There must be something in the water. When it was announced in March that Bellaire High School's Daniel Yun had scored a perfect 2400 on his SAT exam, there was jubilation and high fives all round. Then in May, Houston ISD announced that another Bellaire student, Amy W. Jiang, pulled a perfect ACT score of 36. Odds of either one of them hitting these marks were astronomically low: Fewer than 300 students out of 1.5 million kids across the country taking the SAT reached 2400, and only 588 of nearly 1.6 million students were perfect on the ACT. Go, Cardinals!
Baba Yega
Jeff Balke
Whether as a place to test the waters for the first time or as a favorite haunt for someone with a long history of cross-dressing/transgenderism, Baba Yega is the perfect place for a he to be a she (or vice versa). The cozy atmosphere, the diverse clientele and the caring staff all add up to a welcoming, supportive setting where everyone can openly be whoever they want to be in total comfort. Baba Yega is a casual restaurant, housed in a converted bungalow with several dining room options including an al fresco terrace, an indoor room full of nooks and crannies, and a covered garden. The restaurant's clientele is a happy, friendly mix of straight and LGBT couples, groups and families. The staff is equally varied and warm. There's a full bar, but the real draw is the food and laid-back atmosphere. A Montrose-area staple since the mid-1970s, Baba Yega cheerfully welcomes everyone.
Though she blessed us with her presence under some of the most horrifying circumstances ever, we were happy to welcome Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords with open arms as she recovered from a gunshot wound to the head. On January 21, approximately two weeks after the Tucson shooting spree that left six people dead, Giffords was transferred to the TIRR Memorial Hermann Medical Center. There, with her U.S. Navy captain and NASA astronaut husband Mark Kelly at her side, Giffords underwent months of rehabilitation and progressed enough to witness the final flight of space shuttle Endeavour, commanded by Kelly, at Florida's Kennedy Space Center. On June 15, Giffords was discharged from the rehab center and into outpatient care; to date, she continues her phenomenal recovery at Kelly's League City home.
Red Dun Ranch
The horses we see in Houston at the rodeo every March aren't the only ones in town. There's plenty of whinnying and neighing going on over at Red Dun Ranch, in the name of therapy. Laurie Baldwin, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, and her colleagues at Red Dun Ranch help these noble creatures whisper to us. While they also have an office in Bellaire, the ranch near Pearland provides a tranquil place for people to heal their grief — even cope better with challenges such as ADD or autism. Those who have loved animals get that — just imagine a gentle animal big enough to absorb all your negativity, even if temporarily.
Though not the most aesthetically pleasing cemetery in the city, this final resting place for the indigent and unidentified is especially moving. It's especially sad to consider that, with roughly 13,000 people buried over the site's 18 acres, the cemetery is almost out of room. For many souls buried here, their stories will never be fully known. Others met all-too-tragic fates, like an unidentified victim of notorious serial killers Dean Corll, Elmer Wayne Henley and David Brooks. The graveyard is a reminder that even people forgotten or forsaken deserve a proper burial, as well as a reminder that Harris County has the decency and dignity to provide that.
Hotel Galvez
Now the only historic beachfront hotel left on the Gulf Coast, the Hotel Galvez & Spa has just completed an $11 million renovation in celebration of its 100th anniversary. Owners George Mitchell and his family have made several updates to the property, modernizing it while maintaining its turn-of-the-century charm. The hotel's grand multi-paned windows have been restored to their original beauty, and a 9,000-plus-square-foot spa and poolside cabanas have been added along with a newly landscaped lawn called Centennial Green, positioned just outside the hotel's magnificent Music Hall. Each of the guest rooms has been redecorated with plush furnishings and nature-inspired prints by artist Kayla Mitchell, the talented granddaughter of George Mitchell. The Hotel Galvez was originally built in 1911 as a powerful symbol of the city's physical and economic recovery after the Great Storm devastated the island a decade earlier. A century later, the hotel, like Galveston Island, is not only surviving but flourishing.
Texans are used to high-profile criminal cases where, let's face it, the defendant is stone-cold guilty but has the means to get a supremely skilled and supremely expensive lawyer to bitch-slap a prosecutor's weak case. But what happens when that defendant isn't loaded, and the prosecutor is especially rabid, to the point where, exculpatory evidence be damned, he's going to get his man? How many lawyers want to step up to that plate? And how many lawyers want to step up to the plate after that defendant has been convicted? Fortunately for Anthony Graves, Nicole Casarez is one of those lawyers. Through the Innocence Project of Texas, she and her journalism students at the University of St. Thomas helped free Graves after he had spent nearly two decades on death row. Prosecutorial misconduct helped put him there; a lawyer with actual respect for the American criminal justice system helped get him out. Imagine that: saving an innocent man's life, not for a fat retainer but because you have the means and desire to. Isn't that the very definition of integrity?
Rice University may be known as one of the leading private universities in the South, but it's not known for being trill. Or it wasn't. This past spring, one of the greatest Southern rappers of all time doubled as a professor of Religious Studies, lecturing on the parallels between hip-hop and different faiths. Bun B, a Baptist, partnered up with Dr. Anthony B. Pinn, UGK fan and head of Rice's H.E.R.E. community-outreach program, to teach "Religious Studies 331: Religion and Hip-Hop Culture." The course grew out of Bun's guest lecture to one of Pinn's classes a couple of years ago, and the rapper responsible for "Gimme That Pussy" and "Pocket Full of Stones" (among many others) proved remarkably astute. "We're not talking about hip-hop and religion being the same," Bun said. "We're showing instances where hip-hop and religion have the same goals and ideology in common within the context of the culture."

(An earlier version of this item misspelled Dr. Anthony B. Pinn's last name. The Houston Press regrets the error.)

Attorney Jim Adler has built a reputation on loud commercials touting his legal acumen, likening his approach and effectiveness to that of a particular blunt-faced toolbox staple. But lately, he's been tinkering with a new metaphor: the junkyard dog. In what appears to be a spot filmed on location in an actual junkyard, Adler is practically frothing at the mouth, talking about how unscrupulous insurance companies and the like try to screw victims out of just pay, making him as mad as a junkyard dog. Then there are the obligatory/alleged past clients, vouching for how Adler is indeed like a junkyard dog. We've got to admit, it's appealing. If we felt we were being screwed out of unjust pay, we'd definitely want a vicious, bloodthirsty beast on our side. Still, it leaves room for confusion: He's a hammer; he's a junkyard dog; he's a hammer; he's a junkyard dog; he's a hammer and a junkyard dog.
Last year, the prosecution-lovin' judges on the Court of Criminal Appeals declared that the state's lower appellate courts could no longer reverse cases because of factual insufficiency — in essence, whenever the evidence was alarmingly weak but a jury had nevertheless convicted. Terry Jennings of the 1st Court of Appeals didn't take too kindly to the ruling. "This, respectfully, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has neither the jurisdiction nor any lawful authority to do," he wrote, before proceeding to — in a polite judicial way — tear the CCA a new you-know-what. Jennings, a former prosecutor, is no softhearted friend to criminals, but he's proven himself to be a valuable appellate judge.

Best Of Houston®

Best Of