Worst of Houston 2023
Illustrations by Michael C. Rodriguez
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
- Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
We have been known to be wrong once or twice — fortunately, this is not one of those times. If you disagree, feel free to drop us a line at editors[at]freepresshouston.com, but also know that entries do not constitute the opinion of Free Press Houston; they are the opinions of the authors alone, made under duress, with us threatening them with excesses of hummus.
We started a new, sort of “Best of” tradition this year with the Sammy’s Awards, but we don’t want you thinking FPH went soft. Gentlemen,
start your engines step aside. Haters comin’ through.
Worst Worst Award: Texas Monthly
Texas Monthly decided to give it’s “Bum Steer of the Year Award” to Wendy Davis and her campaign to become Texas Governor. They even portrayed her on the cover stepping in cow patties in her famous pink sneakers.
But, as uninspiring and ambivalent as Davis’s campaign may have been, it didn’t cause any particular suffering. Contending that “nothing, and we mean nothing, could match the train wreck that was Wendy Davis, Battleground Texas, and the Democrats,” Texas Monthly must not have noticed the more train-wrecky things that happened in Texas this year.
For example… Texas’s new history, social studies and government textbooks will be used for a decade, and they will apparently treat Moses and Reagan like founding fathers, stress the influence of the Old Testament on the Constitution, include some new Islamophobic edits, and play down the importance of slavery in the Civil War. Or what about the Oklahoma / Texas leg of the Keystone XL pipeline? Of course, Rick Perry was indicted too, but he’ll probably just run for President, or do like Tom DeLay and go on Dancing with the Stars and walk free.
- Nick Cooper
Worst Overused Buzzword: Gentrification
Look, I know that gentrification and displacement of long-time residents is a real problem, not to mention the uprooting of whole communities and their associated networks. These things matter — community is a real, human need. Sadly, we live in a city whose aversion to planning defies all logic, whose policies favor haphazard, half-baked, piecemeal development and shoddy construction that pumps a lot of cash into the hands of developers in the short-term, while leaving us all holding a bag of turds in the long-term. All that said, however, I still wonder if the most vocal critics of “gentrification” have thought through all the implications of their simplistic, knee-jerk critiques.
Are neighborhoods required to remain frozen in time? Are people not allowed to move in and out? If only black people can move into the Third and Fifth Wards, and only Latinos are supposed to move into the East End, and only gay people are supposed to live in Montrose…are these champions of the dispossessed not, in effect, supporting segregation? How is that different from saying that only WASPs can live in River Oaks?
And rather than blaming people who seek cheap rent in rapidly “gentrifying” neighborhoods after being priced out of other rapidly “gentrifying” neighborhoods, can we take a moment to evaluate how we got here? Houston experienced a big economic boom/bust cycle in the early 1980s. During the boom, a great deal of housing stock (mostly apartment complexes) were built on Houston’s southwest side in neighborhoods like Gulfton, Sharpstown, and Alief. When the boom went bust, developers lowered rents to attract tenants and a big exodus of black and brown people left the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th Wards for “greener pastures.” You still see a lot of these former residents showing up for church in the hood on Sundays in their fancy cars and stylish gear.
Those who could move, who had the means to move, moved. They abandoned their neighborhoods to blight rather than staying put and building infrastructure. If you want to say that banks weren’t lending money to buy homes or start businesses in the hood, I will say that they could have started their own credit unions.
I understand that something like $100 million leaves the Third Ward every year because residents have nowhere to spend it, not even on essentials like food and clothing. Are the people who abandoned their neighborhoods rather than forming co-ops and credit unions to purchase property and make improvements that would lift up the many — providing jobs at locally-owned, minority-owned businesses — without blame for the current spat of “gentrification?” Is the displacement of long-term residents and established communities the sole fault of white artists, students, and service workers who are east and north because they’ve been priced out of the Heights and Montrose?
Give me a break! Shit’s more complicated than “White people shouldn’t move to certain areas.” If now-prosperous former residents of these “underdeveloped” neighborhoods had stayed put, purchased property, and built up prospects for themselves and their communities rather than fleeing to the suburbs 30 years ago, we could have thriving independent communities of color ringing downtown Houston rather than crumbling shotgun shacks and empty, overgrown lots and the ugly, isolating townhomes that are popping up all over.
- Harbeer Sandhu
Worst Diatribe against Gentrification: Anis Shivani’s “How Oligarchs Destroyed a Major American City”
Gentrification is a phenomenon that is ripping apart many Houston neighborhoods. This is something about which many diatribes should be written, however, one that made a big splash with national online outlets but makes a weak case for Houstonians is Anis Shivani’s “How Oligarchs Destroyed a Major American City” which was originally published on Alternet, and has subsequently been picked up by Salon.com and Billmoyers.com.
It is a long article, well-intentioned, and addresses an urgent issue, however, it is jumbled, has a limited understanding of the city’s history, makes confusing and possibly harmful recommendations, and holds up the Upper Kirby Neighborhood as the center of the struggle against gentrification.
A line by line rebuttal would fill half of this paper, Some of the biggest things that make this the worst:
● Shivani argues that Houston has been “transmogrified by a brutal strain of neoliberalism.” Houston has pretty much always been organized the principles of brutal neoliberal capitalism. We are a city where the monied elites have just about always gotten what they want, and where zoning was never created, allowing private developers to make the city as they wanted.
● The history of gentrification in Houston is long and there have been notable struggles against it. This has mostly taken place in low income communities of color, like Fourth Ward/Freedman’s town, where activists have struggled to preserve Houston’s first Black neighborhood and have lost battle after battle to brutal neoliberalism.
● Centering a neighborhood like Upper Kirby is strange, in a city that is more than two thirds people of color and has a median household income a little over $40,000, Upper Kirby is 70%+ anglo and a median household income of $70,000 (per COH Planning Dept stats on Upper Kirby/Greenway Plaza Super Neighborhood).
● It has a bizarre allegation that the city killed trees in Memorial Park to allow for redevelopment, when these trees died during the 2023 drought.
● The recommendations are structured around what could have preserved the author’s apartment complex, rather than what is likely to stop gentrification. They include the idea “neighborhoods should be equalized rather than pitted against each other.” While not very clear, it sounds like NIMBYism. “Don’t gentrify Upper Kirby, go gentrify somewhere underdeveloped, like the Wards.”
Shivani spoke to the Houston Matters radio program and he touched on many issues, but some of his focus framed the value of preserving housing for middle income people at the expense of the poor:
“The residents that are being removed, now we are talking about middle-income people. It’s a misapprehension to think that it’s just low-income people, people who could easily live somewhere else. People who own property, people who are contributing members of the community to displace all of them — then you’ve lost the character of the community.”
Shivani is right that Houston has historically been affordable because we have lots of land and not as much demand to live here. That has changed, housing costs are skyrocketing and there is basically no plan from the public sector to create the amount of affordable housing that is needed in a city where a quarter of residents live below the poverty line. He is also right that displacement of residents is a form of violence, and one of the stronger parts of his article profiles neighbors who are being displaced by brutal neoliberalism.
