Worst of Houston: 2012 Edition
“Opinions are like nipples, everybody has one. Some have firm points, others are barely discernible through layers, and some are displayed at every opportunity regardless of whether the audience has stated, ‘I am interested in your nipples’ or not.”
― David Thorne
Now, before you go getting all butthurt, please note that the opinions expressed in these next several pages are simply that: opinions. Everyone has got ‘em and everyone is entitled to ‘em. These statements are not meant to offend, rather they are meant to alert you to things you may not have known about and hopefully empower one or two of you to, ya know, DO something about your outrage. Bitching anonymously via an independent paper is one thing, but our goal is to be the catalyst for productive change. So please consider that whilst you read on. And if after reading all of this you still feel compelled to tell us where to shove it, you can drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Worst Highway Expansion: Grand Parkway Segment E
-Jennifer Fox Bennett
Aside from running straight through the Katy Prairie, an endangered grassland that acts as a giant natural sponge to reduce downstream flooding in the asphalt-concrete covered City of Houston and habitat for tons of indigenous flora and fauna, TxDOT managed to create the alignment for Segment E over an ancient 9,000-year old burial site of a Paleo-Indian group (one of only five handfuls like it in the Americas) and the campsite of a group that lived there 2,000 years ago just to build a 400-ft wide highway that connects The Woodlands to Katy. The location of the burial site has been known about for over 15 years. Who cares that a state district judge originally told TxDOT that they could move the bones in the site without following the federally-mandated Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act’s requirement of getting existing tribes involved in the planning process several years ago?
Urbanization has already caused the endangered Attwater’s Prairie Chicken to be reduced to numbers in the hundreds whereas we killed off its related subspecies, the Katy Prairie Chicken, by covering its habitat with the Katy Mills Mall. Because what we really need is to create a third loop to attract more strip malls and mega churches and more sprawl. It’s cool, though. Even though urban developers have already discovered that economic growth, productivity, and development are correlated to urban density, why would we want to do such things in Houston? While other cities have a bustling metropolitan public transportation system keeping more cars off the road and thus more greenhouse gases out of the air, we can proudly proclaim that we have the country’s longest beltway, you know, to match the length of our belts.
Worst News For The Future of Houston AND Texas: The Demise of the HISD Library System
Sorry little Houstonians, you’re most likely going to grow up to be robots. The HISD library system is deteriorating, despite the allocation of $10 million to HISD libraries over the last three years. Houston Independent School District data reports 20 percent of the district’s 289 schools don’t have a functioning library, and more than 80 percent of HISD libraries don’t meet the state guidelines for staffing and book collections.
Just this year, HISD reduced its number of librarians from 157 to 118, which means there are librarians on less than half of its campuses. Three elementary school library collections are more than 34 years old, and most libraries are generally becoming more and more outdated.
The money allocated to buy books was used to compensate for other areas of underfunding. While not all schools chose to undercut their library investment, they are regrettably the minority. Maybe the saddest fact of all is that out of the 10 schools with the lowest collection sizes, eight are elementary schools. If anyone needs to be encouraged to read, it’s our little kids.
Learning new perspectives, developing analytical skills, building vocabulary, improving self-expression, using their imaginations–these are all reasons why kids need books. HISD is doing Houston a disservice by not providing an adequate amount of literature to schoolchildren. Especially when technology-based communication is largely abbreviated ideas and symbols. So when Houston parents start getting birthday cards with the inscription “U R doubleplus good. 😉 !” we’ll wish we would have spent the money on books.
Worst Tea Party Crackpot Who Has Terrifying Powers: Dan Patrick
Dan Patrick was appointed to chair of the Senate Education Committee this past year and boy does he have some great ideas to really move this state forward. He plans on basically privatizing our public schools through implementing school vouchers. Ask your teacher friends how they feel about Mr. Patrick and his plans. They will be more than willing to give you an earful about what his evil schemes will do to our education system. Then ask them how you can help. Trust me, they are going to need our help to stop this sort of asinine legislation from barreling through this next legislative cycle.
Worst Newspaper Endorsement: The Houston Chronicle’s Endorsement of Ted Cruz
When it comes to your politics, I generally like to believe it doesn’t matter who you vote for but why you vote for them. In this respect, the Houston Chronicle fails miserably. In their endorsement for the U.S. Senate seat left open by Kay Bailey Hutchison, the Chron started off promising by listing all the admirable qualifications of Democratic candidate and former State House Rep. Paul Sadler. Said the Chron, “There’s a lot we admire about Sadler, particularly his demonstrated ability to reach across the aisle and work productively with his political opponents for the good of Texas.” Great! They recognize the need for sensible, committed leadership in the federal government today, looking to experience over campaign sound bites for their evidence. But, oh wait, they continue: “Sadler’s candidacy is well-meaning, but an exercise in futility.” So, to wit, they’re fans of Sadler, but won’t endorse him simply because they know he won’t win in the general election.
While the logic of this is clear, the problem is it entirely defeats the point of a newspaper endorsement. Editorial boards across the state should ignore the politics of the campaign and instead focus on who would be better for the state and the nation, and then attempt to persuade readers to that point of view. In fact, the other four major Texas newspapers did do this and endorsed the Don Quixote-esque endeavor of Sadler’s candidacy.
