Sig Byrd spent years as a columnist with the old daily Houston Press and later moved to the Houston Chronicle, but his columns, compiled and connected here, read today like nothing you'd expect to find in a newspaper, daily or otherwise. Downtown, when there was still a thing called Vinegar Hill there, and the Hispanic east side were his favorite beats, and if Sig Byrd's Houston reads like a different town entirely, that's partly because it was, and partly because of Byrd himself, whose ear was finely tuned to the town's skid rows: "Raquel, who comes to Martin Nelson's photo parlor to have her picture made every payday, is about 17, small for her age and as cute as a speckled pup. Bark-brown hair, curly; limpid brown eyes, golden-tan cheeks and lush red lips. Petite figure. You know the type. In certain circumstances she could go far. But living in the Second Ward and working as a tomato packer at a place on lower Louisiana Street, she will never go much of anywhere. By the time she is 25 the freshness and bloom will be gone from her face and figure, and at 30 she will not even resemble the pictures made of her at 17." As with Raquel, so with Houston. At least there are still a few stray copies of this photograph floating around.
Sig Byrd spent years as a columnist with the old daily Houston Press and later moved to the Houston Chronicle, but his columns, compiled and connected here, read today like nothing you'd expect to find in a newspaper, daily or otherwise. Downtown, when there was still a thing called Vinegar Hill there, and the Hispanic east side were his favorite beats, and if Sig Byrd's Houston reads like a different town entirely, that's partly because it was, and partly because of Byrd himself, whose ear was finely tuned to the town's skid rows: "Raquel, who comes to Martin Nelson's photo parlor to have her picture made every payday, is about 17, small for her age and as cute as a speckled pup. Bark-brown hair, curly; limpid brown eyes, golden-tan cheeks and lush red lips. Petite figure. You know the type. In certain circumstances she could go far. But living in the Second Ward and working as a tomato packer at a place on lower Louisiana Street, she will never go much of anywhere. By the time she is 25 the freshness and bloom will be gone from her face and figure, and at 30 she will not even resemble the pictures made of her at 17." As with Raquel, so with Houston. At least there are still a few stray copies of this photograph floating around.
Disturbing, funny and downright odd, Joel Orr's Bobbindoctrin Puppet Theatre is the best and, thankfully, only one of its kind in town. The creepy beings who come out to play at Orr's strange theatrical events are nothing less than your worst childhood nightmares come to full-color papier-mäché life. Talking devil heads, lost souls and killer shadow puppets appeared on the Atomic Cafe stage during Orr's most recent foray into puppet art, an utterly fascinating triptych titled Corruption of the Species, about the nasty act of staying alive in a cruel and unforgiving universe. Imagine a shadow land in which an antelope and a hare sip martinis and dish the nasty dirt on everybody else in the forest. Imagine the wormy hearts of fornicators made manifest as they go about their lovemaking. Imagine the lonely lives of souls spent wandering the void, looking for bodies to inhabit. All this popped out of Orr's head and onto the stage in his scary, smart, visually arresting, musically lush show. Bobbindoctrin is one of those intensely creepy nightmares where first you sweat, then you swear, then you get down on your knees and pray.
Disturbing, funny and downright odd, Joel Orr's Bobbindoctrin Puppet Theatre is the best and, thankfully, only one of its kind in town. The creepy beings who come out to play at Orr's strange theatrical events are nothing less than your worst childhood nightmares come to full-color papier-mäché life. Talking devil heads, lost souls and killer shadow puppets appeared on the Atomic Cafe stage during Orr's most recent foray into puppet art, an utterly fascinating triptych titled Corruption of the Species, about the nasty act of staying alive in a cruel and unforgiving universe. Imagine a shadow land in which an antelope and a hare sip martinis and dish the nasty dirt on everybody else in the forest. Imagine the wormy hearts of fornicators made manifest as they go about their lovemaking. Imagine the lonely lives of souls spent wandering the void, looking for bodies to inhabit. All this popped out of Orr's head and onto the stage in his scary, smart, visually arresting, musically lush show. Bobbindoctrin is one of those intensely creepy nightmares where first you sweat, then you swear, then you get down on your knees and pray.
Obvious jokes that come to mind when it is learned that, of all the dens of iniquity, Los Angeles is the new home of cannabis commanders and slip-hop merchants I-45: If L.A. suddenly is recrowned the smoggiest city in America, then Houston City Council knows where to send the cleanup bill (c/o Tripp Von Slipp, Tech Ron B. and DJ Rudy Martinez 2000, a.k.a. I-45). Houston may hold the smog title for now, but keep your itchy, watery eyes on wherever I-45 calls home. Whatever you do, do not invite Slash to play your wedding reception or show him where you hide your dugout; and last, tell everyone the boys from Rap-A-Lot said, "BANG, BANG, BANG!" (Just kidding.) Though Houston -- and its "Dirty South" sound -- is currently Rap Mecca, USA, the town was apparently too narrow for I-45 and its plush but skeezy beats. L.A. simply may have been the ideal place for the trio's tunes about blunts, weed, dope and getting all smoked up.
Obvious jokes that come to mind when it is learned that, of all the dens of iniquity, Los Angeles is the new home of cannabis commanders and slip-hop merchants I-45: If L.A. suddenly is recrowned the smoggiest city in America, then Houston City Council knows where to send the cleanup bill (c/o Tripp Von Slipp, Tech Ron B. and DJ Rudy Martinez 2000, a.k.a. I-45). Houston may hold the smog title for now, but keep your itchy, watery eyes on wherever I-45 calls home. Whatever you do, do not invite Slash to play your wedding reception or show him where you hide your dugout; and last, tell everyone the boys from Rap-A-Lot said, "BANG, BANG, BANG!" (Just kidding.) Though Houston -- and its "Dirty South" sound -- is currently Rap Mecca, USA, the town was apparently too narrow for I-45 and its plush but skeezy beats. L.A. simply may have been the ideal place for the trio's tunes about blunts, weed, dope and getting all smoked up.
It's just too damn bad major record labels haven't figured out a way to bottle live energy and the hundreds of bodies that figure into that force and package it. If they could, the work of ska giants Los Skarnales would be worth more than a Los Alamos hard drive. With catsuit-tight horn lines, which are always inventive and never redundant, start-stop rhythms and punk attitude, Los Skarnales sticks it to "rock A.E." (after Elvis). Stacks of suitcase-size amplifiers and secondhand blues licks do not a "rock" band make. So long as ska remains popular -- and in light of the postmodern thought that says there's a genre for every music lover out there -- Los Skarnales will be under one of the big five labels' distribution wings soon. The band already belongs to local independent powerhouse Pinche Flojo Records.
It's just too damn bad major record labels haven't figured out a way to bottle live energy and the hundreds of bodies that figure into that force and package it. If they could, the work of ska giants Los Skarnales would be worth more than a Los Alamos hard drive. With catsuit-tight horn lines, which are always inventive and never redundant, start-stop rhythms and punk attitude, Los Skarnales sticks it to "rock A.E." (after Elvis). Stacks of suitcase-size amplifiers and secondhand blues licks do not a "rock" band make. So long as ska remains popular -- and in light of the postmodern thought that says there's a genre for every music lover out there -- Los Skarnales will be under one of the big five labels' distribution wings soon. The band already belongs to local independent powerhouse Pinche Flojo Records.

