If you've ever asked yourself, as you've watched the post-Katrina morass of incompetence and violence that has engulfed New Orleans, whether that city has suffered enough, you have your answer. And that answer is "no."
N'awlins, get ready for...the magical world of Lee P. Brown!
Brown, who was Atlanta's public-safety commissioner during a famously inept serial-murder investigation, who was New York's police commissioner during the ineptly handled Crown Heights riots, who was Houston mayor while the HPD crime lab was run...eptly? Guess again!...has been hired to solve New Orleans' massive violent-crime problem.
Lee P. Brown
If his time here is any indication, Brown will implement a two-pronged attack. He will a) bore everyone to death, using content-less, clich-filled, charisma-free speeches to put criminals into a stupor; and b) take a lot of taxpayer-funded out-of-town trips. We're sure Rome and London need to be studied closely for tips on how to stop Ninth Ward gangbangers.
Brown told the Louisiana Weekly that "there is no silver bullet that is going to say that this is going to be done tomorrow...Working together, you can get the job done."
We're kind of surprised Brown didn't mention making New Orleans "a world-class city," but it's still early.
New Orleans seems to be slightly underwhelmed by the announcement.
"I haven't a clue if this guy is going to do any good. I hope he does," said Spud McConnell, popular talk-show host at the city's WWL-AM. "Lord knows we've had enough people come over here, get a big paycheck for giving their opinion and then walking away."
CB Forgotston, a blogger who closely follows the crime wave at www.forgotston.com, also is skeptical. "In Louisiana, [it's not] that we lack plans...We don't need any more plans, frankly. I think what we lack in New Orleans is implementation and common sense," he says.
Forgotston, a lawyer and community activist, doesn't seem blown away by the dynamism that is Lee P. Brown: "He's going to take six months to study it, 'maximum.' And, you know, maximum always becomes a minimum. So my point is: How many people are going to die between now and the next six months, while we're waiting on a plan?"
We don't know, CB. But we do know that now when it happens, Lee Brown will be there with a platitude to make everything seem better.
Houston's gay community, and straights who are interested in it, lost a voice January 17. The Houston Voice, to be exact.
Window Media, a chain of gay publications based in Washington, D.C., announced it was shutting down the 30-plus-years-old publication immediately.
"We just couldn't seem to find the answer to the puzzle," says Jake Spencer, publisher of the chain's Washington Blade. "The market has changed over the years...I think it's shrunk and I don't know why. We did the best we could and tried everything we could and couldn't come up with a winning combination."
The Voice had gone through a string of editors recently, and three months ago it changed from being a weekly to a glossy monthly. Nothing seemed to attract advertisers, though.
Spencer says the chain's other publications -- in D.C., Atlanta and Florida -- are "thriving," and there are no plans to close them.
"Maybe more and more [gays] are moving out of Montrose and they don't have access to the paper," Spencer says. "I just can't say."
Luckily, Houston still has OutSmart magazine, which seems to be doing well.
"Thursday was a sad day for the GLBT community and Houston media in general," says OutSmart editor Tim Brookover of the closing.
He disagrees the gay market's shrinking. "There's no doubt that this is an exceptionally challenging period for media, and especially print media," he says. "But...we see increased opportunities for ad sales, and did even before the Voice shuttered."
Let's hope so.
Old Is New Again
Since the days of the first Reagan administration, the Montrose vintage-clothing store Wear It Again, Sam has been a hipster institution. Until 2001, that is, when it closed.
This weekend it gets reborn, moving to the Heights.
Original owner Sam Van Bibber, along with new co-owner Jessica Barnes, offered this concise history of the shop:
Van Bibber: I closed...because of a motorcycle accident, and a lot of other shit happened, like the landlady went crazy and decided she could go to tattoo parlors and get more money.
Barnes: Do you really want that in the article?
Van Bibber: I don't care, it's true. She's dead now, anyway.
Geez, the vintage-clothing business is cold.
At any rate, the new Wear It Again, Sam has been unofficially open for a little bit but celebrates its grand reopening January 27 on the 19th Street strip. Fashion show, local artists performing, etc.
And, of course, the clothes. (The Members Only jackets and fingerless gloves that were all the rage when the store opened in 1984 are vintage now, we guess.) Van Bibber says she'll continue to bring the cool: "It's a new store," she says, "but it's still the old store because I'm here and I'm Sam."
Not Coming Here Soon
The New York Times recently reported on a phenomenon that is gaining popularity across the country -- electric companies that make it easier for consumers to schedule their usage around the times when it's cheapest to do so.
Most people don't know it, since utility bills use average prices when they list how much you're being charged, but the cost of electricity can vary widely throughout the day. Use that dishwasher during a peak time and it will cost you perhaps 37 cents a kilowatt hour; do it at a different time and it may cost less than a penny per kilowatt hour.
The utilities know a day ahead when those expensive times will be, so in places like Chicago they e-mail or otherwise notify customers, who then can take advantage of the information.
Not that that's good news for everybody. "Flattening out the peaks would be disastrous for some power plant owners, which could go bankrupt if the profit they get from peak prices were to ebb significantly," the Times wrote.
So how soon will it be before Reliant Energy, Houston's main electricity provider, jumps on this bandwagon?
Not anytime soon. And luckily for them, they get to blame someone else. The "smart meters" the program requires would have to be put in by CenterPoint Energy, which provides the equipment for Houston electricity consumers, as anyone knows who's tried to solve a billing problem. Reliant and CenterPoint tend to point fingers at each other in those circumstances.
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It's not that Reliant wouldn't love to sell less-profitable energy. "It is kind of counterintuitive to think that a company that makes money by selling electricity would advise customers on how to save, but we believe that's absolutely the right thing to do," says Reliant spokeswoman Pat Hammond.
Sooner or later, we guess.
Don't Judge Me
So Houston Press assistant music editor Olivia Flores Alvarez gets on the bus and the person sitting next to her asks, Where do you work? Downtown at a newspaper, she replies. Isnt that nice, the woman says. You get to clean offices instead of homes. Hey, judging peoples occupation by their looks saves time, even if you get it wrong every once in a while. See how well you can do with this, our local version of the game show Identity. Click Here.