Adding insult to injury, the Chron goes on to describe why they are endorsing firebrand Ted Cruz. Or rather, in the absence of any qualifications to consider of Cruz’s, they were forced to justify their endorsement by highlighting the effective tenure of Hutchison’s, and then implore Cruz to hopefully, maybe, please be somewhat similar. Reading between the lines, the Chron is addressing Cruz head-on saying, “Hey! Be more like Sadler!” Thanks Chronicle editors, you’ve gone from being Houston’s paper of record to that drunk friend on a Saturday night who you want to punch in the face for going on and on about the “realities” of power structures in America, and why it’s all pointless, man.
Worst Idea Ever in American History: The Keystone XL Pipeline
Do you understand the concept of ecology? We ask, not to insult your intelligence, but because so many Houstonians seem oblivious to the idea. We are enraptured with on-screen spectacles, obsessed with hierarchies of social status, and anxious about sports teams, celebrities, and our own self-centered desires. Meanwhile, a bunch of super-rich oil and gas men are plotting to get even richer by destroying life on the planet Earth. These are the investors, board members, and executives of corporations such as Enbridge, TransCanada, Exxon, and Valero. These companies are planning to build and make use of pipelines for the dirtiest fuel known–oil derived from the Tar Sands of Alberta, Canada. They say it will be good for the economy. Slavery and war are good for the economy, too–that doesn’t make them acceptable. A myopic focus on narrowly defined economic benefits is a perennial characteristic of ruling class ideology. We should all recognize that, in this instance at least, the short-term interests of the monied elite are directly opposed to our interests as creatures who enjoy things like breathing and living. Climate change is real. If we don’t get this right–if we fail to stop this pipeline (and others)–we face catastrophic extinction on a massive scale. That’s not good for anybody, not even Russ Girling, President and CEO of the TransCanada Corporation. Nobody gets rich if everybody’s dead.
Worst Abuse of Voter Trust: The 2012 Metro Referendum
Not to sound like a broken record, but where do I begin with this thing? As readers of FPH know (“When No Means Yes,” Free Press Houston, Nov. 2012), this deceptively worded, shadily negotiated, and just plain bad ballot item not only set Houston light rail back more than a decade, but did so by intentionally confusing voters who thought they were voting for MORE public transit. Unfortunately, most voters did not realize they were actually voting to divert 25 percent of transit sales tax in the Metro service area to roads and “related projects” to improve transit – money that could have, and should have, been used for light rail.
Despite a scrappy, grassroots pro-transit campaign by Houston Tomorrow and the Citizens’ Transportation Coalition, many Houstonians learned, after the fact, that they’d voted to send their tax money to projects like repaving cul-de-sacs in unincorporated Harris County miles from any bus lines. The carnival of nonsense that was the pro-referendum campaign even included a television commercial featuring a woman driving alone in an SUV, headed down an empty highway, her smiling GPS informing her the fastest route to town was by voting “Yes” on the Metro prop. You just can’t make this stuff up
So, in 2025, when our sprawl and congestion has reached unbearable levels, and other cities are on to hover-buses and gondolas, maybe even public teleportation by that point, considering how far ahead of us they already are–we will finally be moving along on that University Line!
The story doesn’t end there, though. After the FPH article went viral, outrage spread across social networks, blogs, and other outlets. The chorus of voices expressed anger at feeling tricked into throwing away their votes. Individuals, business owners, media personalities, and even the Houston Texans’ Connor Barwin took it upon themselves to spread the word before Election Day. While that didn’t happen in enough time to change the vote, it’s clear that if a Metro item shows up on the ballot again, Houstonians are going to be examining it very carefully.
Worst HPD Officer: Officer Matthew Marin
Houston Police can always be trusted to gin up controversy and put Houston on the map of generally outlandish behavior. So when we say Officer Matthew Marin is years ahead of the rest of the force in terms of innovating despicableness, you know shit’s getting real. This past September, Marin and his partner were called to the East End Healing Hands personal care home to subdue wheelchair-bound, double amputee Brian Claunch who was apparently causing a ruckus because he wanted a soda and a cigarette. This story gets absurd pretty quickly, so bear with us. Marin was apparently trapped into a corner by the amputee, (how it’s even possible to get trapped by a man with one arm and one leg is beyond us), who was wielding a pen threateningly. God forbid, a ballpoint pen. Marin, fearful for his life, unholstered his weapon and shot and killed Claunch, a schizophrenic, in what can be said to be one of the biggest WTF moments of the year. Marin was subsequently put on a three-day administrative leave and the FBI was brought in to investigate what happened. The real kicker? Marin was one of the three officers who were investigated for the assault of Marvin Driver Jr., the father of Green Bay Packers wide receiver Donald Driver, for which they were later cleared by an internal HPD investigation.
Worst Sex Offender: Houston Press
This is officially the third year running that we have called out the Houston Press for the trafficking and sale of women in their Backpage advertisements. Not much has changed and it does not appear that the Houston Press or Village Voice Media have any future plans to stop businesses and pimps from selling women in the back of their paper or website. Thanks to them, you can order a woman and have her delivered to your home faster than you could a pizza. Village Voice Media recently announced new stipulations in regards to their ad space guidelines just this month. It is debatable whether these new safeguards will actually do anything to stop the sale of women through their paper. Frankly, I appreciate that they cover so many events taking place in our community but would prefer that they find another means of profit that does not include selling the women in our community. Can’t they just sell ad space for drug detox cleanses like a normal alternative paper? Sure it’s not as lucrative but at least you won’t spend all of eternity burning in a lake of fire.
