Sunset on 19th Street in the Heights.
Sunset on 19th Street in the Heights.
Photo by Marco Torres

The Most Read Arts Stories in the Houston Press in 2017

At the Houston Press, our arts coverage takes in a range of categories from the traditional arts to pop culture to philosophical musings.

Perhaps surprisingly for a publication that's part of the "alternative press,"  two of our most read stories in 2017 had to do with parenting.

We coupled that with the accounts ranging from pride in how Houston handled itself during Harvey to some bewilderment about a new state law that lets the state's residents carry around swords. The Super Bowl came to town and readers wanted to know where they could see celebrities. We kept them up to date on Doctor Who as well.

Some not so traditional art work was shown at a tilt brush art exhibit and one writer called our attention to an AstroWorld documentary while another was concerned about the changes in the Third Ward.

Some of these stories took on a life of their own and we predict several of them will become so-called long tails. Others were momentary wonders, delightful in that time, but probably won't be read years from now. Sometimes living in the now, though, is not to be underrated.

So go ahead and have a look. To read the complete story, click on the headline. And enjoy yourself. There's some fine writing here.

Pictured: How I feel.
Pictured: How I feel.

Teach Your Daughters to Hit People Who Touch Them

JEF ROUNER | NOVEMBER 2, 2017

There’s an old saying that violence never solves anything. I’m going to quote Robert A. Heinlein here; Starship Troopers, if you need to know.

Anyone who clings to the historically untrue and thoroughly immoral doctrine that violence never settles anything I would advise to conjure up the ghosts of Napoleon Bonaparte and the Duke of Wellington and let them debate it. The ghost of Hitler could referee and the jury might well be the Dodo, the Great Auk, and the Passenger Pigeon. Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. Breeds that forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and their freedoms.

The #MeToo campaign has touched me deeply in many ways. Partly because I was myself the victim of sexual assault by a male relative. Partly because covering rape culture has been a staple of my work for many years. And yes, partly because I have a daughter. No, I didn’t start caring about feminism just because she was born and I had an epiphany that women were people too. However, I do live constantly with the fear of her entering a world that treats her gender as objects and second-class citizens. If you think that’s not the case, would you kindly just call me a cuck in the comments and piss off? The adults who can read graphs are talking.

I used to tell her that when someone was being mean to her she should inform a teacher. That’s what we always tell children. Authority is the answer. It makes sense. We are authority to them. Mother (and by proxy Father) is the name for God on the lips and hearts of all children, as James O’Barr once said.

Lately, though, I have been wondering. Is it right to teach our daughters that authority is the answer to problems that afflict them, particularly ones that are sexual in nature? Let’s review ...

Blades of all types and sizes.
Blades of all types and sizes.
Photo by Chris Lane

Texas Drops Its Knife Restrictions. Prepare to Carry a Sword!

CHRIS LANE | JULY 5, 2017

Of all the tools humans use, knives might be the most basic. For a long time Texas had many restrictions on what a citizen could legally carry, but in recent years the laws governing knives have been much less strict. In 2013 it became legal to possess a switchblade, and in 2015 a law was passed that removed all local knife ordinances more restrictive than Texas state law.

Recently, House Bill 1935 was signed into law, making it legal to carry pretty much any edged weapon (or tool, depending on who you ask) a person wants. It removes dirks, stilettos, daggers, swords, spears, poniards and Bowie knives from Texas statute, with only a small amendment added to prevent such items from being carried in places like bars and colleges.

This is a major victory for fans of knives, particularly those that are more…“exotic”…(I've always wanted to carry a poniard around like a renaissance duelist), and a pointy blow to anyone who gets nervous when a guy walks by carrying a broadsword. So what kind of “knives” can one easily carry come September 1, when the new law goes into effect? I headed down to a local sporting goods store to see ...

Volunteers at NRG Center
Volunteers at NRG Center
Photo by Jack Gorman

How Hurricane Harvey Taught the World About Houston

As a lifelong Houstonian, I know two things. First, there will be flood. It is the nature of our topography and climatology that downpours will occasionally inundate the city with water. Not like what we witnessed during Hurricane Harvey, obviously, but it happens.

Second, no one really understands Houston. This is not to say we are misunderstood. Places like New York City and Miami, with their complex socio-economic structures and glitzy, made-for-TV images are misunderstood. To be misunderstood, you must first be known and Houston, despite being the fourth largest city in the country (something a lot of people don't know), remains a mystery to most who don't live here.

When I speak to people who have never been to Houston, I hear the assumptions. Most believe us to be a bit like the Old West: dry, sprawling and filled with guns and cattle. Some still think we all own oil wells. We all must wear boots and ten-gallon hats. We drive big trucks and work for oil companies (well, not everything is inaccurate). It paints a picture, not a terribly flattering one, of what Houston is and, more importantly, who Houstonians are.

