Gather around you fellow haters, cynics, and video game store clerks and bask in the hate that is our annual ‘Worst of Houston 2010’; a collection of the worst antics of 2010 in Houston and even beyond! Be forewarned, we pull no punches here and call em’ like we see them. So if you are included on this list, take it not as a stab but rather a nudge to change your actions and work towards a better tomorrow. We know we will. McCoin, you are fired!
– Illustrations by Michael C. Rodriguez
Worst Invasion of Privacy: Red light cameras vs. DHS cameras
While Houston voters went to the polls and rejected red light cameras November 2nd, the city of Houston was quietly continuing with the installation of some 250-300 outdoor video surveillance cameras throughout the downtown area. This money for this project, costing upwards of 14 million dollars, came from The Urban Area Security Initiative funds doled out annually by Homeland Security. Is there really that much going on downtown that we need 300 cameras to watch it? Are there even 300 intersections downtown? Responding to public concerns that these cameras constitute an invasion of privacy, Dennis Storemski, the city’s director of the Office of Public Safety and Homeland Security said all the cameras are in public spaces where people should be aware that their actions are not private. “We live in an age right now where there’s really no expectation that there
would be no video in a public space.” Thanks Dennis Storemski for letting me know privacy is dead, I almost missed the memo! It’s a good thing for the City of Houston that Homeland Security expenditures aren’t up for public vote; I think we know how Houstonians would side on this issue.
– Tish Stringer
Worst Cocktail: Anvil
Some basil-y, gin and fruit crap one of the guys from Anvil made me drink.
Worst Display of Selfishness: Getting married on a holiday weekend
Who do you think you are? If everyone was as selfish as you holidays wouldn’t even exist. Or in the fall during football season. Nothing says romantic wedding like forcing your friends and loved ones to feign interest in something they’ve seen a hundred times and then to spend their time at the reception watching the game with the waiters on the ballroom kitchen TV.
Also, black tie weddings. What are we, in the Great Gatsby? Your butler called. He thinks you’re a douche.
Mike Sullivan, the City Council Member for District E, is the kind of guy that waits until the last minute to call his Mayor informing her that he is switching his vote on the matter of an unpaid seat on the seven-member Port of Houston Authority. He’s the kind of guy that thinks preserving historic buildings violates property owner’s rights. He’s the kind of guy that looks out for taxicab companies because the Green Initiative reminds him of a sinus infection from his childhood. He’s the kind of guy that doesn’t really know what he’s doing; but he knows if he votes against HPD budget cuts then people will like him… but he doesn’t know that those are the stupid people. Mike Sullivan has a unique condition called Spineless Cowardism and basically his mouth is a butthole.
Worst Political Screw-up: Red Light Camera vote
The reason why this is a screw-up isn’t about whether or not red light cameras do anything but raise money for HPD, nor is it about who bankrolled which campaign. It’s about the fact that the vote was completely unnecessary. The contract with American Traffic Solutions was going to expire in 2014 and all Houston City Council had to do was not renew it and the cameras would have come down. Instead a proposition was placed on the ballot and now the city is involved in a lawsuit to determine whether a contract supersedes the will of the people and whether the city will have to pay money it doesn’t have to get out of a contract the citizens didn’t think it should have entered into in the first place.
Worst Place to Buy Produce: Any grocer but Fiesta
I love my little Fiesta. I get 2 or 3 bunches of cilantro for a buck, beautiful Persian cucumbers for $1.89 a pound, gorgeous juicy pears at three for a dollar. The last time I went to Kroger limes were 4 for a dollar, lemons nearly a buck a pound, and they didn’t even have cilantro. H-E-B laughably asks nearly double the cost for all of their produce and Central Market is for people who seek status elevation for paying more for less.
Even though the photo in the Chron of Tom DeLay–snapped moments after being found guilty– was almost worth putting up with the man for 30 years (oh, that stricken, pissed-off look…visions of prison showers, like sugar plums, a-dance in his head), it was no where near enough, and no where soon enough. Even discounting the possibility of a pardon from Governor for Life, Secessionist, and hair model Rick Perry, the odds of “The Hammer” getting hammered up his jammer in the slammer are pretty remote–he’ll likely get the minimum sentence, do token time in the Oil Executive wing of one of Texas’s many fine prisons, and then begin a new career as either a televangelist or a ballroom dance instructor. And in any case, with the Citizens United Decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has made DeLay’s little money laundering scheme irrelevant and unnecessary anyway.
Worst Interviewee: Roy Mata
C’mon Holmes, I sent you questions like 4 months ago and you promised to send over the answers. I thought we were friends?
– Omar Afra
Worst Southern Hospitality: Chevron
As a multinational company with operations in more than 180 countries, Chevron hosted their shareholders meeting here in Houston this year. People from Ecuador, Nigeria, Colombia, Indonesia, Angola, Burma, Australia, Thailand, Kazakhstan, Canada, Texas, California, Alaska, Wyoming came to talk about the impacts that Chevron has had on their communities. Impacts like probing up dictatorships, contaminating water and air, displacing people to build pipelines and causing terrible impacts on human health. Chevron showed their hospitality by not letting any of these people in. They barred more than 30 people, many who came from other continents, from attending this shareholders meetings, where they had stock, and came from communities who are impacted by Chevron’s operations. If you look at the Chevron website you might believe their public relations about how “Oil companies should support communities they are part of.” But judging them by their actions makes it clear that they would be happy to grind up the bones of children if they could sell it to you to power your car.