One good this about this diatribe is that it has inspired others to write better diatribes. Google Raj Mankand’s article on the OffCite blog “Nine Ways to Make Houston Affordable (Again)” for a good one. One thing that this should inspire is a movement that pushes for Houstonians of all economic and cultural backgrounds to have the right to fair housing and not be displaced from their communities. That will take a huge amount of effort, as it runs against the grain of this property rights and brutally capitalist city.
- Rob Block
Worst Responder To My Tweets: Annise Parker
Annise, anytime I, of the people, have a suggestion or ask for a ReTweet on-line regarding something that would be rad for the city, you ignore me with the cold wind of silence. My tweets have ranged from “@AnniseParker let’s build a rail from the inner loop to Chinatown in Bellaire so we can all eat that food more often” to “@AnniseParker, Children of Pop are playing a free show at House of Creeps tonight! Can I get a RT?”, all of which have gone unheard.
While I cannot directly blame your lack of response to my tweet as the sole reason these things aren’t happening, I can say the ReTweet button doesn’t take very long to hit and as long as it’s not anything deprecating to your platform, I don’t see what it would hurt for some of the people whose votes you’ll eventually want (20-30 year olds, the smallest voter turnout demographic), to see you as one of their own. Keep on keepin’ on Annise.
- Shelby Hohl
Worst New Social Medium: Ello
If a tree falls on Ello and there’s…never mind.
hmu on google+.
- Harbeer Sandhu
Worst Fat-Faced Weasel of a Politician: Dan Patrick
The Greek philosopher Aristophanes wrote that the characteristics of every popular politician are “a horrible voice, bad breeding, and a vulgar manner.” While I cannot attest to Dan Patrick’s lineage (his pre-bankruptcy surname was Goeb), I do believe he might be the most dangerous politico in Texas today. Jumping on the wave of mid-term anti-Obama hysteria, the Senator from Cypress rode into the Lieutenant Governor’s seat after the incumbent torpedoed his own campaign.
*Note to David Dewhurst: Don’t get involved in a mud-slinging match with a former radio shock jock.
If Tea Party sycophants were mountains, Patrick would be Everest. He has spent the last eight years in office spreading an agenda so far removed from rational thought one wonders if the residents of Tomball (where he receives most of his support) are stuck in a dimensional vortex where time cannot move past 1950. Patrick’s public gaffes are too numerous to mention but suffice it to say that his political philosophy is reminiscent of John Lithgow’s character in Footloose. Anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-immigrant (one of the few politicians who still supports Arizona’s insane SB 1070 Act), Patrick would also like to establish creationism into the public school curriculum. When he is not attempting to boycott the Houston Chronicle, Patrick can be found squabbling with other politicians. John Carona, a State Senator from Patrick’s own party, referred to him as “a snake oil salesman, a narcissist that would say anything to draw attention to himself.”
It is this level of self-aggrandizement that Dan Patrick truly separates himself from the pack. Like his counterpart Sheila Jackson Lee, Patrick uses pop culture to further his own devices by exploiting controversial issues. It was at this time last year that our new Lieutenant Governor commended Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson for his anti-gay remarks (Robertson equated same-sex relationships with bestiality). Patrick said that God was speaking through the bearded reality star. Does anyone else not see the writing on the wall here? If history serves as any sort of indicator on these things, it is just a matter of time before Patrick calls a press conference to explain that he was simply lost when he was arrested at Austin’s Oil Can Harry’s. Those poppers found on his person were obviously planted by the godless liberals/ Texas Monthly liars/ Kenyan Obama.
“Methinks the lady doth protest too much.”
Get him out.
- The Giving Steve
Worst Hinderance To Local Business: Comcast
Consider this: The fastest internet service provider in Houston is Comcast, yet as I type this at noon on a Saturday, while listening to the shrillest, most obnoxious hold music ever produced (Tim Carleton & Darrick Deel’s “Opus No. 1”— according to Shazam), there is a city-wide outage that isn’t going to be resolved until 10pm. What does this cost someone who relies on the internet to make money? Much more than the $2 credit Comcast offers if you call in and demand a refund for a day’s outage.
Comcast suuucks. For years, they have won first place as Worst Company in America in countless polls. Even their own employees have a hard time not expressing this sentiment. I’ve been to hell and back with Comcast over the last few years and would need several hours to write a full report of my experience, but as quick recap, since January 2023, I’ve spent over 30 hours on the phone troubleshooting my connection and removing unapproved charges from my bill.
Last year, I was told by Comcast that I needed a second modem in my home if I wanted good wireless reception, but I would have to set up and pay for a second account. So I tried that. But when a tech discovered that the primary modem was faulty and sent out a new one, it turned out that the secondary account was never necessary and we paid over a thousand bucks for a year of service for no reason. When reiterating this scenario to the wireless gateway team (the only reps worth talking to at Comcast) they were sincerely dismayed that I had been offered such an expensive and complicated ‘solution’ to a problem that came back to a well-documented issue with the model of modem they shipped to me. But really, what can we expect from a company whose own employees are embarrassed by the subpar service they represent?
I learned that the best sources of information for what equipment not to buy and what worked best came from the mouths of Comcast’s tech support babes. I bought my own modem, a model one of the reps had in their own home, and not one provided by Comcast, of course. Why pay $10 a month (a price increase of $3/month in the last 2 years) for junk equipment that Comcast’s own reps directly stated was notorious for not working?
The billing statements are ridiculously complicated, intentionally so, I believe. I started hacking away at every extraneous billing item possible to simplify the statement. I cancelled the secondary internet account. I cancelled our cable package. All I wanted was decent steady internet access. After 86ing these other services, my bills still showed all kinds of extra charges for rented equipment I had returned and TV/Cable fees I no longer used, like a $4.99 TV protection plan that stayed on the bill for 4 months after I’d cancelled our cable, and $12 for ‘Blast!’ to bump up my internet speed when a rep told me this didn’t benefit me since the modem I had wasn’t configured to be affected by Blast!
For anyone who has had a costly and difficult experience with this ISP, it’s incredibly frustrating to know that the only other ‘competition’ is AT&T, who offers a whopping 18MBPS compared to Comcast’s 50MBPS (which is just a number they advertise — I’ve never experienced this speed, though I’ve been regularly billed for the fastest speed they offer). For those of us who rely on the internet for our incomes, it’s terrifying to even entertain the thought of Comcast merging with another major company while not being able provide reliable, quality internet access to their current customers. The FCC has ignored/deleted/tossed hundreds of thousands of comments against Net Neutrality that Comcast is pushing for so they can force customers to opt-in to a ‘fast-lane’ at a greater cost.
This is a very small portion of the bullshit I’ve dealt with as a Comcast customer. Repressed memories are surfacing as I write this, so I have to stop now and do some breathing exercises, maybe burn some sage. This ISP giant is already too big. It will ultimately fail. It is failing right now. But please, examine your bill for charges you didn’t approve, and always call 1800-Comcast and demand a refund every time your service goes down. Tweet about it. Be even louder and more obnoxious than their torturous hold music, because we really don’t have any choice right now other than to force those fuckers to be an ISP we can depend on.
- Andrea Afra
Worst way to start a sentence: “You know who you guys should get for Summer Fest…?”
