From McVicker, That Was a Compliment
Steve McVicker's report ["Death of an Informant," July 24] was okay, but it was too long. His referring to a certain bar as a "dimly lit dive" is a sorry bit. I am a customer of that bar and that was an insult to the owner and to the other customers who go there. Mr. McVicker needs to get a life.
Come Back, Paul
Please thank Paul Galvani for "Grade A" [Cafe, August 7]. What wonderful, and well-deserved, publicity for the Conrad N. Hilton College and UH. I have been an avid reader of the Houston Press for several years now and hope that Paul will continue to come back to Barron's to dine as often as I read the Press (once a week -- every Thursday). Send other employees of the Press, too!
I read with interest Tim Fleck's obituary for a bunch of trees [The Insider, "Woodman, Whack That Tree!", July 31]. The grief expressed by the environmental terrorist group Parks People was sickening. This extremist group has done more to contribute to air pollution in Houston than my old Dodge truck. Don't these wackos know that trees are the second leading cause of air pollution in Houston, according to the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission?
The picture of those felled trees was warming to the cockles of my heart, for it means cleaner air in Houston.
Man Seeking Gypsy
Regarding Jonathan Bernstein's umbrage at your use of the word "gypped" [Letters, "But Would It Be Okay If We Referred to Something as 'Jerry-Rigged'?", August 7]: Please, Jonathan, get a real job, get a real life, read Jonathan Livingston Seagull, contemplate the state of the universe and strive for a productive use of your time. Personally I've had it way up to here with PC sensibilities taking offense to every innocuous utterance that has some obscure reference to someone who's been abused and oppressed at some time in our sordid history.
America is such a difficult place to exist for the verbally oppressed these days. How can said Gypsies overcome such cruel and inhumane references to their noble and inspiring contributions to the advancement of the human spirit? But what do I know, I've never met one in my 48 years of existence.
Felix the Innocent
I write to comment on a sentence in Tim Fleck's The Insider column concerning Felix Fraga. Midway through an otherwise informed column ["Welcome to Hotel Six," August 7], Mr. Fleck wrote that Felix took "illegal" campaign contributions and "escaped" indictment, perhaps, Mr. Fleck implies, by "cooperating with the feds."
I represent Felix. My mission as Felix's lawyer was to show the prosecutor that Felix has a splendid and well-deserved reputation in the religious, business and charitable/social services community of Houston. Further, my mission was to show that Felix never intended to, and did not, violate any criminal law. I succeeded, and Felix properly was not charged.
The evidence of the prosecution clearly showed that the object of the sting -- to determine if local officials would take money for political acts -- failed miserably as to Felix. The evidence showed clearly that Felix did not and would not accept money offered for a political act. When the federal undercover operatives offered money on video and asked Felix to help the Cayman Group compel Wayne Duddlesten to provide them equity in the hotel project, Felix rejected it.
Keep in mind that Felix is the only member of the Council during the sting who was running for federal office and whose conduct was judged under the federal election law, in addition to the bribery law. Concerning the federal election law issue, the evidence showed that Felix's conduct with respect to the government's contribution to Felix's congressional campaign was not "criminal." First, Felix intended to do nothing wrong. Second, his acceptance of a cash campaign contribution from the federal operatives was an administrative, not "criminal," mistake. The federal election laws only criminalize (at the misdemeanor level) intentional conduct with respect to contributions in excess of the amount allowed by the federal election laws. This amount was not exceeded and wrongful intent did not exist.
After over a year of innuendo in the local press, the prosecutor told Felix he was only a "witness." He was subpoenaed before the federal grand jury to testify about his conduct and his alone. He appeared before the grand jury under subpoena without immunity. He testified not "against" anyone, but only to confirm what he stands for -- that public servants should not, cannot and may not accept contributions in return for political acts. I hope the media is now willing to publicize Felix as an example of an honest public servant who passed the acid test of a federal sting operation. As for those who have been indicted, Felix hopes that public judgment will presume them innocent while they await trial.