Worst Sarah Palin Impression: Texas Department of Public Safety
Remember when Sarah Palin was all gung-ho about shooting helpless wolves from helicopters so there would be more moose for people to hunt? Well, on October 25 Texas Parks and Wildlife game wardens (i.e., officers whose job is to protect wildlife) were chasing a pickup truck they suspected was carrying drugs near the U.S./Mexico border. Why were game wardens doing the job of border patrol? Who knows.
In any case, when the truck didn’t stop, they called in a DPS helicopter for backup. The helicopter was equipped with a thermal imaging device and an AR-10 sniper rifle. The thermal device should have made clear that the truck was carrying nine people, not drugs, but, in any case, the tarp that covered the illegal immigrants in back of the truck had flown off, exposing them to plain sight.
The truck, driven by a 14-year-old, still didn’t stop, so the patrolman in the helicopter did what studies have repeatedly found most effective–ended the pursuit and watched the fugitives stop their vehicle and make a run for it on foot. No, wait, that’s not what the trooper did–he fired at the moving vehicle from his helicopter to try to blow its tires out–which is really dangerous and hard to do, and ended up shooting three people. Two of them died–Guatemalan nationals Jose Leonardo Coj Cumar, 32, a father of three, and Marcos Antonio Castro Estrada, 29, a father of two with a third on the way.
Some of you will say, “Yeah, but they were breaking the law and the truck should have stopped.” Of course, you are right, but at the moment they were shot, they were only suspects in a civil, not even a criminal, offense. That is no reason to shoot a human being.
No drugs were found in the vehicle, but the game wardens apparently had a good day hunting.
Worst Houston Snub: The Space Shuttle Endeavor
It would surprise some to realize that Houston, home to the Johnson Space Center, countless NASA scientists, and the famous “Houston, we have a problem,” line, does not have an actual space shuttle to show off to envious residents of Dallas and Austin. This all could have changed earlier this year, when it was announced that the last remaining shuttles would be retired to museums across the country, with Texas and Florida as prime candidates to house them. Instead, the space shuttle Endeavour was strapped onto the back of a Boeing 747 and flown to L.A. to spend the rest of its days at the California Science Center. Why L.A.? The closest connection we could find, according to the Los Angeles Times, was that “Shuttle components were manufactured in Downey and assembled in Palmdale. That’s not to mention that Southern California has been occasionally jarred by sonic booms from desert shuttle landings at Edwards Air Force Base.” Fuck that. If California was the birthplace of the shuttle, Houston was the brain, the nerve center. Plus, after countless visiting relatives have forced Houstonians to undertake the hourlong drive to the Space Center, we’ve earned the reward of gawking at some sort of space debris.
Worst High School Mascot: The Lamar Redskins
Some of us went to St. John’s School. Until 2004, we were known as the Rebels. Taken out of context, that sounds pretty good. As a general rule, we like rebels and support rebellion against oppressive social norms. This particular case, however, refers to the rebels of the Southern Confederacy–that is, the soldiers of a white supremacist, capitalist elite. In a nutshell, fuck that shit. Now, students of St. John’s are called the Mavericks, which is an improvement, despite the kitschy, Go-Texan associations conjured up by that word. Across the street, we have another case to consider: the Redskins of Lamar High School. Mirabeau B. Lamar was an unapologetic racist whose first priority as president of the Texan Republic was the destruction of First Nations of this land. He waged relentless campaigns of ethnic cleansing against the Comanche and Cherokee. Isn’t it about time for a gesture of reconciliation for this colossal offense against human dignity? Let’s rename Lamar High School. How about Freedom Fighters of Crazy Horse High? Better, right?
Worst Fact-Checked Story: The Mayor Didn’t Actually Lower the Fine for Sharing Food
When the City passed a law against sharing food with more than five people in public without prior written permission from the city, it was widely reported that the Mayor had softened the penalties. The Chronicle, KUHF, KPRC, and dozens of other news sources and blogs reported that the maximum fine of $2,000 had been lowered to $500.
The only problem is that the maximum fine is still $2,000. The new set of rules can be found in Chapters 20-251 to 20-257 of the City of Houston Code of Ordinances. It’s true that the specified fine of $2,000 found in an earlier draft was edited out. However, no new maximum fine was put in. With no fine indicated, lawyers agree that the maximum fine would be determined by the general provisions of Chapter 20, found in Chapter 20-19, which specifies, “Any person who violates any provision of this article, or rule or regulation promulgated by the health officer, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by a fine of not less than $50.00 nor more than $2,000.00. Each day a violation of this article continues shall constitute a separate offense.”
No one is telling us where the misinformation originated. Maybe the Mayor sent out a press release, maybe she said something off the record; maybe she transmits misinformation to her obedient media telepathically. None of these media providers have corrected the error, and The Chronicle has continues to repeat it.
Worst Response To A Local Issue: City Council Member Andrew Burks’s Reference To Food Trucks As Potential Terrorist Weapons
At a city council meeting several months ago, dozens of local food truck vendors, supporters, activists, and even Bun B came out in support of proposed changes to existing food truck legislation. Many individuals made impassioned speeches in favor of changes such as allowing food trucks to enter into downtown and the Medical Center areas, eliminating the current space requirement between each truck, and allowing food trucks to provide seating for their clientele. No big deal, right?
Well, according to many of your city council members, these proposed changes are a huge deal because food trucks are apparently all the rage for drug trafficking and terrorist plots. Yep.
At-Large City Council Member Andrew Burks was particularly concerned about the potential harm the 20-40 pound propane tanks that trucks are allowed to keep on board would pose to U.S. embassies. Why he’s harping on this particular scenario, I have no idea. And apparently some of our dear council members, many of whom do great things for their respective districts, are opting to use scare tactics versus cold, hard facts to try to make decisions about the things that impact our local economy and small businesses.