Worst Question Asked Annually: When is it going to be winter?
Every year of my life I’ve heard the same questions this time of year: When is going to get cold? What is up with this weather? Clip this out and give it to a newcomer to our town, or save it before you ask yet again next year: Houston weather is fucked up because it revolves around our wardrobes. As soon as you dig out your jacket and scarves, it gets hot again. And just when you think it’s safe to wear that mini-skirt on a balmy November eve, BAM! Icy cold fingers of air be stroking your thighs. Verdict: Thread smartly and carry a light cardigan.
Worst Houston Use of Facebook Invites: Musicians Inviting Me to Vote for Their Band
I’m pretty sure it’s still illegal to be a WHORE in Houston, which is why I was stunned this year to find my Invite Box on Facebook brimming with pathetic invitations from musicians beseeching me to vote for them in the wildly prestigious Houston Press Music Awards. How falsely pretentious can you be, “inviting me” to vote for you? For shame. But as much as this is intended to be a complaint, it’s really a “thank you” to all of the artists and bands that carried out this atrocious act. Thank you for making it the easiest decision in the world NOT TO VOTE FOR YOU. Stop social networking your music and spend time crafting it, please. Don’t choose to achieve cheap success in art. That ruins the point.
Most high thanks and praise be to President David Leebron of Rice University, the Board of Governors, VP for Public Affairs Linda Thrane, and all the unknown little people for all their efforts to destroy the vital cultural asset that is KTRU 91.7 FM. Kudos on using secrecy and deception to educate your students on Rice'”unconventional” values. Houston has really gotten way too “interesting”, what with all that non-commercial student-run locally produced eclectic radio programming available. KTRU dangerously gives a voice to local artists & bands, music venues & art spaces, helping “the scene”, and playing the music of Houston’s shifty ethnic minorities. I certainly wouldn’t want to live in a place where the music and information I heard on the radio wasn’t pre-approved by someone in Los Angeles or Washington, D.C. And heck, Rice students don’t need all that responsibility and all those leadership opportunities anyway! Isn’t it just as good if they tweet their mixtapes to all their Facebook friends?
Also, big thanks to the University of Houston for valuing “Tier One” status so much higher than its regard by the Houston community, even though having two FM radio stations has nothing to do with attaining that status. Also, good job on reducing broadcast coverage for all those rich classical music loving donors from 100,000 watts to a mere 50,000. That should make getting $10 million of additional donations to pay off that taxpayer-backed bond easy as pie, even though apparently KUHF has had enough trouble meeting its existing targets lately. Great team effort, Rice & UH; bring on the blandness!
– The Machine
Look, I am no puritan. Also, I have some close friends at Houston Press and respect what they do. Yet, the last portion of the paper that features the ‘Massage and Spa ads’ is rife with young Asian girls who are here against their will and working often to pay their way. But their work ultimately involves getting raped several times a day. No one knows more than me how hard it is for print publications to make revenue these days in this digital age but there must be some code of ethics here, guys. And ignorance is no excuse. It is no secret what happens at these places and what the conditions are. HPD simply does not have all the resources to bust the endless amount of ‘Massage Parlors’ and the laws are not adequately set up to prosecute the pimps as opposed to the prostitutes. Two years ago, three ad reps at the Orlando Weekly were arrested and charged with Racketeering for knowingly profiting from prostitution. They have since cut such ads from the paper. Not a bad idea.
– Omar Afra
Worst Greenwashing of Dirty Food: Ruggles Green
Grass Fed Beef and “Natural” Turkey, Buffalo, Chicken and Pork may sound natural and healthy, but unfortunately for anyone who really wants to help the environment and avoid toxins, commercially produced meat and dairy can’t go very far. As for the “Gulf Coast Crab,” and
the “Wild-Caught Shrimp,” for me, the only green image that comes to mind is BP’s logo. It’s good that they use sustainable furnishings, but the problems caused by the meat on their menu far outweigh any benefits. Meat production, even so-called “natural” meat production,
is contributing about 70% of climate destroying gases according to the latest study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. If you want a green lunch, there are some veggie options at Ruggles Green, but as for the meat options on the menu, Ruggles is greenwashing dirty food.
– Nick Cooper
I always take visitors to Houston to see our worst piece of public art (The George Bush monument) directly across from our best piece of public art (Big Bubble by Dean Ruck) on opposite sides of the Preston Avenue bridge downtown. “The Commons” in Sesquicentennial Park also
became the site of a new 1.2 million dollar piece of public art unveiled just before Halloween this year, The James A. Baker III monument. (Incidentally, North Carolina sculptor Chas Fagan created both the Bush statue and the new Baker addition. Buy local anyone?) Placed directly across Buffalo Bayou from George, the two larger than life bronze statues gaze longingly at each other across the slow moving waters.
