The poorest of taste: I'm not sure which is more despicable, the comic itself [The City, May 25], the timing (did you not know it was Memorial Day weekend, or did you just not give a shit?), or the fact that the Houston Press chose to run it at all. Your decision to exploit those members of our armed forces who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country as a punch line to express your views on the latest hot-button issue was in the poorest of taste. It is highly doubtful that Derf even knows anyone serving overseas any closer than a friend of a friend, for surely he would have chosen a more tactful submission for the Memorial Day edition. He has no business depicting these brave men and women in such a callous manner; it simply validates what many people have known all along: that he is a first-class asshole.
I may not agree with many of the opinions expressed in other political cartoons such as This Modern World, but at least that strip is intelligent, insightful and thought-provoking -- everything The City is not. I implore the Houston Press to replace this ass-wipe of a comic strip with anything remotely resembling wit, humor or satire. This is not a matter of censorship or freedom of speech, it is a matter of taste and class. While it is true that I read The City every week, don't flatter yourself, Derf. It is the equivalent of passing by an open sewer hole -- one can't help but wonder what sort of shit lies within. Any idiot can piss off the masses with his pen (such as the droll Danish comics who so enraged the Muslim world), but it takes someone with actual wit and intellect to make people stop and think. You would be well advised to take a lesson from the creator of This Modern World and learn a thing or two, but sadly, I don't think you're that intelligent or talented. I hope you had a nice Memorial Day.
Who's the Idiot?
Uninspired: The Ray Hafner article on Green Day [The Abattoir, Wack, April 20], much like his comment on the album American Idiot, was "completely uninspired." The premise -- that if a band is successful in terms of album sales, then their music is subpar --plays to the stereotype of music critics. The author seems to detest unoriginality in music, so why does he not give an original assessment of Green Day's music and history?
This article (much like the John Nova Lomax piece on American Idiot) lacks a clear description of the band's roots and the influence of West Coast punk; i.e., Operation Ivy. Green Day is not the only reason for the proliferation of "pop-punk" and the many mediocre bands that fill the airwaves. Neither is pop-punk the sole invention of Green Day, and plenty of bands outside the mainstream can be described as such.
Green Day has continuously put out records with great pop songs. Their live shows are entertaining and energetic. Many new bands have tried to break into the mainstream by copying Green Day's sound/act, but none can sound exactly like Green Day. This is precisely what makes them worth listening to, the fact that they are not Simple Plan or New Found Glory.
I'm more than happy to buy Green Day's albums as long as they keep putting them out. I'm also glad to know that future generations of angst-ridden teenagers will be exposed to Green Day's albums and live shows.
He's a Horseman
Disappointed: Since I was present with Josh Harkinson at Kaufman, and was mentioned prominently in his article "Horse Flesh" [April 13], I would like a chance to reply. Harkinson assured me that he was going to take a balanced approach to the article, and he did indeed cover most arguments from both sides. But I found parts of the article disappointing in several respects.
The subtitle "Texas struggles with what to do with its overabundance of Equus caballus, while Europeans wait with open mouths" was a most unfortunate acquiescence to the myth that horse slaughter is somehow based on, and a solution to, the "unwanted horse" problem. I would have thought that his coverage of the rescue of an emaciated and truly unwanted horse would have made him realize the stark contrast between that horse and those in the kill pens. But he apparently failed to recognize that the problem of unwanted horses is a completely separate issue from horse slaughter.
Perhaps my biggest disappointment was that Harkinson played to the fears of the agriculture community by reinforcing the stereotype of people in the battle against horse slaughter as "animal rights" vegans with an agenda to stop all slaughter. He describes me as a "robotics expert" but does not mention that I have owned horses for more than 40 years and live on a rural farm. But the line that came across to me as a cheap shot was when he said we "celebrated over vegetarian pizza." This implied that we are all vegetarians, which he knew was not true. I am not one, and neither is Jerry Finch.
The deeper issue here is the fear that the demise of the horse slaughter industry will lead to an assault on the slaughter of traditional meat animals. I am amazed at how many rational people buy in to that fear. Even if we had that agenda, it would be pure folly to try to advance it in a society that loves meat as much as America does.
The horse slaughter issue can be boiled down to this. Three plants kill a lot of American horses that are bought at auction, and they sell their meat in Europe. Their incestuous corporate shell structure allows them to hide their huge profits in Europe so they don't have to pay American taxes. This leaves them with lots of money to manipulate our legal system and avoid attempts to shut them down through the democratic process.
Add to this the fear of the meat-producing industry that ending horse slaughter would embolden the vegan army they imagine marching toward them, and you have an industry whose ability to survive in the midst of a democratic culture that deeply despises it is remarkable. As much as I may wish otherwise, the "victory" in Kaufman was simply one of a community over an irresponsible, polluting, foreign-owned corporation and not really a significant one in the battle against horse slaughter. If the federal ban (the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act HR-503) is not passed by Congress, Dallas Crown will simply relocate and continue to slaughter horses and subvert our democracy.
Harkinson did make it crystal clear that the overwhelming majority of Americans want this abuse to stop, and for that I do thank him.
The May 25 feature, "Gator Aid," incorrectly stated that scuba tanks are filled with liquid oxygen. Most scuba tanks use conventional air (a mix of mostly oxygen and nitrogen), which is pressurized in gas, not liquid, form.
And two names were misspelled in the Hair Balls item "Bungalow Power," on June 1, 2006. Robin Franklin, not Ron, is the head of the Houston Heights Association, and Sheila Sorvari, not Sovari, is head of Save the Bungalows.
The Houston Press regrets the errors.
Round 'Em Up
The Houston Press makes its mark twice over
Several staffers as well as the Houston Press itself recently received recognition from the Western Publishing Association in its annual magazine awards competition called the Maggies.
And in another writing acknowledgement, Press food writer Robb Walsh has been notified that his review "Spy v. Spy" has been selected for inclusion in the anthology The Best Food Writing 2006.
In the Maggies, staff writer Craig Malisow was a finalist in two categories. He was cited for "Exposed Nerve" in the Best News Story/Consumer category and for "Dr. Nice" in the Best Public Service Series or Article/Trade or Consumer category.
Staff writer Josh Harkinson was a finalist in Best News Story/Consumer category for "Wretched Excess."
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Staff writer Todd Spivak was a finalist in the Best Public Service Series or Article/Trade or Consumer category for "Overstimulated."
Staff photographer Daniel Kramer was a finalist for Best Single Editorial Photograph/Consumer for his photograph of a woman shaving her injured husband accompanying the story "Who Cares?"
The Press was a finalist for Best Consumer Tabloid for the issue of August 11, 2005.
The Maggies competition is open to publications west of the Mississippi.