I’ll leave you with Burks’s actual words as quoted in a Houston Press blog post. They really say it all:
“Anything catastrophic like that could be a real hard damage and hard time for Houston, Texas or anywhere,” commented Burks. “And you know that in the times which we live in, I think this is totally outrageous. I’m outraged by that. Because the reason is that in these times when people get bombed in embassy attacks and we put this type of bomb directly here in front of us and we know we could be causing trouble…”
Worst Housing: Everywhere
What happened Houston? We used to have blocks and blocks of affordable housing a few years back. Recently, however, there seems to be a housing boom that consists of demolishing cute bungalows or fourplexes and replacing them with some rather hideous condominiums. Look, I understand that rich people do not enjoy living next to people like me and the feeling is mutual but they aren’t just removing our homes, they are chucking out the character of our neighborhoods as well. Houston has a bizarre obsession with knocking down historic buildings and replacing them with stucco townhomes. It feels as though nothing in this city is more than a decade old. This was confirmed last month when I came across a historic Heights home tour brochure. The “historic” homes on the list to be viewed that month were cute bungalows that appeared to be built in the ‘20s and ‘30s but when you looked closer at the dates many of the homes had been built in 2011. They were on the list because they had been built to mimic the homes that would have been prevalent in the Heights eight decades ago. Hey developers, it’s okay to repurpose a building to fit your client’s needs. Update the shit out of it. But stop razing every fucking building in sight. And stop replacing it with tacky shit
Worst Grocery Store in My Hood: HEB
I’ll go ahead and blame everything on HEB. I was living a joyous life, doing my grocery shopping at Fiesta. Dancing down the canned goods aisles, rocking out to the best songs from the ‘60s, and buying Persian cucumbers (that they don’t have at HEB) were some of my best memories of Fiesta. When they built HEB and Fiesta closed down, I didn’t know how to react. Yet, I went ahead and started shopping at HEB. I believed that the HEB workers understood that many people were scarred when Fiesta disappeared so they began playing those same songs from the ‘60s. IT JUST WASN’T THE SAME. My rebellious and hurtful feelings led me to steal jelly beans and not pay for refills. And now, just a couple of months ago, HEB began playing their usual elevator music and they expect me to not notice that? How am I supposed to do my grocery shopping? I am done.
It’s like that dude… Columbus… right? Montrose is the New World, and HEB is Columbus, and Fiesta is the Native Americans that all died off in the end. Ladies and gentlemen, we have just witnessed history – the modern version.
Worst Vegetarian Restaurant: Radical Eats
Why would I pick this as the city’s worst vegetarian restaurant when according to Yelp, Houston Press, and Alison Cook this is the best thing to happen to Houston vegetarians since pre-sliced tempeh? Because I am not impressed. Tonight, I had a frozen Amy’s meal I bought from Kroger and it was good. I enjoyed it. At first I thought I would actually put the food I had from Radical Eats on the same level as that Amy’s meal, but after thinking about it I liked that frozen meal better. I can get Mexican food just about anywhere in this town. With the amount of bean tacos I have eaten since I went meat-free I should be glad that I don’t weigh about 500 pounds. Mexican restaurants are one of the easiest places to go to when dining with your meat-eating friends. Throw some rice, beans, and guac into a tortilla and you have an easy vegan meal at just about any taco truck or Tex-Mex joint in the city, WHY MAKE A VEGAN MEXICAN RESTAURANT? Give me something I haven’t had in 13 years, not something I can get on every street corner in Texas. Give me something I never get to eat: vegan meatball subs, vegan milkshakes or a vegan chicken fried steak. Can someone please step up and give Houston vegetarians a little choice in this city? Don’t even bother going to their website to check out their menu because that alone will make you want to punch someone.
Worst Execution of the Best Idea: Twin Peaks
-The Giving Steve
I’ve always subscribed to the maxim: ANYTHING + BOOBS > ANYTHING. Any bit of marketing hinting that breasts might be involved immediately captures my attention as a surefire chance for a good time. The concept is flawless. If my dentist advertised that there was a possibility of cleavage during a visit, I’d currently be a model for Colgate. That’s why I thought Twin Peaks, a Hooters knock-off franchise, was going to be such a great deal. I was sorely disappointed after my experience dining there.
The aptly named Twin Peaks franchise was started in Dallas in 2005. It has grown to over 24 locations in 10 states. It likes to market itself as a new “Hot Concept” dining experience, but really the “let’s dress soon-to-be single moms in revealing garb and have them sling loaded baked potatoes to guys over thirty who still wear sports jerseys” shtick is hardly an original idea. Twin Peaks was hyped as having better food and bigger boobs than Hooters. It has neither. My waitress had braces. I’d grade this restaurant at a D, but I didn’t see any.
Worst Building Conversion: Adult Bookstore into L’Olivier Restaurant
As long as I can remember, there stood an adult bookstore just next door to Numbers Nightclub on Westheimer. Ahem. From what a fellow FPH staffer has told me, inside there were arcade jerk-off stalls armed with videos where men could ‘take a jizz’ when needed, like on their downtown lunch break or whatever. Eventually the Internet revolution rendered many of these thriving spots obsolete and this ‘adult bookstore’ took the plunge like so many others. After going out of business, the building sat vacant for years and the landlords tried their best to get someone to move in. But most people’s memories of this location are ‘stained’ with visions of middle-aged men blowing their load in semi-privacy. Hence, finding tenants was surely a tough job. But who would ever have believed that a French restaurant would dare inhabit such an infamous spot? Considering cream, butter, and cheese are integral to French cuisine, you would think no self-respecting French restaurant would open up shop there. Then the fine folks of L’Olivier Restaurant and Bar opened their doors and we are luckily armed with a good jizz joke every time we drive by. Vous ne savez jamais vraiment ce qu’ils entendent par «crème fraîche».