Nah, we have no idea who we should get for FPSF. More often than not, we usually get next year who we wanted this year so, basically what the means is, whatever you’re about to suggest, we already thought of and for some reason or another it won’t work out. To debunk the “punk-rock” myth that seems to plague every suggestion we hear is that, honestly, EVERY SINGLE BAND WANTS A SHIT TON OF MONEY. Especially the really broke punk bands and lesser known acts that we’d rather have play than most of the headliners. The reason we do or don’t get who we get is almost 100% due to money, or Primavera, and fuck, who WOULDN’T rather be in Spain that time of year?
- Shelby Hohl
Worst Corporate Pinkwashing: Baker Hughes Wants to Fracking Drill Your Pink Bits
We all know what “whitewashing” means — to cover up wrongdoings or other ugly things with a thin, superficial coat of BS. In this era of post-industrial environmental crises, you might even have heard of “greenwashing,” or cheap public relations stunts that big companies like British Petroleum are wont to pull, like rebranding themselves “Beyond Petroleum.” But “pinkwashing?”
According to Think Before You Pink, a “ pinkwasher” is “A company or organization that claims to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribbon product, but at the same time produces, manufactures and/or sells products that are linked to the disease.”
In a recent stunt, local oilfield services company Baker Hughes announced that they are donating $100,000 to the questionable Susan G. Komen Foundation and painting 1,000 of their drill bits pink. Ironically, the Center for Disease Control reports that breast cancer is on the rise in communities near fracking sites, despite its decrease everywhere else, and the breast cancer rate in six Texas counties near fracking sites is 20% higher than it is in the general population.
Don’t believe the hype. If you want to wear pink, wear pink. If you want to help fight breast cancer, support Breast Cancer Action.
- Harbeer Sandhu
Worst I Don’t Even Know What The Fuck That Was: Ice Bucket Challenge
Seriously — what was that? The only one I liked is the photo with a black dress and a broom and pointy witch’s hat in a heap on the floor with the caption, “Ann Coulter’s Ice Bucket Challenge.” Blondie done melted, ha! Now remind me what that had to do with funding ALS research.
- Harbeer Sandhu
Worst Importation Of Pacific Northwest Demographics To A Houston Publication: Houstonia Magazine
SagaCity Media began publishing Houstonia Magazine in April of 2023. Their previous work has been with magazines in Seattle, Portland and Park City, Utah. It is understandable that they are used to having overwhelmingly White publications in these overwhelmingly White cities. However, according to the City of Houston planning department, Houston is scarcely 25% Anglo. Still, SagaCity Media has put together a magazine in Houston whose editorial staff appears to be 100% White. Things like that don’t just happen by random chance in Houston — it takes effort to arrive at such a homogenous group in this diverse city.
Houstonia describes its target audience when it talks to its advertisers about their readership: their readership is majority female, and the majority work in Executive, Professional or Managerial professions (20% hold executive titles). The average household income of a Houstonia reader is $189,889. The average household income for Houston ranges from $42,000 in the city to $58,000 in the greater metropolitan area. Whichever way you slice it, Houstonia serves a wealthy upper crust of the city, which it’s safe to assume, is overwhelmingly white.
The actual City of Houston is one of the most international and diverse cities in the country, and one with rampant inequality. That Houstonia does not seem to care about those with lower incomes and the people of color who make up most of our city is a structural feature of their business model. It also seems to mean that they don’t need any people of color on their editorial staff, and that they don’t need to consult residents of low-income neighborhoods about what nicknames they use for their communities because they will soon all be gentrified out.
Houstonia’s Houston is a whitewashed utopia straight out of the movie Elysium, not the diverse and polyphonic dystopia that Houston represents to most of us.
- Rob Block
Worst Attempted Land Grab: Midtown TIRZ’s Montrose Annexation
“We’ll drink their milkshake!” shouted the Board of the Midtown Redevelopment Authority as they schemed to annex select portions of Montrose into their tax increment reinvestment zone… Or maybe no mention of milkshakes was made, but the effect would be just the same, with the Midtown TIRZ slant drilling past Montrose’s historic districts and other residential neighborhoods to tap areas slated for massive new construction projects. Doing so would have allowed the Midtown TIRZ to siphon off the increased property tax dollars resulting from the new developments while ignoring the desperate infrastructure needs of the majority of Montrose.
And they would’ve gotten away with it too, if not for former City Council Member Sue Lovell and other civic leaders, who demanded that the annexation be pulled from the City’s agenda to allow for a public meeting in Montrose on the issue. Soon enough, Lovell and over 200 of her Montrose neighbors were face-to-face with the Midtown schemers, who quickly dropped their cherry-picking property tax grab, trashing a plan that was months in the making and only a few days away from becoming law.
Montrose definitely needs new streets and sidewalks, and maybe a TIRZ is the way to accomplish that, but not one that has been gerrymandered by and for Midtown. It’s okay to love thy neighbor, but don’t covet our shit man.
- Jason Ginsburg
Worst Maverick Lonewolf Rebel Cowboys: Texans
How is it that Texans love their bow-legged, swashbuckling, chest-puffed-out, rugged individualist, “go it alone,” rebel tough guy image so much? It makes absolutely zero fucking sense. It just does not comport with reality. Any time you hear something about a person putting up the slightest bit of resistance to an out of control bully cop or boss, Texans want to blame the victim.
“Well, he should have just bowed down and kowtowed to the cop,” say most Texans. “Me, I always call cops ‘sir,’ say ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ because, you know, they’re special and they are superior to the rest of us so we should just take whatever they dish out.”
Seriously, Texans? I mean, you can be a bunch of spineless, blame the victim, beat down, submissive punk apologists for illegitimate authority if you want…but you can’t be that way AND keep your rebel tough guy self-image.
And Texans betray the same attitude whenever someone stands up to a big immoral company that’s poisoning our beloved land, air, and water, too. I mean, just look at Free Press Houston’s own Worst of Houston issues over the years — how much do Texans regularly hate “protesters?” But who are the real maverick rebel lonewolves standing up for what they believe in the face of such hostility — the protestors or the ones saying “Love it or leave it,” just like the Founding Fathers once said. (Wait, no, the “Founding Fathers” told their rulers to shove it — starting with the very act of property destruction from which the Tea Party derives its name, ironically enough.)
Despite its image, Texas is more like the Deep South than the Wild West. You people have a plantation mentality — in your colonized mind state, any slave who demands to be treated with dignity is just asking for it. Texans need to either grow a backbone and stand up to illegitimate authority, or just admit that they’re a bunch of beat down, submissive chumps fighting each other for whatever scraps the powerful will toss at them.
- Harbeer Sandhu
Worst Misplaced Indignation: Houstonians Reaction to The Sony Hack
Because I live in Houston, I can only comment on Houstonians on this; but the reaction I heard to the North Korea/Sony Pictures hack was almost as funny as it was disgusting. I heard more people up in arms over how this action was “a threat to our national security” and how we “shouldn’t let Commies dictate what films we see.” Let’s get this straight, people are super pissed because another Seth Rogen stinker wasn’t released, but they are on the fence about the abuse of power from police and questionable actions by grand juries in Harris County and across the nation?