Despite all the glossy magazine stories and glowing reports on Houston's diversity, thriving culinary scene, world-class art museums and cutting-edge healthcare, no one gets us. We have remained an enigma. Until Harvey.

It took Harvey to help people understand the sheer size of the region ...

A portrait my daughter did of our family.
A portrait my daughter did of our family.
Photo by Jef Rouner

Five Things Not to Say to Parents With Only One Kid

JEF ROUNER | OCTOBER 5, 2017

I have a daughter. She’s the only child my wife and I are ever going to have thanks to a combination of laser surgeries for endometriosis, the fact that getting bodyslammed in a wrestling ring isn’t good for the motility of your sperm, and the cost of in vitro fertilization. She’s it. My wife and I are fine with that.

However, people get…weird about it sometimes. They seem to think having an only child is some sort of aberration, and it leads to a lot of passive-aggressive comments. Don't say these things to single-child parents.

5. Don’t You Want More?
That is a very loaded question. Maybe we did and couldn’t have more. Maybe we did and they died. Maybe we’re one of those couples Republicans always go on about that “only have the number of kids we can afford.” Not that there needs to be a reason, but if there is, the reason may be painful ...

ChiqueGeeks respond to the "Save Gallifrey" scene in "Day of The Doctor."
ChiqueGeeks respond to the "Save Gallifrey" scene in "Day of The Doctor."

The Beauty of Doctor Who Reaction Videos

JEF ROUNER | AUGUST 4, 2017

My favorite video of all time regarding Doctor Who isn't a clip of the show. It isn't even one of those fan-made compilations, although if you want to see a really good one I've been playing on a loop, it's this one, "Just See Me." No, it's the one linked in the above photo credit, a compilation of fan reactions to one of the most iconic moments in the revived series, when the 13 Doctors all return to save their home planet of Gallifrey. I am thoroughly addicted to these kinds of videos.

Reaction videos are sort of a hard thing to explain, really. Why would you watch other people watching a thing you're actually watching yourself or have already watched? What is even the point?

I would argue that it's the same reason people will go see a movie that they've already seen before in the theater. It's why you sit someone down and make him or her watch just one episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It's why you carefully curate the DVDs you want to share with your kids ...

Taylor Swift will be in Houston for Super Bowl weekend. Good luck seeing her.
Taylor Swift will be in Houston for Super Bowl weekend. Good luck seeing her.
Photo by Jack Gorman

Houston’s 10 Best Places to See Celebrities During Super Bowl Week

CLINT HALE | JANUARY 25, 2017

The Super Bowl is going down at NRG Stadium on Sunday, February 5. Perhaps you’ve heard. There are some guarantees anytime a Super Bowl comes to town. Traffic will increase, hotel rates will spike and local eateries and bars will experience an influx of business. The two best teams in the league will face off, and many of their fans will descend upon the host city to root on their team.

Another thing is guaranteed during Super Bowl week – there will be celebrity sightings, and there will be many of them. These are ten places in and around town you’re likely to see a famous person or two leading up to the Big Game.

CLUB NOMADIC
Club Nomadic is basically a traveling pop-up musical venue that shows up at major events like the Super Bowl and offers up some name-brand talent. This year, the venue is hosting Sam Hunt and the Chainsmokers on Thursday and Bruno Mars on Friday. Tickets aren’t cheap, but that’s to be expected. Taylor Swift will headline a Super Bowl Eve gig at Club Nomadic, but that one is invite-only, so good luck getting in. For those fortunate enough to score a ticket/invite, and in addition to the celebrities who will actually perform, you can expect Club Nomadic to feature its fair share of celebrities in town to run elbows and cut loose. (2121 Edwards, facebook.com/ClubNomadic) ...

Toni Snow, an Acres Homes native, says she does much better stripping in Memphis or on the East Coast than clubs here in Houston.
Toni Snow, an Acres Homes native, says she does much better stripping in Memphis or on the East Coast than clubs here in Houston.
Photo courtesy of Toni Snow

Inside the World of Houston's Plus-Size Strip Clubs

CAMILO HANNIBAL SMITH | OCTOBER 16, 2017

The body-positive and size-inclusive movement has been reshaping the concept of beauty in the media for a few years now. Slender, trim and thigh-gapped are still the fashion runway and Hollywood standard, no matter how many people say it's not.

But things are changing and the idealized view of everyone from couture models, to swimsuit cover girls, to exotic dancers is taking a turn to the more body-inclusive. And that's a good thing.
Just ask Toni Snow.

Snow is an exotic dancer in Houston. She's been working in clubs for five years, and for most of that time she's been known as a BBW or plus-sized performer. It's nothing new to Houston, home to hundreds of strip clubs and a place some may say has the best offerings in the nation as far as this form of adult entertainment is concerned ...