Wurst Gourmet Wild Game Hot Dogs on the Wurst Pretzel Buns with the Wurst Craft Beer Selection: The Moon Tower Inn
Dear Moon Tower Inn: I hate you. Don’t you know how much I love you? I’ll fucking kill you. Won’t you please come back to me, please? It’s been long enough. Come back… SO I CAN KILL YOU for making me wait for so long.
Sure, you had your “Meat Wagon” food truck for a while there. But you can’t gather around a bonfire at a food truck. You can’t strike up a random conversation on the first of the month with a hobo who just cashed his SSI check at a food truck. You can’t soak up some suds and dish the dirt with your favorite bartenders at a food truck. And then you took that away, too!
I particularly hate your sambal mayo. I want to kill it by pouring it down my throat. I want to slurp it through a straw. Then I’ll kill your Cheech & Chong burger. Then I’ll kill your Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik burger. Then I’ll kill all your beer. So hurry back. We have a score to settle. Just you wait, Moon Tower Inn. If and when you ever come back, Imma eat yo lunch!
Worst Looming Presence: Heritage Plaza
So, I will warn you now that once you identify Heritage Plaza, you will not be able to unsee it. It will follow you no matter where you are in Houston. You’ll look up and out of nowhere there it will be, just creepin’. It’s particularly intrusive on Allen Parkway. Take a quick look back through your FPSF photos. Trust me, you’ll see it. It was the last building shat out during the skyscraper boom in the ‘80s and you really can tell. One has to assume that Heritage Plaza is what you get when you let cowboys on cocaine in the ‘80s design a city. What makes Heritage Plaza so “distinct” is the design at the very top of the 53-story skyscraper. The Houston architects that designed the building created it to resemble a Mayan temple AND an eagle spreading its wings. Never under any circumstance should you combine a Mayan temple with an eagle. Ever. It just isn’t necessary. Also, what the hell does a Mayan temple or an eagle have to do with each other or Houston? Like I said, I blame the cocaine. And the ‘80s.
Worst Place To Ride a Bike: Bike Lanes
Let me count the ways: gravel, glass, tire-eating potholes, low-hanging branches, large cracks, cars, busses, large puddles, piles of leaves, shopping carts…
Worst Roadside Attraction: BJ Oldies Antique Shop’s Flying Pigs
When driving past BJ Oldies on Westheimer, I am, admittedly, usually on my way to work, fighting the clock to make it to the office on time because I underestimated how long it would take me to get through my daily wake up-coffee-run-shower routine. The combination of Houston’s notoriously dangerous drivers coupled with Westheimer’s narrow lanes can create a rather stressful morning drive. Not to mention the sharp curve that the road makes directly in front of the store. With all these things in mind, I have to ask: must we really have a hundred small, metal sculptures in the shape of flying pigs strategically placed six inches or so from the street? These little guys don’t make it any easier for me to maneuver down this narrow road when there are multicolored barn animals practically sticking their noses out into my lane. I am one little crushed piggy away from a panic attack and a popped tire. I mean, come on, BJ Oldies–can’t you just move the pigs back, say, two feet? Let’s not hog what little driving space we have here.
Worst Infrastructure: Our Godforsaken Roads
I asked multiple people around town about what their worst complaint of Houston in 2012 would be and boy did I get a resounding response in regards to how shitty our roads are. Busted tires and bent rims seem to just be a part of what makes living in a city that was built on a swamp so glorious. But let’s be honest, we bitch about the road construction just as much as we bitch about the sorry state of the roads.
Worst Museum Security: Menil
I know what you are thinking: He is gonna call out Menil security for not catching Uriel Landros defacing a precious Picasso. Nope. Not the case. I think the HPD who guard the Menil area from the outside think they are above simple traffic laws. Living rather close and driving by every day, I constantly see these guys run the stop signs, stop their vehicles in the middle of a public street to make phone calls, and drive at whatever speed they please. Sure, the Menil owns much of the property in the area but that does not make them above regarding the safety of others and acting as good neighbors.
Worst Graffiti “Artists”: GOAT and AGUA
2012 has been a huge year for our fair city’s street art movement. Many of us caught a glimpse into the lives of some of Houston’s hard hitters via Alex Luster’s Stick ‘Em Up documentary. However, inspiration comes in many forms and sprouts one of two things: a good or a bad. In this instance of bad, tags of GOAT and AGUA have tied for first on my list of worst graffiti in Houston. I mean, honestly, there are many, MANY more names that pop out but these two have a special place in my heart. First, we have GOAT who seems to have disappeared over the past few months or perhaps I’ve learned to subconsciously divert my attention to something more aesthetically appealing. From scrawls on street posts to damages made to thriving local businesses, this person’s attempt at graffiti art is just the worst. A simple Google search already has the Houston Press crowning this person’s “work” as “World’s Lamest Tag.” Take that fact in for a second. Also, man, if your identity can be mentioned in an article that is comparing you to an LL Cool J or Eminem song you’re doing something really, really, really fucking wrong. As for AGUA, I’ve just seen this written all over Montrose and even on traffic barrels and road hazard signs and I just think it’s lame.