Sony is a giant corporation first and foremost, and this is their problem, not of any citizen who isn’t tied to that company. I mean, Sony was set to make a “21 Jump Street” & “Men In Black” crossover film; and we are actually holding them in high regard? Secondly, North Korea is about as threatening as a four-year-old with one of those foam Minecraft swords. They have trouble launching missiles and they don’t have the money or the infrastructure to be a real threat to anyone here.
We live in a country that tortures innocent people, where we help giant companies before we help each other with our many problems including inequality, scofflaw bankers and cops, and expensive but inadequate health care. How about we get angry over these things first — then we can get upset over what happened to a company?
- David Garrick
Worst Trend in Butt-Chugging: Hummus
Surely you’ve heard of butt-chugging by now — there was a rash of college students going to the hospital a couple years ago for alcohol poisoning from wine and vodka enemas. Well, this year we learned that the CIA has been “rectal hydrating” terror suspects (1/5 of whom were falsely accused) by lying them on their stomachs with their feet higher than their heads and then sticking tubes up their butts to pump in filled with pureed hummus and and pasta and raisins.
“No need to squeeze the bag,” reads the CIA’s torture manual, “let gravity do it’s work.”
Yeah, gravity, because it’s all downhill from here. (More like let depravity do its work.)
Dickheads like War Criminal Dick Cheney try to deflect attention from their crimes by pointing to 9/11, except the Senate report that detailing this torture says that these were useless exercises — they gleaned no new actionable intelligence. And on top of that, let me repeat that 20% — one out of five — of the people we tortured did nothing wrong, they just got picked up because they had the same name as a terror suspect or were in the wrong place at the wrong time or got falsely accused by someone who had a personal beef with them.
Dear Central Intelligence Agency: We get that you and the former frat boys who comprise your workforce get off on hazing and rape and coercively sticking things up each other’s butts, but if you really must seek novel ways to ingest hummus, could you just chop it up and snort it like the rest of us? And stop torturing people, you sick fucks, you make us all look bad. And let’s prosecute these sadistic cretins, can we, please, America?
- Harbeer Sandhu
Worst Cutting Off Your Nose to Spite Your Face: Rick Perry’s Refusal To Expand Medicaid In Texas
Despite passage of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), I didn’t buy private health insurance for a few different reasons: I don’t like the federal government mandating that buy a product from a private company; I don’t like the protections given to insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and corporate chain hospital conglomerates; I don’t think that a profit-driven health system is good public policy; I don’t like being denied a “public option;” and I hate that our spineless president entered negotiations by saying that “single-payer” was off the table rather than using “single payer” as leverage to argue for a “public option.”
But the main reason I chose to be fined rather than be coerced into buying private insurance is that all the plans available to me on the Texas Exchange is totally impractical — I’d be paying a steep ass monthly premium only to have a steep ass annual deductible. It just doesn’t make sense.
The reason the Texas exchange sucks so bad is because our Governor Goodhair refused federal money to help expand Medicaid in Texas. He thinks it makes him look fiscally conservative, i.e. good with money, but it’s actually costing Texas tons of money — something like $10 BILLION (with a b).
If Perry wasn’t such a douchebag, Texas could insure 1.2 million more people than it already does, which would have created 55,000 jobs between 2023 and 2023 and brought in $13.7 billion in federal spending while increasing our state GDP by $3.1 billion just in 2023 and $10.42 billion over the next three years.
Way to go, Perry. It’s no wonder you and your school board want to dumb down education standards in our fair state, too. A sick, overworked, under-educated population totally serves the needs of your ilk, even if it is bad for democracy.
- Harbeer Sandhu
Worst Sanctimonious Shopper: Ian Hamer
On December 6, protesters took their protest inside the Galleria, and according to ABC13, they even caused several stores to close temporarily, including Neiman Marcus, Microsoft and Macys! So, that’s kinda cool, if you’re down with the whole “black lives matter” movement, but there are some folks who more dearly value shopping rights.
Also according to ABC13, shopper Ian Hamer said “I think everyone has a right to protest what they believe in, but coming inside of a shopping mall and disrupting everyone else’s normal lives is uncalled for… They’re talking [sic] away the police force that needs to be out on the streets protecting us.”
The implication here seems to be that protesting is ok, as long as it is done in a deserted alley. At any rate, the idea that shopping should be held as a sacred act that should never be interrupted even when people are dying, is an odious one, but it’s somehow also very All-American.
- Nick Cooper
Worst Hobby: Hobby Lobby
Time to get your glitter and glue someplace else, crafters, this for-profit corporate chain is owned by some right-wing Christian fundamentalists who don’t want to pay for their employees’ birth control…even though they invest in a “wide variety of companies producing abortion and contraception related products.” Too bad their “Christian values” don’t preclude them from selling products made by veritable slaves in sweatshops, too. They should stop huffing their own glue.
- Harbeer Sandhu
Worst Media Oversaturation by a Sports Figure: JJ Watt
Not since the days of George Foreman slinging grills on infomercials has such a media blitzkrieg taken place by a professional athlete. While JJ Watt might be the most dominant defensive player of his generation, his perpetual appearance hamming it up on Houston televisions in HEB, Papa Johns, and Ford commercials has gotten completely out of hand. It is nonstop. I invented a drinking game for Texans games where you take a sip of beer each time Watt appears during a commercial break but had to quit after three of my friends died of alcohol poisoning. Before halftime. And Watt looks the exact same in every single advertisement: Texans jersey with rolled up sleeves, Costco brand jeans, and the corniest bunch of bullshit lines you’ve ever heard. To call his acting “forced” would be an insult to middle school improv troupes everywhere. His dancing in that ubiquitous Verizon commercial induces nerd hypothermia even in a 70 degree winter. Stick to opposing teams’ quarterbacks, JJ, unless you can get me a discount on flowers at HEB for the three funerals I now have to attend.
- The Giving Steve
Worst Cultural Appropriation: Wendy’s
I am not sure which instance of appropriation is worse — Wendy’s attempting to mass-produce BBQ with their pulled pork cheeseburger, or the commercial they made to promote it — which appropriates the language used to critique and discuss injustices in order to sell diarrhea on a bun.
BBQ privilege can distort your worldview…says wrestler “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Although I grapple with justifying cultural appropriation and globalized society, and although tender BBQed pulled pork atop a juicy cheeseburger on a soft brioche bun isn’t authentic Texas, it is authentically delicious. So go to Wendy’s and experience your new right to BBQ pulled pork…[Emphasis added.]
By exercising its privilege not just to appropriate but to capitalize on this language,
Wendy’s trivializes the very concepts of race/gender/class privilege, a globalized monoculture (i.e. cookie-cutter corporate chains like Wendy’s), authenticity, and even universal human rights.
So, to whom does this commercial actually appeal? The educated liberal class most likely to know these words is probably least likely to buy a pulled pork cheeseburger from Wendy’s — less likely than Jews and Muslims, even. If you read between the lines, though, the ad reveals it’s true brilliance as an appeal to “working-class culture” against “elite culture” — it’s real message is, “Show those liberals that you’re a real American by eating subsidized diarrhea that will give you heart disease and colon cancer.” The rebel sell.