Welcome to Houston’s art scene, James “The government shouldn’t overreact to corporate scandals” Baker. You who watched the September 11 attacks at the Ritz-Carlton with the Bin Laden family. You who is defending the Saudi’s against a trillion-dollar lawsuit brought forth by the September 11 families. You who led the campaigns of the last four Republican presidents, Bush’s personal envoy in charge of restructuring Iraq’s $132 billion in debt, senior counsel for the Carlyle Group, violator of the Geneva Convention by destroying the civilian infrastructure of Iraq in Gulf War I, spokesperson for the Bush administration in its successful attempt to halt the vote recount in Florida, who as Counsel for Intelligence Policy prepared all applications for electronic surveillance and physical search under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and advised the CIA, the FBI,
and the Defense and State Departments.
What is the message of these works, that our children should aspire to grow up to oversee wars waged across the world against people poorer, browner and less consumer driven then ourselves? That they should grow up to fight injustice perpetrated against giant corporations by
the lowly workers? Given its proximity to Allen’s landing, I propose a statue in honor of José Campos Torres be erected in “The Commons”. Or any number of other worthy Houstonians such as: Mickey Leland, Barbara Jordan, Carl Hampton, Lightening Hopkins, Ray Hill, The Camp
Logan Rioters, or what about Beyoncé?
Pick one- Texans, ‘Stros, Rockets, Dynamos, the fucking Aeros, Longhorns, Cougars, the Sharts (my softball team), etc. The list goes on and on. This has probably been the worst year of sports in Greater Houston’s much maligned history. It’s like God is paying us back for Enron and Tom Delay. At this point our emotions are more fragile than… Yao Mings foot? Drayton McLane’s ego? Our nonexistent defensive secondary? Really, the fact there are so many ways to rip on our city’s athletic organizations pretty much sums it up.
Side note- are the Dynamo even bad? I just assumed they were because they’re a Houston team in 2010 but as of press time I couldn’t give two shits to look them up.
Fuck you. You still suck. I mean, have you still not gotten the point yet?
‘Worst Drink Prices 2010’, ‘Worst Sound Guy 2009’
-Marini van Smirren
Worst Inconvenience: Lack of Downtown Walmart
I don’t know about you guys, but nothing pisses me off more than there not being a Walmart downtown. Seriously, come on. At 4:30 in the morning, when I need avocados, condoms and a hammer, I don’t want to have to drive 30 minutes to the nearest Walmart to acquire my consumer needs. Yeah, they’re opening one in the Heights, but why don’t they just seal the deal and slap one downtown? Summer Fest would look mighty fine with the Walmart logo right there in skyline.
Worst Arts Coverage: Free Press Houston
Recently, Jason Nodler of Catastrophic Theater helped me realize something critical. Our arts coverage is sorely lacking. For God’s sake, we only have one page to work with in a 36 page paper! With all the great art and performance happening in this city there is now way we could fit it all on one page. That is why come our February issue we will be expanding the arts section to 2 ENTIRE PAGES! Put that in your pipe and smoke it Nodler! But seriously, thanks Jason.
– Omar Afra
Worst Houston Sports Bar: 360 Sports Lounge on Washington Ave.
If by some horrible misstep you find yourself on a date with a Kardashian and she wants to go to a sports bar then head directly to 360 Sports Lounge. While there are many giant TV’s to watch the game on, the Kardashian can also enjoy one of the TV’s screening the season finale of “Project Runway” or some such other travesty not pertaining to sports at all. If being a douchebag is a competition then 360 Sports Lounge is waving the championship trophy over its head like an idiot. A proper sports bar consists of gritty fans, greasy food and ungodly amounts of alcohol. Oddly colored drinks served in triangle glasses instead of a tumbler have no business in a sports bar; and neither do people afflicted with Ed Hardy.
Worst Bureaucracy: Texas Workforce Commission
I understand that there are millions of people out of work, but for it to take a month to process an unemployment claim and six weeks to receive the first payment is ridiculous. People can lose their homes and in the amount of time it takes a faceless clerk to “investigate” whether or not they lost their job for a legitimate reason. The appeal process is even worse, no documents are allowed to be presented its all done over a conference call which makes it difficult to tell if your former employer is being honest with the Commission’s chosen representative. However, the worst part of the TWC isn’t how they handle people who have applied for assistance but how they spin actual unemployment statistics. As the financial crisis has continued the TWC has kept putting out cheery upbeat news releases touting how many jobs were created in sectors like leisure and hospitality without stating whether those jobs pay a salary that will allow people to be able to afford to purchase anything more than the bare necessities.
Worst product to be sold in Montrose: Boats
I don’t think I really need to elaborate on this. To start, the nearest navigable body of water is at least 30 miles away and… Wait, that’s it. I’m not entirely sure who exactly their target market is… Does anyone else think it’s a drug cover up? Bad ‘sales’ ahoy.
