We waited for someone to step up and dethrone Charles Kuffner as the best blogger in town. We scoured the H-town blogosphere, reading what the pamphleteers of the 21st century had to say about sports, politics, music, art and breakfast. We wasted countless hours, time we could've spent paying our bills or cleaning our homes, getting too much information from all the folks out there who've stepped up, sat down and started typing. And we still think Kuffner is the man. He shines when it comes to local and national politics, but he's not above throwing in a random jab at Paris Hilton when the situation merits. And who doesn't like a little bit of that?
Readers' choice: Lopez@Large:blogs.chron.com/lopezblog
Beneath a giant chandelier hoisted above the corner of Montrose and Westheimer, float after float passes by every year in the nation's original nighttime pride parade. It's one heck of a party and a nonpareil people-watching opportunity. This year Gs, Ls, Bs and Ts lined the streets, hooting, hollering and hooking up long before the actual parade passed by. All of the usual suspects were part of the cortege: Continental Airlines, PFLAG, Community Gospel Church and HATCH, as well as a bevy of beauties in their tightie-whities. And after all the floats were gone, that's when the real partying began. It's here, it's queer, and it's anything but austere.
Readers' choice: Art Car Parade
While it's not the most polished pad of pulp in the printed-matter pile, Hater magazine has a youthful exuberance all but lost in so much of the mainstream media. A free, digest-size, full-color rag, Hater is available quarterly, in limited supply, throughout the city. The mag's credo states that "Hater defined is the critic of our generation," and boy, do its writers go off on their generation. Half dedicated to hip new music -- it has featured Bun B, Dizzee Rascal, Slim Thug and Chingo Bling -- and half dedicated to observations of the world around us, the magazine gives its writers full license to bag on everything from cuts in education to gentrification. And they do. The latest issue is fiercely anti-Bush, but still, when you dig into these highly opinionated articles, you'll find that these writers are having fun getting things off their chests.
No, there are no tours being offered at the moment. You can't just walk in and see the exact spot where Ken Lay and Co. made the decisions and signed the papers that all but destroyed their faithful minions. But you can stand outside and gawk at this architectural masterpiece. Like staring at the charred remains of a burned-out warehouse, or rubbernecking at the site of a pileup on one of our many freeways, looking at the building that once housed the Enron elite can inspire feelings of helplessness, woe and dismay, but it's just so damn beautiful you quickly forget about all the livelihoods lost. Designed by Cesar Pelli & Associates and Kendall/Heaton Associates at a cost of $200 million and later sold after the shit hit the fan for a mere $102 mil, it's one of our city's most unique and gorgeous structures. Bring an out-of-towner to the food court and try to get up to the glass walkway that connects the two buildings, where you and yours can really relive one of Houston's most embarrassing and shame-filled moments.
The best view in the Houston area requires some gas money and a large appetite for Gulf Coast seafood. Head down I-45 to Galveston, catch the ferry to Bolivar Peninsula and follow the signs to Stingaree Restaurant. For optimal viewing, arrive about an hour and a half before sunset and insist on a table by the window. If one isn't available, opt to wait -- your eyes and stomach will thank you. Get comfortable and order the all-you-can-eat barbecue blue crabs ($19.95). You'll be here awhile. As the sun sets, marvel at the massive barges surging through the Intracoastal Waterway. Like it or not, this is Houston's industrial raison d'etre, and even in the chemical light, it's beautiful.
Remove your shoes and shuffle to the front of the hall. The benevolent eyes of a three-ton white jade Buddha follow your steps -- as do those of a hundred lesser gold Buddhas sunk into the front of the aptly named Grand Buddha Hall. The psychic residue of the thousands of devotees who have cycled through this space since it was built in 1989 ease your passage into a comfortable meditation. A quiet walk around the lotus pond puts you in just the right frame of mind. Maybe you'll reach enlightenment, maybe not. For an extra boost, try the temple's sessions in yoga and meditation.
Speed, man. There's nothing more exhilarating. But speed can get expensive: Mustangs, motorcycles, meth -- that stuff adds up! So instead of saddling yourself with more debt (or, God forbid, another nasty addiction), head to Edwards cinema on Weslayan. You don't even have to buy a ticket to ride the theater's outrageous length of fat metal rails into oblivion. Divided into three levels of 16 stairs each, the wide, psychedelically carpeted staircase is adorned with bars set perfectly at hip level. Just throw half of your butt over, take a deep breath, and hope for the best. Wear long pants and sturdy shoes -- here, the landing's the thing -- and keep an eye out for Johnny Law at the bottom.
Andrea Yates is obviously a disturbed woman, and no one can know what demons drew her to (at this point, allegedly) drown her five kids in a bathtub. But in their zeal to make a case, Harris County prosecutors threw away caution. They brought in a California psychiatrist expert named Park Dietz who said he was a consultant for the TV show Law & Order. Dietz ominously testified that one L&O episode had dealt with a woman who drowned her children and was found innocent by reason of insanity. That episode, he said -- and you can almost hear the Matlock-like grumbles among the audience as he broke the news -- aired shortly before Yates killed her kids! And prosecutors had made clear already that Yates was a dedicated L&O fan! Dramatic stuff, if true. Which, unfortunately, it wasn't. No such L&O episode ever existed. Dietz said it was "an honest mistake," but the First Court of Appeals tossed out the conviction in January. Looks like Harris County will need to get a slightly less dramatic conviction.
When the judge is the son of the county sheriff, it's safe to say that criminal defense lawyers aren't going to have the most optimistic feelings heading into court. But 338th District Judge Brock Thomas, son of Tommy, has dispelled any doubts about whether he can be a fair arbiter behind the bench, quickly establishing a reputation for evenhandedness. At 34, he became the youngest Harris County criminal judge when he was appointed three years ago. This year he handled the potentially explosive Quanell X with aplomb and won high honors in the annual State Bar of Texas poll ranking judges. The sheriff's son and former prosecutor has been a pleasant surprise and addition to the county judiciary.
It's a cliche that politicians who are so eager to send other folks off to war sit safely behind their desks. Not Rick Noriega. He was sworn in for another term as state rep this January -- not in Austin, but in a wooden barracks building outside of Kabul, Afghanistan. Lieutenant Colonel Noriega was on active duty training the Afghan army. It's true the state legislature doesn't have much to say about sending troops overseas, but it's still home to more than its share of platitude-spouting pols who don't have to back up their glib patriotism. Even from Kabul, Noriega continued his good legislative work though his wife, Melissa, who temporarily filled his seat and was named "Freshman of the Year" by the legislature's Democratic caucus.
Readers' choice: Bill White

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