- Harbeer Sandhu
Worst Much Ado About Nothing : People Tripping Over Subpoenas Of Pastors’ Statements
Houston gained nationwide notoriety over the HERO litigation back and forth which included portions of local pastor’s statements in regard to that case. So fucking what? I don’t hold religious officials in some unwarranted high esteem where they are not subject to the same lawyering the rest of us are subject to. You see, we have wonderful laws in this country to keep churches out of politics and government out of houses of worship. Since 1954, federal law has prohibited religious organizations from intervening in political campaigns or they would otherwise lose their IRS non-profit status and be forced to pay taxes like the rest of us. Sadly, these laws have been flouted over the last several years and churches are beginning to outright endorse candidates. My message to these butthurt churches: stay out of politics if you don’t want to be subpoenaed.
- Omar Afra
Worst Attempt to Cash In On Having Queers In The Background - The Wild Moccasins’ “Eye Candy” Video
Ooh, step back, girl, I’m about to throw some shade! Apparently, Houston’s beers, steers, and queers are definitely worthy of national attention, but only as a grotesque caricature of predatory hornballs in the background of a hipster music video. The Wild Moccasins’ “Eye Makeup” music video is follows the same easy boring “straight person in shady gay subculture” theme that we’ve seen a million times just short of a dropping the soap gag.
Gay guy hits on presumably straight guy at a urinal? CHECK! Shocking and offensive? Hardly. Uncomfortable to watch? Absolutely…in a constant eye roll and UGH sort of way. The most cringe worthy moment wasn’t the wig snatch, but the suggestion that all it takes for little miss lead singer to be a drag queen is for her to paint sunglasses on her lady face in a few minutes with a paper plate full of glitter (no doubt bought at Hobby Lobby).
The red headed dude’s ONLY purpose in the video is to piss the whole time so he can serve as set-up for a joke that goes something like, “One time, I was at a gay bar, and this gay dude hit on me while I was at the urinal!” That’s all he does in the whole video. He’s the set-up for a dumb, predictable joke.
I’m sure Wild Moccasins will say the song lyrics are artsy and meaningful, tell you that the music video is art and open to interpretation, feed you some word candy about how it was filmed at Robert’s LaFitte in Galveston and how historic it is and how the queens from Robert’s LaFitte are in the video (as if marginalized people never appeared in a minstrel show promoting problematic stereotypes). Yawn. Please just tell me why everyone looks so damn bored at this drag show!
And these aren’t candid shots from a wild night out on the town — the band and video director talked about this and wrote it out and made storyboards and shot multiple takes and then edited it all together. None of this is accidental or random. All of it was done for a reason.
Everyone seems to be doing this drag queens and tgirls are cool when it comes to our style, and we are such a current event that they just gotta feature us as wallpaper in their music video to make it relevant, but NPR did a story on this video without noting its problems because the Wild Moccasins are supposedly one of Houston’s best local bands? Bitch, please.
- FrouFrou T’Pebbles
[Ed. Note: For really sexy rendition of what I think the Wild Moccasins were aiming for in this video, check out The Kills’ “Baby Says” video. Yowza!]
Worst Double-Booking: Pride Parade on Juenteenth
One day in November, a few of us were approached by a good friend in reference to Pride Houston’s event being moved to the weekend of Juneteenth festivities. I knew of the move and how many in the GLBTQ felt about it. I was not ready to be in a place to choose between being Black and Gay. In general, I feel attacked by the predominantly religious Black community, and then struggle to fit in with my Caucasian counterparts in certain settings of the mainstream GLBTQ community. With all of that in mind, a group of us met with three people from Pride Houston, behind closed doors, to explain and make a case for the date to be moved.
One of the biggest elephants in the room was the fact that during the fight to get the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) passed, a majority of the Black and Latino communities stood against its passage. Which meant that a move of the prominent Gay Pride event to a historically significant weekend to Blacks in Texas essentially looked like punishment for the lack of support for HERO. While I and many of the other persons of color who attended this meeting with Pride Houston supported HERO in its entirety, we knew that having a Pride event the same weekend as Juneteenth would damage relations between the Black and GLBTQ communities.
We met, we talked, and we were told “We will get back to you in two weeks.” About a week later, we got a letter stating that the board of Pride Houston will not be moving Pride back to its original weekend, which coincides with Stonewall history. Blog posts were made, phone calls were placed, letters were sent, and anyone who is anyone got involved in the Houston community.
Now I could talk about and quote many of the things that were said by members of the Pride Houston board, but at this point that would be petty. Let’s just say that situation highlighted what has come to be called “intersectionality,” or struggles between different marginalized communities (and even within individuals) to value or devalue each other when, in fact, we should be working together in spite of any differences. There is work that needs to be done, and it goes much deeper than the issue that arose with Pride Houston.
- Ashton Woods
Worst Way To Treat Constituents — Houston ISD School Board Runs and Hides And Does What It Wants
After months of strong opposition from parents, students, teachers, administrators, community leaders, and education experts, the HISD school board voted on two potential school closings in March of 2023. With over 80 individuals slated to comment and an overflow room where the meeting was being screened on closed-circuit television, the community was desperate to be heard. As the meeting progressed, the audience became increasingly frustrated while board members fidgeted, avoided eye contact, and sat unmoved by their constituents’ pleas. Two hours into the meeting, the audience could no longer tolerate the injustice and began chanting against the superintendent “Fire Terry Grier,” at which point the board members retreated to a back room and police officers surrounded the attendees.
Despite the community’s clear disapproval of the action, the school board decided to close a gem of an elementary school in the Lost Ward, Dodson Elementary, under the pretense of using the space for students whose schools are under construction. It will be interesting to see how much money HISD makes from the sale of this valuable little property, instead. The second school, Jones, “survived” the closure and was re-opened as a career readiness academy students normally zoned to Jones now need to apply to attend.
Thanks for everything, HISD, once again you have stayed true to your mission of “providing a high-quality education for every child, regardless of where they live or what school they choose to attend.”
- Paloma Garner
Worst Arts-Funding Organization Of 2023 (and 2023 and 2023, etc): Houston Arts Alliance
Houston’s artistic community needs public art, and public art requires funding. Unfortunately for artists and arts organizations alike, much of this funding (as well as other critical grants) come from the Houston Arts Alliance (HAA). Over the past few years, HAA has seen a lot of change, both in terms of its leadership and its direction as an organization. Some people are okay with it, many are not. This year, the arts community has seen a lot of turmoil connected to HAA, and it’s not likely to get much better in 2023.
Many credit (or blame) HAA’s CEO Jonathan Glus for these changes, and that holds fairly true. He’s the guy at the top, but as anyone who works in an arts non-profit knows, the board also needs to be held responsible. When you look at HAA’s board of directors, as well as the Advisory Council and let’s just throw in the Civic Art Committee, too, you have to wonder where the artists are. There are a lot of respectable people in these groups, but they aren’t people who have the same knowledge of the Houston community that artists or even arts professionals have. That’s more of a general issue and not 2023-specific, though, so let’s stick to what’s been going on this year.