-Marini van Smirren
Worst Reason To Get Butthurt: A Reader Left A Nasty Comment On Your Blog
If this applies to you then you should be aware of the easiest solution in the world: don’t allow readers to comment on your blog, you ridiculous pansy. I’ve never understood why there is always some shock and surprise when a reader vehemently disagrees with an article or blog post. Were you planning on everyone agreeing with you? Did you think having an opinion was the same as a bubblebath? You cannot possibly expect to delve into the ancient and vulnerable art of writing without encountering some friction. And you should be ashamed of yourself if you take this drama to Twitter or Facebook in an underhanded attempt to create factions. Or actually, go right ahead and do that… eat yourselves alive.
Worst Summer Ever (until the next one): 2010
One of life’s little ironies is that Global Climate change is pretty much an accepted scientific fact in places like San Francisco or Seattle–where the evidence of change is frequently obscured by clouds, fog, and cold drizzles of rain– but widely debated or dismissed as “liberal conspiracy” in places like Houston… where the facts of the matter are as evident as last month’s exorbitant and air-conditioning fuel ransom note from CenterPoint Energy (once better known to long-time residents as “Houston Looting & Plunder”). Although the record temperature of 108 degrees (set in September of 2000) was never broken, the number of days described by the National Weather Service as “feeling like” over one hundred degrees exceeded any sane person’s desire to count… and August 2010 is now officially on record as the hottest month ever.
Olivia is such a bad bartender people have started to refer to her as ‘Oblivia’. She is a self-proclaimed ‘ borderline autistic bartender’ who lacks the social skills, cocktail knowledge, speed, or any desire whatsoever to perform to at least a sub-par level of bartending. But, this is the charm that makes Super Happy Fun Land the place that it is. We would have it not have it any other way.
– Omar Afra
Company executives listened politely as their prospective future customers explained how much they had wanted H.E.B’s proposed new “Montrose Location” to be turned into a park (or perhaps had been perfectly happy when the property was Wilshire Village), but were willing to settle for having part of the property turned into green space. H.E.B. had earlier leaked several possible designs for the new store, including one that featured a park, a farmer’s market, an outdoor concert space…and two million dollars that local residents needed to raise if they wanted it. Pure corporate bait and switch at it’s finest. Even in these troubled times, two million dollars is relative chump change for a corporation as large as H.E.B. Had the city raised concerns that raised construction costs, the money would’ve been found. The Montrose Land Defense Coalition did, in fact find comments for as much as 1.2 $M. Not surprisingly, it was not enough–certainly not in Houston, where the principle use for trees is to send them to a paper mill that makes dollars.
Someone explain to me why every bar and club in Houston (and every city in the world for that matter) continues to play Michael Jackson songs? Yo DJ, kick that mad pedophile’s music, son! What kind of world do we live in where the Dixie Chicks say one negative comment about our President and still can’t get played in this city nearly a decade later, yet Michael Jackson can molest kids and get celebrated anytime a DJ wants bodies on the dance floor? Before anyone comes to the defense of this “white woman pork face,” as Katt Williams so eloquently put it, and tells me he was never found guilty of molesting a child, explain to me how in one case he settled out of court with a child for $20 million? I don’t know about you, but if I was not guilty of something I would fight to the death to defend and protect my innocence. However, if I was guilty as sin and had the financial ends to buy my innocence….well $20 million sounds about right.
I understand that we sacrifice a lot sometimes to take the path of least resistance, and in this case playing Beat It is that path to get bodies moving. I just urge all bar owners to consider what is celebrated by playing this Freakshow’s songs. He prayed on innocent children. He built an amusement park to woo them like love interests. He had a freaking “adult alarm” in his bedroom. If you really love children, you build hospitals. You pay all the medical bills for 1,000 kids with cancer. You build schools.
Let 2011 be the year we finally boycott all music recorded by pedophiles. Is that so much to ask? I would rather Macarena a thousand times over than be forced to listen to one more song by a person who took advantage of children incapable of protecting themselves.
Worst Local Band Names: We love many of these bands but hate the names!
Tax the Wolf
DJ Ipod Ammo
The Ton Tons
Worst Local Food Trend: Fusion Fast Food
Have I bitched about this before? Well let me ride again. Nothing makes me more angry than when some American thinks he can trump a millennia worth of trial and error, slow perfection, and tradition by merging 2 disparate cultures in his/her own ‘unique’ creation. We are talking Thai Tacos, Curried Buffalo Wings, Asian Chicken Salad, Bratwurst and Queso, Falafel Burger, you name it. Just quit trying to be original and just be good.
– Omar Afra
Worst Political Development of the Year: The normalization of what once were extreme right wing viewpoints
It’s sickening for a candidate of any political party to suggest we need to prohibit people from voting, but this year saw Tea Party backed candidates and Tea Party organizers espouse ideas that were straight from the darkest days of Jim Crow. In February Tom Tancredo the Constitution Party candidate for the Governor of Colorado, who came in second, told audiences that he believed that people need to “pass a civics test before voting.” Judson Phillips the founder of Tea Party Nation went even further when he said on his organization’s radio show that “it makes a lot of sense” to limit voting only to property owners.