The AstroWorld in all its glory.
The AstroWorld in all its glory.

Watch This AstroWorld Documentary on YouTube Immediately

JEF ROUNER | MARCH 28, 2017

If you’re anything like me, you still get a sour feeling in your stomach when you drive by the empty field that once held AstroWorld. The park was an enormous part of my childhood and the childhoods of millions of Houstonians and visitors.

Well, take a trip down memory lane with this new, free documentary on the park written by Jonathan Baker as part of his series on theme parks. Six Flags AstroWorld: A Cyclone of Thrills is a two-part, roughly half-hour look back at AstroWorld through historical footage and pictures, and every moment made me smile and clap like a small child.

Baker lovingly chronicles the life of the park from the day Judge Roy Hofheinz cut the ribbon with his kids in 1968 right up until the last ride on the Texas Cyclone. It’s primarily a history of how AstroWorld evolved over the years, as measured by the different ride additions. A great deal of focus is on the park's identity as a testing ground for new technologies and ride styles, a place where innovation and whimsy came together, sometimes with mixed results. I can’t be the only one who thought on a regular basis, “Huh, Sky Screamer’s stuck again.” ...

Flowers and People, Cannot be Controlled but Live Together – A Whole Year per Hour, an interactive digital installation by teamLab with sound by Hideaki Takahashi, is on view at the Moody Center for the Arts at Rice University, February 25 through August 13.
Flowers and People, Cannot be Controlled but Live Together – A Whole Year per Hour, an interactive digital installation by teamLab with sound by Hideaki Takahashi, is on view at the Moody Center for the Arts at Rice University, February 25 through August 13.
Photo courtesy of teamLab

Houston, Tilt Brush by Google Has Landed

SUSIE TOMMANEY | FEBRUARY 20, 2017

Chances are, if you can't draw worth beans now, you're not going to get any better with the Tilt Brush by Google. But this virtual reality experience is an infinitely cooler way to create three-dimensional paintings, and those who have experienced it have been blown away.

It's being installed at Rice University's new Moody Center for the Arts, which opens its doors to the public for its first full day on February 25. "You put on a virtual-reality headset and there's a handheld device that works like a paintbrush and palette, and you'll be able to see that on an output," says Alison Weaver, the Suzanne Deal Booth executive director. "A sensor in the room will see how your body works, and that appears on the monitor. It's an exciting frontier. How often does that occur in a lifetime?" Weaver says Rice is the first institution to make it available to the public.

As for the "how," the Tilt Brush utilizes an HTC Vive, then Steam is installed to launch the brush. User reviews are effusive, ranging from "I made a Dragon" (ProSonicDagan) to "This is serious science fiction magic right here" (Cyrix). It's been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but some of these reviews of the Tilt Brush (from steamcommunity.com) certainly add depth to the experience ...

The Third Ward intersection of Alabama and Emancipation Avenue, formerly Dowling Street, sits in an area recently labeled the "Economic Corridor."
The Third Ward intersection of Alabama and Emancipation Avenue, formerly Dowling Street, sits in an area recently labeled the "Economic Corridor."
Photo by G. Paris Johnson

Uneasy Third Ward Residents Decry 'Whitewashed' Neighborhood

G. PARIS JOHNSON | AUGUST 7, 2017

Houston’s historic Third Ward is one of six wards within the city. The neighborhood is home to the famous Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once spoke on the racial injustices and inequalities that African-Americans suffered at the hands of a prejudiced society. Houstonian Rennette Brown Lucien remembers the area as a “pillar of economics,” but says that, in her 47 years, "I have seen this area come and go — it’s no longer a center for black economics because it is being whitewashed now.”

That which once provided comfort and unity in the traditionally black neighborhood is now deteriorating — some residents say they feel helpless at the hands of the economic forces that have begun swooping in to “improve" the land. These so-called saviors are tearing down the very infrastructure the community was built upon and, in its place, erecting building after building of pricey high-rise housing. Scattered remnants of the neighborhood's history remain, reminders of its past and present struggles.

Many residents invite the change, but quite a few others do not. “What do I do when the bus lines no longer are in walking distance from my home?" says one 31-year-old Cuney Homes resident, who asked not to be identified. "Because the first thing they do when they wanna clean it up is start to cut out public transportation, and that forces us out of here.”

Located directly across the street from Texas Southern University, the Cuney Homes development houses roughly 595 residents, many of them University of Houston and TSU students who have figured out a way to live off-campus while keeping their rent affordable.

“They think that the ‘hood’ is for black folks,” says 69-year-old Third Ward Native Archie Holmes. “Take a look around. Look at all of these faces that are different from [mine].” ...

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