“Recently 19 mid and smaller sized arts organizations met with the CEO to protest the Grants Program and the haphazard and unprofessional way that program was being run,” Michael Peranteau of Art League Houston commented on a Glasstire post. He’s referring to issues within (what should be) HAA’s main if not sole responsibility: the distribution of the Hotel Occupancy Tax to Houston artists and arts organizations. From the organization of the grants themselves to the lack of certain opportunities for artists to awarding grants late, HAA dropped the ball and provided little to no explanation, which leads to another issue: transparency within the organization.
For a major funder of the Houston arts, HAA lacks transparency, and this year seems to highlight that it’s because they’re looking to protect themselves. This past fall, HAA’s civic art department was contracted by the George R Brown Convention Center to choose an artist within a certain budget and see his/her project through to its fruition. What should have been a relatively simple task (as large-scale public art installations go) has been complicated and shrouded in a cloud of mystery that leaves little more than rumors to go on, so here are the (probably true) rumors:
The Civic Art Committee (CAC) met with now former Director Matthew Lennon. A process was laid out that was typical to the structure of the Civic Art Department. A list of artists was provided to the CAC, and they agreed to the artists but left the process to the department. Artist Ed Wilson’s installation was chosen by (those who chose to) vote. A CAC member wanted them to choose a different artist, one whose work happens to be in his personal collection, and they pulled Wilson’s contract. In protest, Lennon resigned, stating “Ed Wilson, and the other artists, followed the procedures provided. A professional panel with stakeholder representation was formed. Ed was selected unanimously by a blind vote. Derailing that process is naïve and insults everyone engaged. Depriving Ed Wilson of his commission is unethical.”
Through and through, there are a wide variety of problems within the Houston Arts Alliance - some mentioned here, some not. Here’s hoping a new year means a new start.
- Michael McFadden
Worst Poop Slab: The $1.5 Million Dog Waste Park
Dogs don’t need much to be happy. Give them some affection, a soggy old tennis ball, and a wide open place to run, and they’re perfectly content. That’s why I’m having so much trouble comprehending the need for the new $1.5 MILLION dog park being constructed at the corner of Montrose and Allen Parkway. For years this area was used as an “un-official” park for dogs to run and frolic amongst themselves or their peers. There was plenty of room to play frisbee and roll in the lush grassy field, a nice green oasis in the middle of a dense, monster condo sprawl. Now, after being closed for over a year, the park is starting to take shape as a hodgepodge of lakes, gates and a bunch of other unnecessary bullshit.
According to buffalobayoupark.org, a group of friends (several rich old white people who most likely have/will never set foot there) got together to donate money for the butt fucking revitalization of the park, in honor of their pal Johnny Steele. Johnny is a landscape design artist(?) who has scaped (I’m making this word up for all the hipster landscape artists out there, you’re welcome) some pretty high profile locations in Houston and around the country. Some of his clients include River Oaks Country Club, Rice Music School Courtyard, New Process Steel and loads of private residences belonging to a much higher income tax bracket than you or I. But I digress.
The park is now equipped with a lot more cement and a lot less grass. It promises to be an overcrowded clusterfuck. A place where people can bring their pooch to be crammed into one of the gated areas, where there isn’t much room to do anything except take a shit and look at each other. GLAD WE GOT OUT OF THE HOUSE FOR THIS! The opening of the park is set for January 2023, and it’s sure to be the next hot spot for dudes with calf implants and girls with vodka soaked tampons.
Maybe, I‘m being a bit too rash. Perhaps I have some displaced anger issues and the park will be the greatest of great successes. Or maybe I’m sick and tired of seeing our city, which was perfectly fine before the mass influx of money hungry oil tycoons, being gutted of any semblance of originality in exchange for cheaply constructed, overpriced, new modern crap castles. Either way, I can’t help but think that this new dog park is the perfect metaphor for what Houston is becoming. An expensive, highly stylized place to shit on.
- Bobby Haworth
Worst Fashion Trend: Normcore
For once, Houston was ahead of the curve! But no. This is a trend that most everyone wants to forget.
For me, I might call it the Worst Unfulfilled Promise, because I thought #normcore, with its imperative to blend in rather than stand out, signalled an end to what you might call “individual exceptionalism,” which I had hope portended an end to “American Exceptionalism.”
Who knows — maybe the final chapter in #normcore is yet to be written. All I know is I am keeping my fanny pack for the next time skinny jeans make a comeback because cramped, bulging pockets suck, tell you what.
- Harbeer Sandhu
Worst Supermarket: Kombat Kroger’s in Eastwood
EaDo needs a grocery store!
- Ray Sanders
Worst Waste Of Space: Corner of Allen Parkway and Montrose
In 2023, The Aga Khan Foundation purchased the massive swath of land at the Southeast corner of Allen Parkway and Montrose. This sprawling piece of property is centrally located, is adjacent to some of Houston’s most beautiful natural landscapes, and could serve so many important purposes.
For nearly 10 years, there have been rumors that this property would be developed into one of the largest mosques in Texas, and I am excited for the controversy that will most definitely ensue once that begins to happen. But that said, having such a huge property with huge potential stay dormant and fenced off in the interim is a missed opportunity.
If I had my way, folks would be allowed to play soccer there, a massive urban garden could be temporarily installed, and the space could serve as a rad destination along the Art Car parade route.
- Omar Afra
Worst Houstonian: Those Threatened By Transplants
If you’re one of those Inner Loopers that’s scared as hell about transplants and gentrificwhatever and real estate development, then you’re too late. Being scared is not enough. The evils of change and money shift are here and there’s no going back.
Yes, it’s a sad truth. One of the strong contributors to this change is “The Rise of the Transplants.” Everyday more arrive. Everyday. New people from Dallas and Denver and Ohio and New England and Arizona and Portland (maybe, I don’t know) arrive everyday to start their new life here in Clutch City, TX. With these transplants comes also their hometown culture which has woven itself into their lives just as Houston’s culture has to us native Houstonians. Many Houstonians fear that these transplants will dilute our common bonds and remove our shared grit. To those fearful many, I say… Shut up! Houston is inside of you, like a pervy old man. And soon that pervy old man will be inside the Transplants and they, too, will come to accept that cowboy hats and banh mi sandwiches exist in perfect harmony here in Houston.
Worst Excesses of Houston Pride: Suburbanites Who Claim Houston
As someone who has only lived inside of Houston city limits for about five years, I think I’m almost at the point of understanding hometown pride and becoming a person who can say that Houston is my hometown. It is a place that still fascinates me and annoys the living fuck out of me all in the same breath. It’s a place truly impossible to fully uncover. Whether it’s new businesses opening every day or old relics being torn down for condos, it’s a home I believe I’ve earned, which is the main point of what I’m getting at. I know I’m not a life-long resident, but I think I’ve earned the right to call out my suburban peers with this message.
I know it sounds whiny, but whenever I see someone whose mail gets addressed to Clear Lake or Texas City and they are captioning a photo they took on the outskirts of 610 on their way to Boondocks with the words “I love my city!” it’s a special kind of annoyance that pings through my head. This isn’t your city. You haven’t earned it.