For those who are not familiar with the history of voting rights in this country, here’s a selection from the Department of Justice’s website: “In the 1890s, [the former confederate states] began to amend their constitutions and to enact a series of laws intended to re-establish and entrench white political supremacy. Such disfranchising laws included poll taxes, literacy tests, vouchers of “good character,” and disqualification for “crimes of moral turpitude.” These laws were “color-blind” on their face, but were designed to exclude black citizens disproportionately by allowing white election officials to apply the procedures selectively.”
Even in the darkest days of WWII the white political elite’s desire to keep everyone else down could not be stopped and led to a Supreme Court case, Smith v. Allwright, where Texas tried to defend the practice of a “white primary” which allowed ostensibly “private” political parties, like the Democrats and the Republicans, to conduct elections and establish qualifications for their members. The painful history of voter disenfranchisement in Texas aside, the reason why suggesting putting limits on voting rights is so heinous is that it means that the people who suffered for equality, the men, women and children who marched, were beaten and died, did so for nothing.
The right for every man and woman to vote is not a right that was enshrined in the Constitution by the founding fathers, it was a right that was won in the street and in the court room. The fear that all men would be equal led reactionaries to blow up churches, kill children and execute young men. To suggest that some people aren’t fit to vote because they don’t own their own home or because, as one commentator on GOPUSA.com suggested, they don’t know how many constitutional conventions the United States has had is disgusting.
Worst Driving Across Town in Traffic to use a Coupon for Something You Didn’t Need Moment: METRO/Spain rail car deal
Everybody’s got that friend. You know who I’m talking about. That “frugal,” “thrifty,” “penny pincher” who will burn half a day and a tank of gas to save fifty cents on toilet paper because it was advertised in a Sunday sale circular.
The City of Houston (METRO) received $900 million in grants this year from the Federal Transit Administration to help build the much needed light rail. So METRO shopped around for a good deal and signed a contract with a Spanish company to build the rail cars. Problem was, the grants from the FTA required METRO to buy American…so it looked like we were going to lose that federal money–and we’re talking close to a billion dollars.
Just this week METRO announced that they reached a settlement with the Spanish company. They’re going to let us out of the contract, and they’re only going to keep $26 million of the $40 million we already paid them. That’s right, the double-coupon waving geniuses at METRO are telling us we should be happy that we got $14 million back. METRO, it’s going places.
– Harbeer Sandhu
Worst Restaurant and Coffee Shop: Brasil
You are like that friend everyone hates, but can’t get rid of. You suck at life. See you tomorrow.
For the 27th straight year of my life, white people. Haha, but not really. Just a little. Did you know that Czechs don’t consider themselves white? Weird, huh?
Mostly I hate the dudes I see around town at bars with Kennedy hair, usually off Washington Avenue when I am doing bar reviews, and now more than ever at Grand Prize Bar and out and about most weekends in the Montrose. John Hughes Movie Rich Kid Hair. I’m bald, so maybe it’s partially jealousy. They took away the darts and the beanbag toss, so maybe they will go back to their home planet.
Also, guys that stare at my gym shorts at the Downtown YMCA get my goat. I’m flattered, but can you please get out of my shower stall?
Worst Act of God: Rain on Summer Fest 2 years in a row
Okay Creator, Allah, Yahweh, whatever you’re tagging on dumpsters these days…all we’re trying to do is give the people of Houston TWO DAYS to separate from the monotony of their 9-5 jobs and the tide of economic desperation. TWO DAYS. Out of 365. I know we here at Free Press probably don’t give you a shout out as often as some people who might ask for less but shit, you’re practically handing out good weather to the White House. Sure, Wayne Coyne from the Flaming Lips LOVED the rain and volunteered with most of us in the mud to help make our job smoother last year at The Summer Fest but that was only one year, and if I remember correctly, you didn’t encourage the Of Montreal folks whatsoever to even come close to the mud, much less us. I know Of Montreal wrote “Satanic Panic in the Attack” and they might lose points with you for that one, but at Summer Fest 08, they fucking covered Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream” uniting a crowd of 20,000 vapid humans into a mass of positive vibrations.
I know you saw that. I guess I understand if Houston is “awash with sin” or whatever and you’ve still got a lot of work to do here before we get any kind of celestial kick-backs but, seriously, we have some AWESOME SHIT lined up for Summer Fest 2011 and I’m gonna go ahead and ask for your blessings early on behalf of all the future Staffers and Volunteers of the festival. Shukran Allah!
– Shelby Hohl
Worst Waiting in Line: The Drive Thru at El Rey @ Washington Avenue
Waking up Saturday morning at 2 pm, there is but one thing on my mind: tacos. After looking for my shoes from the night before and finding I slept in them, I putter on down to El Rey in the hopes that the cure to what ails me lies in the greasy, simple embrace of their fare. Even from a hundred yards away it’s evident my hangover remedy won’t be available any time soon.
The drive thru at El Rey depresses me more than Tyler Perry’s career success. Expect at least seven cars to be clogging the order lane in front of you and expect all seven cars to be filled with people ordering more than Kirstie Alley with a raging case of late night munchies. Their drive thru needs a drive thru. It takes forever to move forward and by the time you realize you could have just walked inside and picked up, you’re already committed. Once you’re back home with your bag of goodness you’ll wonder if it was really all worth it and why it’s now dark outside.