...But Just Call Him for supper, Right?
I am proud to say that I've known Judge David West since high school days. If by referring to his new practice as "the Law Offices of Judge David West" he is violating a canon of the state code of judicial conduct [The Insider, "My First Name Is Judge," July 31], then perhaps it needs to be rewritten.
A general in any branch of the military is always called "General." As well, a medical doctor is addressed as "Doctor," a minister of the church is perpetually referred to as "Father" or "Reverend" and a professor will always be "Professor," whether or not the people are still in active practice.
As for me, I'll just continue to call him "David." But I wouldn't dream of introducing him or referring to him in any other way than "Judge David West."
Carol J. Rhodes
Where GWAR Meets Ezra
We just wanted to drop Kristen Daugherty a line and say thank you for your "positive" comments regarding Soundwaves' employees [Letters, "Pro Ezra: The Great Debate Rages, July 24]. We invite her to stop by and we'll show her our Ezra Charles section, as well as our GWAR section.
Assistant manager, Montrose Soundwaves
Shiny, Happy Movie Critics
Would somebody please pull the plug on Michael Sragow's and David Kronke's egos and put the poor readers out of their misery?
This is not one of those letters where somebody fawns over a movie that has been critically pummeled. I haven't seen 187 or Picture Perfect, and probably won't. But Sragow's evisceration of 187 ["Flunking Out," July 31] and Kronke's whiny tirade against Picture Perfect ["Perfect Mess," July 31] are beneath the journalistic standards of the Press. (See, for example, Bob Burtman's excellent "Helter Shelter" in the same issue.)
Why is it that so many "new" movie critics insist upon attacking the premise of a film rather than concentrating on its execution? Sragow doesn't like either the point of view or the story that 187 seeks to tell. I feel the same way about Apocalypse Now, but I can't deny that it is a powerful, perhaps even brilliant film. Kronke seems to be expecting fluffy romantic comedies to be realistic. There has never yet been a romantic comedy that wasn't contrived. It's part of the genre. See, for example, The Philadelphia Story, When Harry Met Sally and The Truth About Cats and Dogs. Okay, so the story is based upon an illogical premise. Weren't all three of the highly touted comedies just mentioned equally illogical? Perhaps the illogical premise is intended to be a source of additional irony or humor.
The touchstone of good film criticism is that the reader comes away with a feeling for the film, whether or not he or she agrees with the reviewer's opinion. (A fine example of same is found in Elvis Mitchell's review of Spawn ["Superzero," July 31], another film I haven't seen, and probably won't.)
After digesting Sragow's and Kronke's reviews, I know more about Sragow and Kronke than I do about the films. Before deciding whether or not to see them, I will have to seek out other reviews.
The biased (as opposed to opinionated -- there is a difference) tone of the reviews is an unfortunate characteristic of many modern reviewers. Try harder next time, guys, don't make me turn to the Movie Mom.
And It's Good to Be There, Since We Didn't Know We Were There to Begin With
Thank goodness for the Houston Press. I truly miss the Houston Post, but you are the best alternative. The Chronicle is a real waste of time to me. Your paper is thought-provoking and informative. Thanks for being here.
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Down on Brown
I think that you were correct in your assessment of Lee Brown ["Lee Brown's Crown Heights Problem," by Jim Simmon, July 17]. If you want the real story of how good he actually was while he was the police chief here, ask some of the officers who served under him. You will find that he was not very well-liked because he did not stand up for his men, and that a lot of the programs that he "started" have since been stopped because they did not work. The community policing policy would have been effective if he would have let the officers do it the way that they wanted, but he kept trying to manage it from his office and it failed. He is not a person who should be put into political office when he couldn't even handle being a police chief.
In Search of a Historical Dylan
After reading John Floyd's article on Dylan [Music, "It's Alright, Ma," July 17], I realize that I'm missing some important stuff! Is the Guitars Kissing album really an album, tape or CD, and where might I look for it?