Worst Art Gallery: War’Hous
If you like your art easy (both in execution and in content), decorative, vapid, and shallow, then this is the place for you. Nothing here will challenge you–nothing will make you think or feel in ways you’d never expected to; nothing will make you feel uncomfortable; nothing will challenge your preconceived notions. This is where beautiful people go to pose beside paintings of beautiful people. Sure, they put on shows to support charities sometimes, but I prefer the maxim “If there was justice there would be no need for charity.” So rather than evoking pity in their audiences, I would encourage War’Hous and its artists to aim to inspire ACTION rather than a condescending pity in its patrons.
“Art is not a mirror to reflect reality,” said Bertolt Brecht, “but a hammer with which to shape it.”
Dandee Warhol, the gallery’s proprietor, whose name is a rip-off of a lame ‘90s band whose name is a play on the name of a truly great conceptual artist, was voted “Houston’s Best Artist” by readers of Houston Press in 2011. All that proves is the lameness of Houston Press readers (if there was ever any doubt). Still, if you have a penchant for oversized, two-dimensional, paint-by-numbers cartoon cels that some guy traced using an overhead projector, this is your place. Just be sure to wear your faux-hawk and your duck face. 29-95 recently ran a “review” of a War’Hous art opening that features 22 photographs of people posing but not one single image of art from the show. Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself: http://www.29-95.com/gallery/love-sick-or-sick-love-art-show
The worst part of this “Worst of” is that the nihilists at War’Hous, who are prone to repeat phrases such as “Haters make us famous,” are going to love it. Some people have so little soul, they don’t even know there’s such a thing. Oh well.
Worst Attempt at an Evil Lair: The Tunnel System
I just recently found out that the tunnel system is real. For the longest time I just thought that people were being smart asses or metaphorical or something when they would talk about the tunnel system. I am confused by this weird under layer of Houston that I am just not privy to. And then I went down there. Jesus Christ, what a mess. It was confusing and disorienting. Is it me or does the tunnel system just not seem very user-friendly? I am confused as to why we can have a tunnel system underground but not a subway system? It seems like such a waste of underground space.
Worst Houston Sports Radio Talk Show Host: Josh Innes, SportsRadio 610
This guy, Josh Innes, talks about himself, Josh Innes, incessantly on his rush hour radio show. Allegedly, it’s supposed to be a talk show on the topic of sports. This is evidenced only by Josh Innes’s co-host on the show, Rich Lord, longtime sports radio personality in Houston. Beyond the presence of Rich Lord, there’s no content relating to sports. In fact, Lord spends the bulk of his time on the show apologizing to the listeners for Innes’s outrageous narcissism. For a guy who praised the repossession of his own car by creditors, Innes should shut up… maybe watch a Texans game.
Worst Threat to Houston’s Oldest Teenager: Double Strokes and Tongue Cancer
At 84, Harry Sheppard has been convincing audiences for decades that it is possible to remain young forever. Harry has played his vibraphones with Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, and Coleman Hawkins. Unlike all of them, he didn’t die a long time ago.
In fact, so far, he’s been so good at not dying or slowing down that some were beginning to speculate that Harry must have beat the devil in a vibes versus violin showdown.
In addition to playing faster than musicians a quarter his age, Harry also believes he has discovered the cure for cancer and has been promoting it to cancer patients for years. It is a daily dosage of mini-lozenges made from ume plum and wild Japanese mountain yam (aka Jinenjo).
In December, when Harry received a diagnosis of cancer, his doctors insisted that he begin radiation and chemotherapy, but Harry is willing to put his faith in ume to the test. If he’s right, we will have not only the cure for cancer, but also Harry Sheppard and his full head of hair to entertain Houstonians for years to come.
As for his two strokes? Harry gets over his temporary partial paralysis and is back at his instrument within weeks. But just in case, go see him play ASAP!
Worst Venue Change For An Annual Charity Event: Houston Heart Walk
I’m sure there is a perfectly sound business case for changing the annual Houston Heart Walk from a pleasant stroll up and down Allen Parkway into a death march-like circumambulation of the Reliant Stadium parking lot, but I am equally certain that I do not care. Granted, most Houstonians never walk any farther than the distance from couch to fridge and therefore would not know a pleasant walk from a blowjob or a hole in the ground…and therefore it does not matter. But it would still be nice to be able to WALK someplace for a bevvie and a bit of brunch after doing my part to encourage cardiovascular health.
Worst Aerial Foe: These Nuts…
Last year’s drought left area trees with no other choice than to produce the most impressive crop of nuts these eyes have seen. They steadily rained from overhead for months, ricocheting off the roofs of cars and homes and into some poor fool’s unsuspecting forehead. My back patio was covered in a dangerous layer of smooth brown acorns just waiting for a cartoon moment. Squirrels have enlisted other animals to help with the cleanup, like my dogs who gradually have developed a palate for the crunchy, sweet, and slightly astringent acorn meat. If you have a pecan tree on your property, you are probably suffering from PTSD. Godspeed.