Worst Loss of Operating Hours: Montrose Library, now closed on Saturdays
Of all the days to close the library, Saturday makes the least sense. Due to budget shortfalls, weekly operation times were decreased by 20 hours, leaving most libraries to close 2 hours earlier each day at 6pm and all but the McGovern location to close on the weekends. This leaves working folks with little or no time to go to the library which will ultimately decrease the budget further for next year, and the next and the next, until one day when we’ll be told that we no longer can afford a public library, yet look at all the pretty stadiums!
Worst New Academic Initiative: Random Drug Testing in High School
This month I received an email from a buddy that our old high school was going to be in the newspaper for a fairly controversial new initiative they’re going to enforce on their students. I’m not going to tell you the name of the school as I am a loyal alumnae, but suffice it to say it’s in Bellaire and rhymes with Shmisshmiscopal. As of next month, all students enrolled at my old high school will be given random drug tests throughout the year. That’s right, a high school is drug screening its students. The person behind this initiative must either be the most naïve nerd in America or a descendant of some high ranking member of the Gestapo. Have they never seen Fast Times at Ridgemont High? The stoner crowd is a bedrock clique in any high school! Who else is going to make fun of the jocks while greenhousing the 3rd floor supply closet? Who else is going to stare vacantly out the window during calculus and attend pep rallies only to be ironic? And this initiative affects not only the wannabe hippies with Widespread Panic stickers in their BMWs, but also those who are just trying out new things. Whether you like it or not, high school is a time of experimentation. And that’s not a bad thing, it’s kinda necessary- it’s much better to discover how awesome beer makes you feel while you’re still at home under the protection of your parents than off at college where you can fail out and get VD. Kids mess around and screw up, it’s part of life. Also, if my high school is still anything like it was 10 years ago, roughly half the students will be expelled before lunch. All this Patriot Act paranoia doesn’t solve anything- let the parents test their kids if they stumble upon a connection between little Johnny’s newfound love of Mom’s lasagna and the Bob Marley poster recently tacked up in his wall. John Lithgow from Footloose called. He wants his bullshit back.
And are they testing the teachers? Because we had this one guy, Mr. Wilson, who taught French History, and I’m relatively certain he ripped the bong before class. To this day I can’t tell you one fact about the French but I can tell you some awesome stories of growing up in Montana in the 70s. And I’ll never forget the one and only time I ever went to a rave and ran smack into my Physics teacher, Mr. Casares, only he had a tongue ring and was covered in glow paint. What followed was perhaps one of the most awkward encounters of my life, with him refusing to acknowledge me despite my repeated requests for an extension on a project due date. I think I asked more to freak him out, but then again I was kind of a dick in high school. Thank god they didn’t test for that.
There was a bad cat. He made a bad smell. Bad,,bad cat.
– Omar Afra
Quantity over quality is the culprit here and it’s about high time some of our local “graffiti” artists took themselves more seriously. The “writing” craze is not new by any means but, it seems lately every one is considering themselves to be valid graffiti artists based on the fact that they scribble the equivalent to a cave drawing on the side of dumpsters and business establishments around town. The sad part about all of this is the fact that most of these kids can actually create some of the most visually stunning artwork we’ve never seen. It reminds me of The Simpsons episode where Bart gets the label maker and puts his name on everything in the house, even Homer’s beer, thwarting Homer from not taking the last beer because “it’s Bart’s”. I believe that if these talented artists actually wanted to be considered for opportunities that would make them large sums of money, ushering most of them out of what could probably compared to squalor, they would focus their efforts more into the quality of their work rather than the quantity. I will probably never find myself looking for someone to commission for my next project on the wall in the bathroom at Rudz. If the artists actually began focusing their efforts into the massive colorful beautifications they are perfectly capable of, the city might actually start putting funds into the art community providing these very artists with paying gigs, doing THEIR VERY OWN thing, to objectively make the city a more interesting and inspiring place to live in. There are some amazing artists however that are already “on this tip”, and I would like to give them a shout out here for doing it right: Ack!, WEAH, DUAL, and Give Up (even though they write, it’s actually balanced with an equal amount of content heavy related artwork that is creating a unique identity for themselves as artists).
Worst Political Letdown: Sheila Jackson Lee
How come Delaware gets all the good witch candidates? What’s that? Sheila Jackson Lee won again? Never mind.
Worst Example of a Pretentious One-Word Business Name: FLOSS
What’s with this trend of naming business establishments with cheesy one-word names (usually a meaningful noun reproduced in some minimalist font)? I’m talking about overpriced diners with down-home names like “Chow.” I’m talking about men’s boutiques that try to obscure the fact that they’re a frou-frou men’s BOUTIQUE with a rough-sounding noun like “Mortar.” I’m talking about goofy clubs with names like “Status” where bro’s go to max out their credit cards and sniff each other’s cologne. The one that takes the cake is the Midtown dentists’ office called FLOSS, and I’m not just saying that because they annoy me with their DAILY, glossy, half-page cardstock mailers. (What a waste of resources…and don’t they know that such desperation does not inspire confidence in their dental skills?)