You haven’t put in the work of suffering through River Oaks traffic or getting lost trying to figure out if the shitty art show is at Summer street, or Silver, oh wait it’s Spring Street and there’s no parking, then you haven’t earned this ugly city of ours. If the coolest place you’ve been to is “This really AMAZE-BALLS cafe called Agora,” or you’ve said the phrase “Oh Bra-zils, that’s by Shaws right?” then really dude, just enjoy the pizza and go back to Bay Area.
If you get upset by this and your argument is that “H-Town is state of mind,” then you’ve already proven my point. You don’t get to fix your moms iPhone and call yourself an Apple employee or scroll through reddit news comments and call yourself an expert on foreign policy. In conclusion as aggressive as this comes off, you don’t have to fuck off or pass some stupid Montrosean citizenship test, just admit you’re a weekender and stop taking up all the parking.
- Blake Jones
Worst Jail: Harris County Jail
Jailed on a probation violation for possessing marijuana, Terry Goodwin was left locked in his cell for weeks in disgusting conditions. His cell’s drains were clogged with feces, toilet paper, and also orange rinds in an apparent attempt to mask the smell. A sign attached to the door instructed jailers never to open it. Styrofoam food containers were passed in through a slit in the door and jailers never came back to collect the trash, resulting in massive piles of trash. His mother and his lawyer attempted to visit him and were told that he didn’t want to see them. As Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia mulls a run for Mayor, it’s important to remember this modern-day Bastille that is being operated in Downtown Houston.
- Kyle Nielsen
Worst Selective Secret-Keeping: FBI
In March 2023, it came out that back in 2023, during Occupy Houston’s camping protest, the FBI uncovered plots that involved the execution of members of Occupy Houston through coordinated sniper fire. The plotters’ names, let alone any investigation or arrests, were never announced, and the FBI denied the vast majority of a Freedom of Information request for documents by claiming that they had already given the information to local law enforcement, who were helping them to determine if Occupy Houston was planning to overthrow the US government. The documents that were eventually released were heavily redacted.
Folks from Occupy Houston were never charged with sedition but wondered why they weren’t even informed that they were in danger. To this day, none of the endangered Occupiers have been told who the alleged assassination plotters were
- Nick Cooper
Worst place to see a concert: Cynthia Woods Pavilion
For a venue that is constantly hosting nationally respected artists, it is BULLSHIT.
First and foremost, it’s NOT HOUSTON. The Woodlands is a hell of a trip to make. Not to mention the dreadful traffic you have to endure on I-45 to get there. It’s a fucking journey. Might as well hit up Austin for a REAL concert experience.
At the pavilion, theoretically, you get more buck for your money in that you get closer to the stage the more money you pay. Well guess what? No one fucking sits at shows anymore. The seats are smelly and uncomfortable anyways. Want a better view? You can pay an even pricier ticket to experience the world’s lamest 10-person mosh pit at the very front of the stage. Or, you pay 25 dollars and you sit at the lawn. And at that point, you would have a better view from the comfort of your own home on your TV screen. Sitting at the lawn guarantees you a shit view of the stage and a half-shit view of the TV monitors.
It is a venue that shamelessly wastes great talent and opportunity for incredible performances. This venue creates a huge barrier between artist and audience. It has absolutely no sense of community and lacks performance-intimacy. You go to a concert in the attempts of making a connection with the music and the performance. The environment and ambiance of a concert is well over half of the actual concert experience. You get none of that at the Woodlands.
Save yourself the money and aggravation and check out some venues actually located in Houston. You shoulda come to FPSF, Lana.
- Marcela Arevalo
Worst Crowd At Any Given Venue: Houston Audiences
I go to a lot of live shows, so I’ve gotten used to being at a concert where there are no less than twenty cell phones in the air at any given time, and that’s not so bad. But whether it’s a concert or a comedy show, it seems like a lot of people went to the show to have a conversation, and not watch the talent everyone else paid to see. The worst part of this behavior is that it’s a crappy and self-involved way to interrupt the artists and those around you. If you’re in the back of a room, or near the bar, it’s a little easier to forgive. But when I’m in rooms as small as Mangos, Rudyards, or downstairs at Fitzgerald’s, and you’re talking, then you’re a jerk who should have either stayed home or gone outside. This also includes people who yell out at a comedy show, people who take a phone call, and people who keep the flash on their phone and blind an entertainer by taking a blurry pic.
It’s not just lay audiences who exhibit this behavior either. I’ve watched people I know are performers talk three feet from a stage. I mean, I get the fact that you feel important because that kitten video you posted off of reddit got 43 Facebook likes, but please; on behalf of everyone else at the show…shut the hell up and have a shred of respect for those around you.
- David Garrick
Worst Plan For Holding Cops Accountable — The DA/Grand Jury System
There’s a cliche in the legal world that speaks to the ease a District Attorney actually has in obtaining an indictment from a grand jury — “You could indict a ham sandwich.” Grand juries pretty much just do whatever the DA tells them. An indictment is not a conviction, though, so the burden of proof is much lower than in an actual trial. A grand jury indictment just means that there is enough of a case to take it to trial, to investigate the question of guilt or innocence a little further.
But here’s the rub: district attorneys work hand-in-glove with police officers most of the time. They rely on evidence and testimony from police officers to prosecute bad guys…but if the bad guys are police, themselves? Get it? If a DA chooses to pursue an indictment against a cop who has violated the law, s/he runs the risk of losing the support of a whole institution that s/he needs to do her job.
Maybe this is why it has been over 10 years since a Harris County grand jury indicted a cop. In late December, a Harris County grand jury no-billed a police officer who shot a person for the 289th consecutive time since 2023. This man, Jordan Baker, was 26 years old and his crime was allegedly looking like one of three robbery suspects.
It’s high time Houstonians demanded a civilian police oversight board with subpoena power, because expecting the DA to pursue prosecution against her/his own private army, ever, is a ridiculous conflict of interest.
- Harbeer Sandhu
Worst Local Music- Chopped & Screwed
I get it. It’s a style of music unique to Houston. We all know how much Houston loves Houston based shit. But can we PLEASE stop chopping and screwing every last bit of music that is produced? I respect DJ Screw and I like his music, but honestly, I almost lost my shit last week when I heard the Star Wars theme chopped and screwed.
- Zazil Farfan
Worst Litterbugs: Houston Solid Waste Management Department
You must have heard Zeno’s paradox about Achilles and the hare. If not, I’ll explain it by way of metaphor. Let’s say you have to cross a room. To cross the room, first you have to go half the distance. Once you go half the original distance, you must traverse half of the remaining half..and then half of that…and then half of that…so truly, you can never really cross the room because you’re stuck in a cycle of going only a fraction of the distance.
The same can be said of Houston’s automated garbage trucks. These are the trucks that lift up our wheeled garbage cans, dump the cans’ contents into their open tops, and then bring the can back down to the curbside before driving away.
The problem is that to dump the garbage from the can to the truck, the robot arm must first dump half the contents before it can dump the second half. Unfortunately, these very intelligent robot arms and their human operators take Zeno’s paradox literally. Recognizing the futility of removing all the garbage, in a fit of existential angst, the crushed and defeated robot arm brings the garbage can back down to earth with such force that it flings the garbage remaining in the can all over curbs and sidewalks.