Worst Heights Addition: Fucking Walmart
Thanks Mayor Parker. I truly appreciate your part in helping to reduce my quality of life by a few pegs during this year. Let me tell you all the wonderful things I experience now that I have to live by a Walmart. For starters, the traffic congestion on Yale and Heights Blvd. has been nothing but pleasurable since your big box store opened its doors. Getting trapped at the light for 40 minutes really just puts a spring in my step every time it happens. The complete development of those few blocks has just been so beneficial to the Heights. I mean, how did we ever survive without a Starbucks and Chipotle on every block? I completely agree with the idea that what the community in the Heights needed more than anything was more fucking concrete everywhere. It sure does wonders for drainage every time it rains. We all know how well concrete soaks up water and all. I agree; grass is so overrated. I’m sure all the local businesses in the Heights adore having a big box shop right around the corner. Especially one that makes everything in factories overseas and pays people in our community an unlivable wage to keep them entrapped in programs like welfare and food assistance. Oh, and are you waiting on the Yale St. Bridge to collapse before you fix it? You can only reroute the 18-wheelers around it for so long.
Worst Wholesale Reinvention of Montrose Since the Goddamn HEB: 1300 Richmond
The classic, classy garden apartment complex at 1300 Richmond, along with a handful of sketchier complexes in the immediate vicinity, was recently demolished. For fans of gentrification, this is great news. For anyone capable of connecting the dots between affordable housing, an indigenous artist/musician/general bohemian population, and what’s left of Montrose’s dwindling cultural cache, it’s just the latest of many “there goes the neighborhood” moments.
Worst Local News Reporter Office Location: The Philippines
In June, This American Life reported that The Houston Chronicle was outsourcing local news reporting to Journatic, a company that data mines sheriff’s reports, obituaries, marriage licenses, school enrollment, sports scores, real estate transfers, and even holiday trash pickup schedules to generate stories. People and even computer algorithms edit the collected data, as potential stories begin to coalesce. Writers in the U.S. get $12 to $14 per story to fix up first drafts by Filipinos receiving $0.35 to $0.40 per story. The finished draft is attributed to an American-sounding alias.
Journatic is used extensively by some of the largest media providers in the U.S. including The Hearst Corporation that owns the Houston Chronicle and 16 other papers, and the Tribune Company that owns the Chicago Tribune and eight or more other papers.
Worst Park: San Jacinto Monument
Jesus Christ. I traveled down Independence Highway to the monument last month because I hadn’t been since I was a kid. Holy crap, what an awful, awful place. I don’t know what I was expecting from a monument located in Pasadena but I couldn’t believe my eyes when I arrived. It is noted as being the location of the world’s largest monument column but what they don’t tell you is that it might also be the world’s most polluted park. Even the trees (which there were very few of) were deformed; deformed in a way that caused them to tilt away from the five area chemical plants that surround the park. Even the reflective pool has been gated off with heavy chain-link fences so as to keep people from getting near the water. Just this year, the state was forced to put up warning signs instructing patrons that wading, swimming, fishing, crabbing, or collecting oysters was not allowed. This is due to the extremely high levels of dioxin and furan found in the San Jacinto River. I’m bothered by the 40,000 area school children that visit there each year. If I was a parent, that is one field trip permission slip I would not sign.
Worst Entrance: FPSF 2012
The bright side is FPSF had a record turnout, the shows were fantastic, and people came from all around the state and country to enjoy a festival in Houston. As a result, the shit side meant that we were underprepared to ensure that folks were getting through the gates quickly enough on that Saturday. We have resolved this issue and are going above and beyond to avoid this pain in the ass for the future.
Worst Fracking Losers: Halliburton
The formerly Houston-based oil and gas services corporation Halliburton lost a 7-inch radioactive rod they use in natural gas “fracking” operations. The 7-inch radioactive rod apparently fell off the back of a truck and was missing for one full month before it was found on the side of a road in West Texas. If Halliburton is having such a hard time hanging on to its 7-inch radioactive rod, I have a suggestion for where they can stick it for safekeeping (and no, I’m not thinking of BP’s Macondo oil well where Halliburton used faulty cement which might have caused its explosion).
Worst Omen: ExxonMobil Moving Headquarters to the Woodlands
Regardless of how the mayor tries to spin this, the reality is that this move is bad news bears, my friends. We do not want businesses abandoning office space downtown and moving their headquarters to the ‘burbs. They aren’t just taking their headquarters elsewhere, they are also taking their employees and our tax base with them. No one is going to commute from downtown to the Woodlands. ExxonMobil is expected to have 3.9 million square feet of office space built in the Woodlands by 2015. And sure they are planning to move employees from Virginia and Ohio along with a mass amount of workers from Houston, but this does nothing for our in-the-loop economy. Currently 90 percent of new office development in Houston is happening in the Woodlands or in Western submarkets. If you want a blueprint for ways to cause the collapse of a major American city, this is fucking it. Don’t believe me? Ask Detroit.
Worst Keepers of Texas’s Reputation as a “Rebellious” State: The Texas GOP
Why is it that the people who claim to be the most rebellious are always the most authoritarian? This is a direct quote from page 20 of the official 2012 Texas Republican Party Platform, “We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills…critical thinking skills and similar programs that…have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.” Nuff said.
Worst Form of Pride: Texas Flag
I recently did some traveling and on my journey I was repeatedly met with a laugh or roll of the eyes when I told people I was from Texas. Apparently, people either hate us or find us amusing in a non-cute sort of way. We really should lay off the state pride thing for a bit. I mean, it’s cool to be proud of where you came from but we have been known to take things a bit too far. Very intelligent people have told me that they think the Texas flag is the only state flag allowed to be flown at the same height as the American flag. Nothing about that statement is true. Did you know that every day our children in school pledge allegiance to the Texas flag at the end of their morning announcements? This is not the case in other states. Also, Republicans, just to be clear, you do not, in fact, have to wear the Texas flag on your person when you travel beyond state lines. It is not a requirement to get back in. Feel free to retire your shirts made out of Texas flags or your Texas flag mud flaps. It’s cool. We get it. You love Texas. So do I. But I show it by trying to make my community a better place. Not by adorning my yard with seven Texas flags and a pool built in the shape of Texas.