When I am shopping for a dentist, I want her to have a generic, boring name with the suffix DDS, something like “Rachel Wilfred, DDS,” or if she’s feeling inspired, feeling poetic, I’m willing to settle for “Wilfred Dental Associates.” Actually, since I am Sikh, I would probably look for a “Singh” in the name, like “Upinder Singh Chandi, DDS.” Yeah, that’s a plug for my brother-in-law, but he lives in Maryland. Sue me. And when you sue me, know that I will not be hiring a lawyer with a practice called “Gavel” or “Deposition” or “Brief,” even if she’s the best in town. I will go with somebody who works at a firm whose name is a string of WASPy blue-blood names, preferably with a “Singh” thrown in for good measure.
I don’t need my dentist to be trendy; I need my dentist to be a competent professional. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned, but for some reason, I don’t imagine that a dentist can be both.
– Harbeer Sandhu
Worst Local Transportation System: Sidewalks
I was driving from my office to Rudyard’s for the monthly My Houston 2040 meeting where we were going to listen to Zakcq Lockrem talk about how complete streets can make Houston safer and healthier in 2040 and Houston City Council Member Stephen Costello talk about what is going to happen next with Prop 1: Renew Houston. I’m in the right lane on Waugh, a one way street with a bike lane on the right side and realized that a man on crutches was traveling half in my lane and half in the bike lane, with cars driving 35 miles an hour past him. I slowed down to a stop to let cars pass on the left, so I could get over to the next lane hoping that the four cars behind me also saw this man, so I had a little time to think about this situation. This man had chosen to travel there because the sidewalks along Waugh are not wide enough to accommodate his manner of walking on crutches and are inconsistent, broken, and occasionally marred with a utility pole.
How ironic to encounter this man on my way to a meeting to discuss a new funding mechanism for improvements to the public realm and a discussion of the failure of City of Houston code and funding priorities to account for the safety of all road users. After Zakcq’s presentation, CM Costello began his discussion of how Prop 1 might be applied differently depending on the needs of the diverse neighborhoods of Houston, noting that he did not believe that the City of Houston Public Works Department had the “tools” (wide sidewalk standards) in its “toolbox” (City codes) – to begin to address these concerns. For too long the predominant question that our engineers in Houston have been asked to solve is how to move a box truck as fast as possible over a long distance. The City needs to begin asking its engineers to answer a greater diversity of questions to fairly and efficiently meets the many needs of a diverse and growing population:
-How can we connect as many people and jobs as possible through safe and efficient transportation?
-If we redesign our streets to be safe and comfortable for the most vulnerable – those with physical disabilities as well as young children and the elderly – won’t we be making them safer and more comfortable for all to choose walking in the process?
-In what areas of town could we most quickly and efficiently invest in wide sidewalks and ADA compliant intersections to greatly increase the walkable parts of our City?
-Where is it appropriate to take measures to slow down automobile traffic to provide priority for safe bike and pedestrian streets, like the City of Portland’s hugely successful and cheap Neighborhood Greenways program?
-How many wide sidewalks and safe bikeways can we build for the price of 1 mile of new freeway?
– Jay Crossley
Worst Demographic: The Patrons at Hooters on any UFC Fight Night
I haven’t seen people like that since I found that guy living under my car. If a bus ever crashed into one of their “restaurants” when an MMA bout was on primetime, Houston’s median IQ level would increase 32 points.
If said bus was filled with dudes thinking their Affliction shirts make them look hard, make that 38.
Worst (Ab)Use of Public Airwaves: KPRC, KHOU, KTRK, KRIV
You may not know this, but you own the broadcast spectrum. You know, those frequencies that TV, radio, and cell phone signals are transmitted through. Companies like TV stations and cell phone providers lease them from you and me (i.e. the government) for a fee. In addition to the money they pay us, there is always language in the contracts that specifies that they are required to do stuff in the “public interest.” This is why you get those Emergency Broadcast System alerts and those oh-so-helpful and hilarious anti-drug public service announcements that always remind you to pack a bowl before the Simpsons comes on.
Recently, a group called the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) produced a well-made, stylish ad that links heart disease to fast food (specifically McDonald’s) and promotes occasional vegetarianism. It shows a dead man on a gurney, still clutching a McCrap burger. (You know that stuff won’t ever even rot, don’t you? That’s right, even mold and bacteria are smarter than McDonald’s customers.) PCRM is based in Washington, but they pitched their ad to four Houston TV station–NBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox–because Houston is a well-known market for fat asses. All four stations turned it down. Their reasoning? They say it doesn’t meet their “standards and practices” guidelines–whatever that means. We all know the real reason you can’t even BUY free speech is because they love that Mickey D’s cheese.
Incidentally, the Vancouver-based media critic non-profit ADBUSTERS produces some great ads for their annual “TV Turn Off Week” and “Buy Nothing Day” campaigns, which are, surprise!, turned down by all the major networks year after year. They produce stylish commercials and offer the going rates, but our “free press” know who their real masters are–and it ain’t us or “freedom.”
