Houston is a city hell-bent on tearing down every building that is the slightest bit old. Sometimes that can be a good thing: A year ago we were finally able to see the death throes of the Houston school district's Stalinesque headquarters. As the booms crashed into the walls, you could almost see the wisps of bureaucratic ghosts flying away (unfortunately, probably a few miles north to the new headquarters). Never again would parents or advocates have to risk getting forever lost in the maze-like setup that could only have been designed by a sadist. No longer would speeches in the lobby be lost to the atrocious acoustics. The new HISD headquarters is an anonymous office-park mediocrity, but it still beats the old building. Good riddance to bad rubbish, as the Limeys say.

Sure, most people think this award should go to some city official or corporate PR person, but you'd be surprised how hard it is to find a good publicist in the art world. Our entertainment desk is thankful there are folks like Jimmy Castillo of Lawndale Art Center, who is always quick to return a phone call and send over the information needed to finish a story immediately. We're sure Castillo has plenty of people at Lawndale to thank for making him such a valuable PR tool (especially because his official title is assistant director), but hey, somebody has to take the credit.

Agora
Photo by Craig Hlavaty

This Greek-themed coffee shop and wine bar is like a posh library during the day. Students quietly type away on laptops while sipping on assorted coffee drinks. The large two-story building houses all sorts of Greek relics among the scattered tables and couches. And if you feel like a quiet evening alone surfing the singles on MySpace, well, you can just come in here after dark and do that while sipping on some wine and nibbling on the cheese plate. Most importantly, nobody is going to bug you to leave or to buy another cup of coffee.

Scream World
In a haunted house, youre worried about a lot of things jumping out at you, but a car is not usually one of them. This is how ScreamWorld caught our attention. (Read: made us pee our pants.) The haunters teamed with Scion to set up actual vehicles that come to a screeching halt right in front of whoever dares brave the halls. But its not all headlights and horns at this monster-filled monstrosity; every corner yields something new, and youll definitely feel like the ticket price and wait in line were worth it. Owners Jim Fetterly and Mike Darling have been in the business for more than ten years and have mastered every aspect of it, from the wait in line to the girl with the dead baby in one hand and the machete in the other. Seriously, rehydrate yourself after you leave.

"I love you!" That's how Karen Jennings, homeless liaison for all of Fort Bend ISD for a dozen years, always greets her overworked underlings. It's her way of acknowledging up-front all the good deeds they perform each day, keeping teens in school and out of trouble. This year Jennings took her efforts to help at-risk kids to the broader community, helping prompt plans to build a first-of-its-kind emergency shelter for suburban youths. Now what's not to love about that?

This Southwest Houston neighborhood has had a bit of a bad rap, some of it connected to relocated Katrina victims. But, despite the catfight at Westbury High last year, a lot of that involved the victims as victims, not as perpetrators. Other émigrés in this neighborhood, chock-full of 50-year-old, easily rehabilitated ranch homes, have for the past few years been gay couples. (We've heard Westbury is the new Montrose; we're hoping they mean the "old" version, not the new corporate and condo enclave.) Whether this has to do with transgender lawyer Phyllis Frye, arguably one of Westbury's more famous residents and who works hard on the Westbury Civic Club, is not known. Regardless, Westbury residents are working to make their homes fabulous. Quick access to major highways; great shopping and decent food nearby — the constant traffic on West Bellfort is nothing but white noise to Westbury residents in their little Garden of Eden.

Sure, it isn't as grand as Trevi or as recognizable as Buckingham, but Mecom Fountain hands-down wins the title of Houston's best landmark. The elegant 1960s fountain serves as a gateway to the museum district, the Medical Center, Hermann Park and Rice University. Its Roman-style colonnades and 12-foot-tall water jets provide European flair to our decidedly un-European city.

Outrageous and provocative, the local blog Call of Da Wild offers original reporting and commentary on scandal-plagued Texas Southern University in a voice that is both insanely pissed-off and fall-down hilarious. Be warned: it's filled with race- and sex-baiting, often reducing the school's woes to a steamy, very non-PC daytime soap opera whose major and minor players engage in booze-fueled orgies and unscrupulous backdoor deals. It's written by a veteran TSU employee who goes by the alias Deray Jenkins and describes himself as "the arbiter of truth at a school full of lies." Sadly, Jenkins has been AWOL for the last couple months. We eagerly await his return to writing Houston's best blog.

Hey, Houston magazines, here's an idea: Why not have actual editorial content, as opposed to being all advertorial, all the time? Sure, reading about the "top" dentists, plastic surgeons or tree-trimmers in the city (i.e., dudes who bought the biggest ads) is fun, but OutSmart is one of the few local pubs that has a good balance of entertainment and actual news. But what if you're not part of the mag's target demographic? Listen, when the president wants to muck with our Constitution because of an obsession over the gays (as Gawker would say), we're all part of the demographic.

"If you're against apologizing for slavery, then you gotta be against giving welfare to the American Indians because of the fact that 200 years ago they were whipped in a war. And let's just call it what it is: They lost a war." These erudite words were spoken by radio host Michael Berry — a former Houston City Councilman — last March. Condensing a thousand lifetimes' worth of stupidity into two sentences is kind of like pulling off a triple-gainer or a DVDA — it's downright difficult. But he did it. Berry later apologized and said he didn't have all his facts straight. You can believe him or not, but the fact of the matter is: Saying stupid shit makes for good radio. Listening to well-informed, reasonable discourse gets boring. Listening to someone who makes you want to rip out your car stereo and throw it at a puppy is compelling radio. We'll be tuning in to Berry often, just to hear his stance on federal aid vis-à-vis nappy-headed hos.

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