Putting 'Frisco to Shame
Having moved from Houston to San Francisco a few years ago, I sometimes forget how much I love the Houston Press.
I was in Houston for New Year's Eve and nabbed the year-end issue ["Alison Cook Looks Back at 1997: The Year That Bit," January 1], which had me dying on the plane (not literally, thank goodness).

Houston politics, politicians and other more generic lunatics have always been so colorful that they put even the freaks in San Francisco to shame. I only wish I could read it every week. I mean, when I left, Ben Reyes wasn't even an accused criminal -- not officially, anyway.

I'm still holding out for the pay-per-view kickboxing match between Whitmire and Lanier, later expanded to a battle royal with Greanias, Carolyn Farb, Lynn Wyatt and the Sakowitz family.

Keep up the great and totally hilarious work. Don't let Lee Brown get away with anything.

Matt Ray
via Internet

But Would Phil Gramm See It That Way?
There is no question that it was naive and perhaps more than just a little arrogant for Roland Garcia to believe that the fact that his brother is a drug dealer serving a prison term for murder would not surface during Roland's quest for the post of U.S. Attorney ["Sin of Omission," by Richard Connelly, December 18]. After all, every good trial lawyer knows that you deal with the "smoking gun" up front before your opponent force-feeds it down your throat when you least expect it. It would seem that the more relevant question is, would Roland have been a better choice for this position had his brother been an altar boy rather than someone cooling his heels in a federal prison? Hardly. A thinking society judges a person on the merits of his or her own accomplishments, not on the failings of others. There is nothing naive or arrogant about demanding anything less.

I have not seen or spoken with Roland in the number of years since I served on an outreach committee for the homeless while Roland was president of the Texas Young Lawyers Association. This is by way of explanation that I am not part of some letter-writing campaign to save either Roland's hide or his nomination. It is just patently offensive and painful to watch a man of Roland's integrity and character be hung out to dry the way he has been for someone else's misdeeds.

It is true that, to some extent, we are all our brother's keepers. But enough already! Would that we all had such unblemished lives that we could afford to be so sanctimonious about someone else's.

Shessy S. Thomas

Waterlogged Metaphor
I beg to differ with the favorable criticism of the film Titanic in both the Press ["Schlock Poetry," by Peter Rainer, December 18] and the Chronicle.

In 1915, the world witnessed the tragic sinking of a supposedly unsinkable ship. More than 80 years later, the world is witnessing the tragic sinking of a potentially great movie. The parallels are instructive if not ominous.

The movie ship, like its predecessor, sailed out of its Hollywood harbor being dubbed "unsinkable." Its keel was laid on studio money, its director was bankable, its budget astronomical, the buzz formidable and the promotion gargantuan. Unfortunately, the pashas and pooh-bahs in the Hollywood power structure were lulled by these glassy-sea superlatives: Ahead lay a massive iceberg that would send her and her gashy sides straight to her watery grave.

The ship, we are told, could sustain flooding to four of her watertight compartments and still stay afloat; a fifth would doom her and damn her.

In the first compartment lay a weak and implausible story line. The water poured in. In the second compartment, the dialogue was silly and insipid. There were "savory sallets" in the lines, no gay ripostes or brilliant repartee. The jokes, like old porcelain, were weak and cracked. The water poured in.

In the third compartment, the lead roles were played by what appeared to be models for the latest hip-hop line of designer clothing, rather than serious practitioners of their craft. The water poured in.

In the fourth compartment were no underlying dramatic subplots to heighten and intensify the thrust of the story line. The agua poured in.

In the fifth compartment there was no linkage of the tragedy to some universal pathos that transcended the setting. The agua poured in. The ship began to go down by the head. There weren't enough lifeboats for everyone. Only a third of the passengers were saved (the special effects were worth about one-third of the admission price). I was personally trapped amidships. I had foolishly chosen not to sit in an aisle seat from which I could have headed for the lifeboats. I was forced to sit to the silly ending, and drowned in a sea of hype and hyperbole.

At the official inquiry, the sob-sister American Media Establishment did its best to gloss over the horrifying spectacle. Tons and tons of dollars, they pointed out, had been spent on a detailed re-creation of the ship. The fact that this sodden monstrosity now lay 3,000 meters below a plausible artistic surface did not faze them in the least. Was it Shakespeare who said something about suffering fools gladly? In this case, we have welcomed them with a red carpet and a military band.

Don't rational, intelligent Houstonians deserve something better than special effects, video-game, teenybopper Hollywood and, equally puzzling, the pandering film-critic fops who help to prop up the movie's woozy, wobbling, adolescent, film-flammery existence?

Thomas H. Smith

Missing Movies
Grouchy old Peter Rainer confounds the local reading public once again by giving the number one slot on his year-end top ten list [Film, January 1] to a film [Hamsun] that was not reviewed by your publication, or at least does not appear in your archives. Neither do at least two other films: A Self Made Hero and Riding the Rails. Yours truly could also find no mention of three other films found in the other critics' lists: Nightjohn, The Designated Mourner and Schizopolis. If it is absolutely necessary to have three film critics that live nowhere near this market (I believe all reside in California), at least do your readers the courtesy of some information about these films.

P.S. Conspiracy Theory the ninth-best film of the year?
Jim Bongwater
via Internet

Burtman Honored
Houston Press staff writer Bob Burtman was one of several Houston journalists honored at the First Amendment Awards banquet staged this week by the Houston Trial Lawyers Foundation. Burtman was cited for his work at the Press in 1997. The award carried a $1,000 prize.

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