Lenin (Vladimir, not John) said “the capitalists will sell us the rope we’ll use to hang them.” Lenin was wrong.
Look for the PCRM ad online. It’s called “Consequences.”
– Harbeer Sandhu
Worst Betrayal of Public Trust by the Media: Houston Chronicle
When the administrators of Rice University and the University of Houston were plotting the conversion of a Houston institution, KTRU, into the classical music arm of Houston’s NPR empire, they had a problem. They were worried that the public (and particularly the KTRU listening audience) might get wind of their plan and convince the UH Board of Trustees that closing down KTRU was a dodgy move from both a public relations or a financial management perspective. Luckily for them, they had a friend in Jeannie Kever at the Houston Chronicle. Kever agreed to “embargo” the story of KTRU’s sale until the day of the Board of Regents meeting, thereby preventing the public at large (and KTRU supporters in particular) from organizing to oppose the sale before the UH Trustees granted their approval. For Rice and UH, the embargo strategy was a success. KTRU supporters were kept in the dark until the last minute, and the UH Trustees narrowly approved the purchase. Since the announcement of the sale, opposition to the demise of KTRU has been fierce and organized. But because Rice and UH were able to delay public disclosure of the deal, the two universities were able to gain an early advantage over opponents among Rice students, alumni, and the Houston community at large. So much the better for Rice and UH; so much the worse for Houston and the Chronicle’s reputation.
Worst thing that will happen in the 2011 State Legislature: Christian Republic of Texas Agenda
Traditionally this list looks back on the last 12 months, but with the Republicans securing a supermajority in the Texas Legislature it seems time to discuss what that means for the future of the Christian Republic of Texas. The phrase “Christian Republic of Texas” is not a joke, Texas is moving closer and closer to a theocracy each year. There is already a campaign underway by some State Republican activists to remove the current Speaker of the House, John Strauss, because he’s Jewish. Texas State Republican Executive Committee member John Cook wrote in a November 30 e-mail that, “We elected a house with Christian, conservative values. We now want a true Christian, conservative running it. This is not about Straus, this is about getting what the people want.” Cook’s letter came out before Representatives Aaron Pena and Allan Ritter jumped ships to the GOP to give Republicans 101 votes to the Democrats 49. With over 100 votes in the Texas House, and a newly appointed Christian conservative speaker, we can expect Texas to be come very hostile to viewpoints that aren’t those of rich white people.
Don’t be surprised when the new state legislature begins mining the same vein of right wing, race baiting rhetoric that swept the GOP into power. One of the key pieces of legislation that will help solidify the nativist agenda will be the voter ID bill. This legislation was introduced in 2007 and 2009 and neither time did it have the votes to make it to the Governor’s desk. However, this time it’s expected to sail through committee and the House. There might be something of a fight in the State Senate, but it won’t really matter.
Another piece of legislation that will most likely pass will be some variation of Arizona’s “show me your papers” law. Three versions of the bill have already been filed and the Republican leadership has said that they will give state and local law enforcement the tools to “combat the invasion” coming from Mexico. A third proposed bill would make English the official language of Texas. And that doesn’t even deal with the proposed bills requiring drug testing for people who receive unemployment or any other financial assistance as well as the bill that would allow the display of the Ten Commandments in public school classrooms.
Worst Display of Human Nature: Chron.com comments sections
I know I am probably wasting my time there, but after reading the news online I can’t help but delve into the sordid depths of the comments left by other Houstonians in an effort to get to know my neighbors better. I find for the most part that they are racist, bloodthirsty savages with a penchance for spouting vitriol and violence. They despise Muslims, Mexicans, blacks, Obama, gays, and welfare, yet harbor great adulation for nukes, the death penalty, ICE, Walmart, the WOT, and vigilante grannies who shoot illegals in Walmart parking lots.
Worst Time Waster: Tie- Angry Birds and Words With Friends
If you’re one of the millions of Americans who purchased an iPhone in the last year, you’re aware that the device’s reputation as a time squanderer is fully warranted. Case in point- many of you are probably reading these words on one right now. But it’s not incredibly witty and intellectual social commentary that wastes most of your day. Applications, or “Apps” as Webster’s will soon be forced to introduce into the English lexicon, have transplanted both hangovers and supply closet masturbation as the biggest detriment to work place production. Two apps in particular, Angry Birds and Words with Friends, are the biggest culprits.
Angry Birds is a mindless game where you shoot birds out of a slingshot to kill monsters hiding in the dumb little buildings. It was rumored there once was a man who understood the plot of the game but he was killed right before he could pass his wisdom on. It’s ability to drain time out of your life is legendary and a lot of that’s probably due to the fact you can play it anywhere. Here’s a haiku I composed about it:
Angry Birds Take Flight
Ramming Buildings Whilst I Poo
My Legs Are Asleep
Words With Friends, or Scrabble for Retards, at least requires some modicum of intelligence. Unfortunately, it’s also as addictive as its avian counterpart. In the last few weeks I’ve played so many games of Words With Friends I’m starting to score the very words people use in conversations with me throughout the day. For example, iPhonedouche is worth at least 40 points, depending on tile placement.