disease conditions. Socially, it portends to eliminate future racial rancor since it would be almost impossible to discriminate against any part of oneself.

I love interracial couples a lot. More power to 'em.
Name withheld by request
via Internet

True Believers
I commend Wendy Grossman on her excellent story on William July. As fellow writers we have no doubt she will produce some phenomenal work in her lifetime.  

I would like to clarify a few items. The chapter "Does Love Have a Color?" in his book Brothers, Lust and Love did not match the tone of awareness and depth of the other chapters. I have absolutely no problem with a man of color not dating outside of his ethnicity. I just feel that those who open their lives only to people of one single culture or heritage are limiting their horizons. This is not meant to deter from our own individual heritage. In the second edition of Brothers, William chose to revise that chapter.

While it is surely a good and wonderful thing to have his family and "significant other" believe in him, the best thing is that William July believes in himself and our loving Creator, and that unmistakable strength and insight come forth in his books.

J.S. Lacy

Brain Drain
Alex Golubitsky is obviously the academic exception at Lamar High School ["Fighting the Power," by Wendy Grossman, January 28]. But what a waste of time, energy and taxpayer money on this sad little case of vindictiveness toward a kid who showed up Principal James McSwain.

My only concern about this case is that Alex is using a belief in Communism/socialism to fight for democratic rights. In a Communist country such as China or Cuba, Alex would not be able to use the law and human rights to save him. The first time he smarts off to someone in authority there, it's off to prison or they put a bullet in his brain right then.

Alex's favorite band lyric -- Rage Against the Machine's "Fuck you, I won't do what you told me!" -- is not just an antiauthority anthem for rebel teens. It opposes everything Alex believes in when it comes to Communism. The band works to fight political and creative mind control in Communist countries. Free Tibet!

Jessica Dailey
via Internet

Humble PI
Regarding your story on the arrest of Alex Golubitsky, I think it totally stinks that a student (or anyone for that matter) can be arrested for not breaking the law. The officer either does not know his laws very well or did it just to harass Alex. In either case, the officer should be reprimanded and someone (city or school) should be forced to reimburse the family for the money spent.

About a year ago I was pulled from a car (I was a passenger) and arrested. When I asked the officer why, he simply stated PI [public intoxication]. I responded that I had not had a single drink, and he said, "Who do you think the judge will believe, me or you?" He was basically admitting that he was just arresting me to harass me, but what was I going to do about it?

I spent the night in jail and filed a complaint with Metro Police internal affairs. Surprise! They found no wrongdoing.

Name withheld by request
via Internet

Color of Authority
The ordeal faced by Lamar High School student Alex Golubitsky raises troubling questions about the Constitution's guarantees against unreasonable searches and prohibitions on government officials' retaliating against outspoken individuals.

Golubitsky's parents should be lauded for assisting their son in appealing his suspension. State and federal law enforcement officials should investigate administrators for possible criminal conspiracy and oppression under color of authority.

One need not agree with Golubitsky's views nor approve of his past conduct to feel outrage over the injustice perpetrated against him. It is refreshing to learn of a young person who is not afraid to publicly express radical left-wing views in Houston's oppressively right-wing political environment.

As he matures, his intelligence, wit and social consciousness should enable him to become a productive citizen. His adversaries should not be permitted to permanently brand him with a felony arrest record based on a false premise.

Daniel Adams

Riled over Reiki
These people who want to regulate the fee charged for elevating a Reiki practitioner to master are trying to control and keep the field elitist [Insider, by Tim Fleck, January 14]. I am a Reiki III (master). If I had had to pay $10,000, it would not have been possible. We are a single-income military family. I stay home to raise my children.

According to these people, since I do not have the huge sum they request, then obviously I am not the "right kind of person" to practice Reiki. That is about as far from the concept of Reiki as one can get. I thank God that I do not live in Texas. But if this legislation passes, then Florida might be next, eh? Pretty scary.

Adrienne Fischer
Satellite Beach, Florida  

Way-out Reiki
I must admit that one of the catch phrases in your article raised my blood pressure just a bit (Reiki masters wanting to apply their "special killing touch" to the bill). But overall you produced a very balanced article, and I commend you for seeking out someone as qualified to speak for the larger Reiki community as Emily Laurel.

I am a 53-year-old high-tech trainer with a large manufacturing company in Austin. I recently took Reiki I training over the Internet from someone whom I highly respect.

I find it interesting how tidbits of far-out, unbelievable stuff are sprinkled here and there in some Reiki material. A case in point is the material you cited about the White Brotherhood and seven emerald rays. In a Reiki book -- one that is quite good for the most part -- the author explains her belief that we are descended from space aliens! This really turned me off.

But I decided that I didn't have to agree with every belief of an individual in order to read her book and possibly benefit from it. What I am suggesting is: Don't let stupid stuff like emerald rays keep you from exploring the subject with an open mind.

Again, thanks for your well-rounded article, and keep up the great work.
Donald Smith
via Internet

On to Emerald Rays
As a Reiki master teacher, I am appalled at the state's trying to regulate a Spiritual Energy Modality that comes from God! Especially since its very core essence is based upon spirituality.

It would take a vast amount of money to retrain with a member of Reiki Alliance or Reiki Touch just to become registered by the state. That would drive many Reiki masters and practitioners from their benevolent work and invalidate the energy that God has given to us to help mankind spiritually. Why would the state wish to put itself in this kind of situation when there is no clear propensity to do so?

Another very important fact about this bill is that when one studies second- or third-degree Reiki, he is given "sacred symbols." The recipient must agree not to reveal them to anyone not of the same level. A Reiki master does not discuss this sacred process, much like any religious group would hesitate to open its sacred practices to the state.

