Local TV talk in Houston tends towards either somewhat dreary, earnest discussions of public works budgets, or breezy, content-free slam-bang interviews with celebrities plugging projects and repeating what they've said in a dozen cities. Ernie Manouse's InnerVIEWS, despite its terrible title, is a welcome exception. He goes the national route, since his KUHT show is syndicated, but he actually prepares for his interviews and — more important — listens to what his guests say, taking the interview wherever it might go. His most recent season featured people like Ken Burns, Jerry Herman and Michael Dukakis — not exactly a Jay Leno-level of celebrity, but all interesting people who got a chance to talk in depth.

When Pearland resident Cherry Woods found herself being attacked by two large pit bulls, she found salvation in the most unlikely creature. "She's the most reclusive, timid animal I've ever seen," Cherry's husband, Harold, told KHOU about the couple's cat Lima. But Lima sprung into action during the attack, hissing and scratching until the killer dogs turned their attention away from Cherry, long enough for Harold to pull his wife to safety. "I'm very glad that we had [Lima]," Harold told the television channel. "When it came down to my wife getting hurt, [the cat] jumped right in. It's amazing." Even better: Lima survived the experience.

READERS' CHOICE: Annise Parker

If you or I were in a bar in Waco, Texas, and we got into an argument with somebody, and then went outside with that person in full view of several patrons, and then shot that person point-blank in the face in front of several witnesses who would later testify that we fired without provocation after asking our victim, "Where do you want it?" you or I would be in a heap of shit. That is because, unlike Billy Joe Shaver, the country legend whose alleged actions are described above, you or I likely cannot afford to hire Dick DeGuerin. The Shaver trial was simply astounding. Despite all that damning testimony and Shaver's blustery bravado on the stand — when a prosecutor asks you if you should have left the bar instead of shooting the guy in the face, it's generally not recommended to contend that the former option was "chickenshit" — the jury took only two hours to acquit the honky-tonk poet in what had seemed an unwinnable case for the defense. It was just the latest, and from a pure lawyerly standpoint, perhaps the greatest, in a 45-year-long career for the one-time Percy Foreman protégé, which has also seen him win big for the likes of New York heir-turned-Galveston tranny corpse-beheader Robert Durst and Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Bertie Simmons is the septuagenarian principal of Furr High School on Houston's East Side, where 15gangs have been identified on campus. Despite this, calmness prevails and test scores are rising, thanks to the former district superintendent who came out of retirement to take over the then-troubled school in 2000 and uses "positive reinforcement" as her motto. Biggest exploit to date: She got on a plane with 32 gang members from Furr who'd earned a trip to New York City to visit Ground Zero (they didn't believe 9/11 was real) after she extracted a promise from them to keep trouble off the campus for one school year. They even took in a Broadway showing of 42nd Street. And liked it.

Nowhere else on the Houston dial this past year could you hear Wilco and Death Cab for Cutie, both within the same hour, at least on a major corporate radio station. It was sometime last fall that we heard the former's single "You Never Know" while driving around town, and we immediately had to make sure we didn't have our iPod plugged in. The next hour we heard not only Amy Winehouse and Jackson Browne, but some disco-era Rolling Stones. Say what you will, but that's a sight better than Ke$ha and Justin Bieber over on the pop stations.


While a few Republican babies were thrown out with the bathwater of the 2008 Democratic courthouse landslide — Caprice Cosper, anyone? — such was not the case with the election of veteran defense attorney Shawna Reagin. In defeating crotchety old Jack Rains, she had support from both ends of the political spectrum and both sides of the bar. Somewhat miraculously, she has disappointed neither. Her legal mind has been honed to a razor's edge by years of appellate and writ work, and defendants with bogus stories tend to find little sympathy in her court. But here's the thing: She can be compassionate and is unafraid of doing so. Unlike so many of our judges in Hang 'Em High Harris County, she never throws away some poor young soul's life if there are viable alternatives. To paraphrase one prosecutor turned defense attorney, "She's tough when she needs to be, compassionate when she can be and always smart enough to know when to be either."

Children caught — through no fault of their own — in the bureaucratic maze of the court system: It can be a recipe for disaster. Someone has to stand up for them, but it can be a frustrating job. For the past 26 years, Child Advocates has been taking on that job, working on behalf of kids who are in protective custody because they've been abused, neglected or abandoned. They fight for kids who can't fight for themselves — more than 16,000 at last count — and in many cases save lives that easily could have gone down the wrong track.


Want to know what that new construction is all about on your street, or why there is a wrecking crew aiming for that quirky little building on your favorite corner? With its fingers on the pulse of the Houston real estate game, Swamplot more than likely has the skinny. This mostly daily blog keeps you abreast of the happenings both inside the Loop and in outlying areas. In the past year, the blog was the first to report on plans about a supposed move for venerable indie club Walter's on Washington, and it has also been keeping keen tabs on the proposed Walmart development in the Heights. Got a nagging question about that "For Sale" sign you just noticed? Ask Swamplot.



How many places in the world have to shut down a whole city block because chunks of concrete are literally falling from the sky? That happened in Houston when pieces of the old Savoy Apartments — built in 1906 and the first building in Houston to have electricity — started crumbling away after years of neglect. But the city jumped to action, guarding the building with police officers, cruiser cars and yellow "Caution" tape until the apartments could be taken down, piece by piece.

No one paid a great deal of attention to the memorial statue for victims of Galveston's 1900 hurricane when it first went up on the seawall in 2000. Then came Ike. Gripping, dramatic shots of Ike-powered waves crashing over the wall and above the statue were irresistible to photographers and were published all over the world. Now people flock to the statue to get their picture taken, hopefully without any huge waves exploding in the background.

READERS' CHOICE: Space Center Houston

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