Best New Effort to Inject Culture into Houston

Brazos Projects

Last year Brazos Bookstore, the most civilized shop in town, gave birth to a nonprofit arm, Brazos Projects, which sponsors the kind of artistic and literary events that make thinking people swoon. So far it has brought to town Robert Pinsky, the U.S. poet laureate, and has shown furniture (furniture?!) by sculptor Donald Judd and architect Frank Gehry. This fall Brazos Projects offers "Cy Twombly Photographs," which includes pictures the painter snapped of culture-hero pals such as Robert Rauschenberg, John Cage and Franz Kline. The show was curated by more names worth dropping: by Twombly himself, and by Paul Winkler, of the Menil Collection. Yes, the Menil's "Cy Twombly: The Sculpture" show will be bigger and more important than this little companion piece, but these rarely exhibited photos show another, more intimate side of the artist, a side that Houston will be lucky to see.

Best New Effort to Inject Culture into Houston

Brazos Projects

Last year Brazos Bookstore, the most civilized shop in town, gave birth to a nonprofit arm, Brazos Projects, which sponsors the kind of artistic and literary events that make thinking people swoon. So far it has brought to town Robert Pinsky, the U.S. poet laureate, and has shown furniture (furniture?!) by sculptor Donald Judd and architect Frank Gehry. This fall Brazos Projects offers "Cy Twombly Photographs," which includes pictures the painter snapped of culture-hero pals such as Robert Rauschenberg, John Cage and Franz Kline. The show was curated by more names worth dropping: by Twombly himself, and by Paul Winkler, of the Menil Collection. Yes, the Menil's "Cy Twombly: The Sculpture" show will be bigger and more important than this little companion piece, but these rarely exhibited photos show another, more intimate side of the artist, a side that Houston will be lucky to see.

Best Of Houston®

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