Rev. Lance Winters, Reiki Master-Teacher
via Internet

Congrats, you were dead-on with your article about security ["False Sense of Security," by Steve McVicker, December 31]. I work as a security guard at a "premier" account here in Houston. The level of criminality/borderline illegal behavior among guards sickens me. They openly brag of stealing things from the client and of how they got away with their criminal pasts' not being discovered.

I myself have been through the recruiting process and can tell you that everything -- the background check, the psych profile -- was done with a wink and a nod. Any fears of not passing were answered with a smile and, "Don't worry, we'll take care of you."

The security managers couldn't care less whether we are protecting the client. All they care about is what the client perceives -- in other words, what it looks like.

Name withheld by request
via Internet

Off with the Head
I think it is a disservice to Patrick Zone and Sonoma's to have to share the article on his new restaurant with the headline of a restaurant that has failed ["Dacapo's School for Success," by Margaret L. Briggs, February 18]. Especially when Patrick is an excellent manager. Shame on you! Run to the light, Ms. Briggs!

Stephanie Moore
via Internet

Tilman the Terrible?
It's not just your publication, but also the Galveston paper and the Houston Chronicle that I have a beef with [Dish, by Margaret L. Briggs, February 18]. How come every article I read about Mr. Fertitta depicts him as this great and powerful businessman and the focus is on what great things he is doing and nothing else?

Landry's Seafood Restaurants, Inc. is not Fertitta's company. It is a public company owned by the shareholders. Yes, Fertitta is the founder and CEO, but he only owns 8.6 percent of the stock. That company has not been doing well lately. The stock has dropped from about $30 to $7 a share. Why no mention of that? Landry's has been laying off employees. That Kemah Waterfront development everybody is gushing about has cost the company over $60 million!

Please tell at least some of the truth about this man. An awful lot of people have lost quite a bit of money investing in "his" company!

Mitchell Gustafson
via Internet

Get Unreal!
Who wants to pay to see real life when average people live it every day of their lives ["Oh, Sister," by Jean Oppenheimer, February 25]. I personally thought The Other Sister was wonderful in that the mentally challenged were played with dignity and care. It is the best movie I have seen of late. Sorry you are so uptight that you could not enjoy a feel-good movie!  

Nancy Hopkins
via Internet

Justice for Jimi
Your review of Live at the Filmore East [Rotation, by Anthony Mariani, February 25] shows a lack of knowledge of musical history. The shows offered us a glimpse into Hendrix's roots in the groove and connected the link with what later became funk as we know it today.

What James Brown, Sly Stone and Miles Davis were exploring, Hendrix added his stroke to that canvas of American music.

You degrade the importance of the rhythm section of Billy Cox and Buddy Miles. Cox was a bass player steeped in knowledge of R&B backbeat grooves.

This album is important musical history. How can we evolve if we don't explore? And this was an exploration and an evolution whether you like it or not.

G. Grigsby
via Internet

Incomparable Hendrix
I have to take issue with Anthony Mariani's review of the Jimi Hendrix recording. Mariani thinks that the music on this album sucks, even though he admits that Hendrix's playing is, for the most part, "exceptional." This language is contradictory and an oxymoron. The music will probably appeal primarily to hardcore Hendrix enthusiasts or students of rock/blues guitar. Accordingly, I could not fault anyone for choosing not to buy this particular album.

What I find most disturbing is Mariani's sweeping proclamation that Hendrix and the Band of Gypsies, in general, did not make good music. The original recording from this concert is considered a masterpiece.

If you love live recordings of Jimi Hendrix, a man considered by most to be the best electric guitar player ever, the original Band of Gypsies is one of the best. Just be careful not to compare it with this new release, as Mr. Mariani did!

Gary Freeman
via Internet

Beating the Rap
I was very impressed with Craig D. Lindsey's article on the Houston rap scene ["That's the Breaks," February 11]. There was a time when no one at the Houston Press would have cared to address the topic at all.

While I do agree there should be more diversity in the music, it can't be denied that so-called gangsta rap has sustained many a mom-and-pop and major chain store throughout this city. Just ask Southwest Wholesale. At its very essence, gangsta is soul music personified. Some of it's good, and some bad. Whatever the description, it's always pure and straight from the heart. I can truly say that gangsta is here to stay, like it or not.

Ted R. Williams
via Internet

It's great to see someone in Houston giving Local H the press and credit it deserves [Music, February 18]. Bands such as Local H, Fig Dish and Triple Fast Action are keeping rock from getting stale in these days of Third Eye Blind and Matchbox 20.

D.A. Cobb
via Internet

Sounds of Slumber
Regarding Craig Lindsey's review of DJ Spooky's CD [Rotation, November 5]: Somebody better tell Lindsey to go back to sleeping at Hootie and the Blowfish concerts. That there ex-per-i-mental music done got Craig confused. If we're all lucky, the electronic scene will breathe some life into the currently stagnant U.S. music scene.

Craig, more music for you to get confused by: Meat Beat Manifesto, Adam F, Neotropic, EAR, Mouse on Mars, Photek, Tomorrowland.

Jay Brunker
via Internet

Foolish Pride
Craig Lindsey, I thought it was a very shitty write-up on us ["Devil Inside," August 20]. You are a critic, and it shows. If you are ever to have the pleasure of doing a write-up on any of my future bands, I will review it before your ass would put it into public and make us look like fools!

Charles Dean, former Mean Peace drummer
via Internet

Because of a production error, the byline inadvertently was left off from our March 11 Night &Day story "That's Some Self-help." The author was Vanessa Curto.

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