Worst KPFT Interview: Dr. Robert Sanborn with the Mayor
On October 29, when Mayor Parker appeared on the KPFT program Growing Up In America, several people called in to complain about her law punishing those who share food with the homeless. Instead of allowing them to ask their questions directly, or accurately summarizing their concerns, host Dr, Robert Sanborn asked Parker, “Mayor, I don’t want to bang this question to death, but we’re getting a lot of people calling in on this. The whole feeding of homeless children. I mean, what is that all about? I mean, why are people giving you so much grief around that issue?”
The Mayor responded with her usual talking points about the new law. Dr. Sanborn responded: “Mayor, and I think if people knew you like some of us know you, the commitment you have to children and the commitment you have to making the city better for children… I mean… it would be pretty hard to have a bigger commitment than you have, I think. That’s such an important thing.”
The Mayor, and now her buddy Bob Sanborn, seem to categorize any criticism of this terrible law as a personal attack. Dr. Sanborn let Houstonians down by dismissing the legitimate concerns of his listeners.
Worst Place Near Houston: The Woodlands
Seriously, fuck that place. You know something evil is brewing up there but with no real way to prove it. There is just something terrifying about a place that was a master plan community created and built by the Anadarko Petroleum Corporation. Anadarko literally built a community around their headquarters. I am also a little weirded out by the 91 percent of white people that make up the demographics of the Woodlands. I don’t know why, but a mass collective of rich white people in one place makes me really anxious. I know in the past scientists have considered building a dome around Houston but I think the Woodlands might be where this plan could actually be implemented in our lifetime. It’s only a matter of time before they decide to build a border to keep us out.
Worst Abbreviations: ‘Cray,’ ‘Ridic,’ ‘YOLO,’ ‘Totes,’ ‘Whatev,’ and the Like
These abbrevs (abbreviations) have reached a cray’ (crazy) peak of prev’ (prevalence) in our lex (lexicon) this year. Have we become so lay (lazy) that we have forced ourselves to shorten two syl (syllable) words? Many people would attr ( attribute ) the demise of our langy lang (language) to the digi’ (digital) rev (revolution). This shit is simply det-y (detrimental) to our ability to comsy (communicate). Oh well, HTSWENY (Hopefully this shit will end next year).
Worst Cliche: “Haters Make Us Famous”
That is the stupidest, most vapid, most shallow, most nihilistic cliché anybody could think to adopt. I blame the likes of Jerry Springer and “reality” TV, which has convinced idiots that all kinds of attention–from admiration to jeering–are equal. This is the kind of thinking that has given rise to the idiot who spray painted the Picasso at the Menil, the opportunistic jackass who gave that idiot his own art show, and, when taken to its extreme, the kinds of losers who go on mass shooting sprees.
While I am the first to agree that if you never inspire controversy, you are probably not challenging yourself or anybody around you–but is fame really something to strive for? And if it is, is “hate” the way to achieve it? What happened to achieving fame through consistent, humble hard work and positive contributions to your community? Actually, what am I talking about? Fuck fame.
Worst Selling Out of Her Favorite Cause: Wanda Adams
She dressed down and slept in the streets in a cardboard box to learn what it was like to be homeless. She declared that helping the homeless was a personal and key issue for her. She even wrote in an editorial, “We must never seek to criminalize, or penalize, efforts that in their most basic forms are a response to a widespread human need.” However, when it came time for her to vote on doing just that, Adams caved in to pressure from the Mayor. We can speculate about why, but it’s probably safe to conclude that power corrupts.
Worst Ruin: Astrodome
Ahhhh, the childhood memories. Has anyone been in there lately? She really has let herself go in her later years. For being affectionately labeled the eighth wonder of the world at one point, it now looks like an apocalyptic mess. One has to ask why do we keep her around? A reminder of better times? Or a reminder of what is to come? I vote we turn her into a gigantic community garden. Or a dog park. Astroturf is totally pet friendly. I think no one in city government wants to be labeled the person who destroyed the Astrodome. That’s fair. I wouldn’t want that title either. However, how great would it be if instead we could label one of our elected officials as the person who turned the dome into a tomato garden? Surely someone in this city would give a grant to write that proposal. Here’s looking at you, Urban Harvest.
Worst Exemplars of Patriotism: Secessionists
I don’t get it. The same people who said stuff like “Love it or leave it!” when some of us criticized Bush are, now that their guy lost again, neither loving nor leaving, but…attempting to leave whilst taking it with them? Confused yet? Me too. Just remember, you can’t spell “patriot” without “riot.”
Worst Dogs: Mine
My two rescue dogs, Annie and Najis, (the Arabic word for ‘ritually impure’) have earned the prestigious title of Houston’s worst dogs. Despite saving both of them from a miserable existence and showing them nothing but affection, these two dogs hate me. They will not come within three feet of me unless I lie on the ground as if I am dying. And even then they only seem like they are rejoicing in my demise. They sleep, eat, shit, and piss wherever they like. They run away once every 48 hours. They look at me with disdainful glares and talk shit about me when I leave the room. Despite all this, I still adore them, sing songs to them, and cater to their every need. What must I do to gain their love?