A few days before this Christmas, my neighbor’s garbage can launched a plastic supermarket bag filled with dog poop at the tree in front of our building, where it caught in a branch like a little Christmas tree ornament. Thanks Houston Solid Waste Management Department!
- Harbeer Sandhu
Dumbest Grief: The Closing of Van Loc
Are you one of the Houstonians that freaked out when Van Loc closed? That’s fine if you had your first date with your partner there or something like that. Otherwise, what’s wrong with you? There are hundreds of Vietnamese restaurants in town that are just as good. Ten are within walking distance of the Van Loc location. If you think that no other Vietnamese restaurant in Houston could ever be as good as Van Loc, can we ask you how many you have tried?
- Nick Cooper
Worst loss for MSG junkies: The Closing of Van Loc
For 28 years, Van Loc made middle of the road Vietnamese fare awesome by super-dosing it with industrial grade MSG. Sure, the food may make you intermittently hallucinate and cause you spine to seize, but their sauces and flavors danced on your tongue like some sort of mono-sodium-fantasy. And despite adverse effects from MSG such as muscle degeneration, facial pressure, difficulty breathing, swelling of the prostate, and slurred speech, we all knew the main ingredient in Van Loc’s food was love.
- Omar Afra
Worst City Name: Houston
If we have to name our fair city after a white man then it might as well be Patrick Swayze. I mean, does anyone really have a deep connection with Sam Houston anymore? Doubtful. But man oh man, Patrick Swayze has been in my heart since I was born here…in Swayzeland, TX, the fourth largest city in Uhmerikah!
Doesn’t that already sound better? Swayzeland, TX. As for naming a city after a country, we already have a Rome, TX, a Carthage, TX, and a Palestine, TX, so the more you think about it, the more it makes sense!
The people in New York and Britain can have their House-ton. They can choke on it if they please. But down in Swayzeland, TX, we pronounce the word “Houston” with a killer dance move and a jawline you could shave metal with.
Worst Nickname: Space City
I must preface this by proclaiming my love for the city and it’s unique nicknames. I guess I should also preface this with my extreme loathing for routine and repetition. This way you can be made more understanding of why this term irks me so. The name was cool in the seventies when the underground newspaper, Space City, was still published, but now it’s worn out it’s charm. Must this name apply to EVERYTHING in Houston? Google “Space City,” go ahead. There’s a plethora of local establishments that pop up. Musicians, vintage stores, soccer clubs, credit unions, production companies, cycling clubs, rock climbing clubs, fucking FRISBEE teams… The list is endless and does not fail to invite a lack of originality, creativity, or any sort of true representation of the “Space City.”
- Zazil Farfan
Worst Houston Driver: You
Everyday I drive to work. Everyday you people get in my way. Stop it. No one should be allowed to drive in front of me. If I need to start a petition, I will. However, I’d prefer that this matter not require such legal proceedings.
If you all would just wait to start driving until I get to work, which would only take me seven to ten minutes at the most, then I think we’ll all be able to make a little more money and have less stressful lives. Instead, what we have now is people thinking that a slow moving car is a safe car… and that’s just not true at all. In fact, it’s that kind of thinking that causes this “traffic” problem.
Let’s examine how time works in relation to driving a car, shall we? Firstly, if you are in a car then you are 100% more likely to get in a car accident than if you were not in a car. Now let’s factor in some minutes. If you are traveling in a car for five minutes, you are 50% less likely to get in a car accident than if you were traveling in a car for ten minutes. That’s science right there. The faster you drive, the less likely you will get in a car accident. It’s just science, Houston. And it’s not even the hard kind of science like they at NASA. And do you know how fast those scientists drive? So fast they exit our atmosphere.
If you want to get somewhere in town, just GO! But most importantly, get the fuck out of my way.
Worst Sign Of Another Montrose Institution About To Close Its Doors: Mango’s Paint Job
This is almost too easy. Under the cover of night, the punk club Mango’s at Taft and Westheimer, went from its familiar green, unassuming facade, to what Domokos from Future Blondes described as an after-school special Rec Center. Now, I don’t hate graffiti at all, and some of the shit on the building is actually decent art, but some of it is fucking atrocious and all of it smashed on top of each other made it almost impossible to look at.
The place doesn’t make a shit ton of money but it has stood as a beacon for under-current punk/ noise/ electro/ anything weird, shows since we at FPH re-opened it in 2023 during a Westheimer Block Party. Prior to Mango’s it was The Oven, which saw a lions share of DIY punk and indie shows for 10+ years and established the location as a hotbed of rad, subversive art for Montrose and the Inner Loop altogether.
When the current management decided to paint the fucking place like a piñata in the cover of night as a quick cash-grab to make up for suffering sales, it seemed to have a completely opposite effect on the neighborhood and the people that frequent the venue. I was told it was done in part to draw the new-money yuppies in the area to the place so they’d spend their money on beers there, seeing it as a “Whoa, this place has graffiti, it must be edgy!” location. I have a lot of friends who are yuppies and even they think it looks like dog shit. Thankfully, the place couldn’t even hold its doors open long enough to test this theory as the location is now up for lease. Hopefully, whoever reopens the place continues the long standing tradition of businesses that have defined that corner in Montrose for the past 20 years. R.I.P Mango’s with green paint.
- Shelby Hohl
Worst Pizza: Bambolino’s
People actually put this pizza into their mouth.
- Omar Afra
Worst Feeble, Sexist, Paternalistic Wholesale Character Assassination Fail - Furcas Watch
Brandon Darby is a former anarchist activist from Pasadena who was later outed as an FBI informant and eventually became a right wing media celebrity. Though the seasoned, non-violent organizers he worked alongside for years evaded Darby’s attempts to “escalate their tactics,” he did eventually persuade a couple of impressionable kids to participate in a plan to firebomb some parked and empty cop cars at the 2023 Republican National Convention in Minnesota. The plan was foiled before anything happened because Darby wore a wire the whole time; the kids did some time in jail despite the clear entrapment from Darby and his accomplices in the FBI; and Darby was outed as the snitch that he is.
A few years before Darby there was a woman named Rhea who it later turned out had been snitching on local Earth First! activists. In California in 2023, another snitch/provocateur who went by the name Anna entrapped three members of the Earth Liberation Front by hatching plans and even buying gasoline with her own credit card to firebomb a forest genetics research facility. In England, it recently became known that at least two undercover police officers infiltrated animal rights and environmental groups and then went so far as to have babies with activist women without revealing their true identities (and then walked out on the babies, but that’s a different story). And in 2023, the FBI revealed that a former Field Marshal of the Black Panther Party, the man who provided the Panthers with guns, Richard Aoki, had been an FBI snitch for over 15 years in the 60s and 70s.
What do all these snitches have in common? They were all undercover! And they all entrapped people by aggressively attempting to escalate conflict.
Back in April, some brave, anonymous, self-styled “radicals” here in Houston decided to out someone they accuse to be a snitch…except the guy has never hid the fact that he’s a cop!
I met David “Furcas” Hayes on the first day of Occupy Houston, October 6, 2023. He was introduced to me by a mutual friend, and four of us spent the better part of that day together.
It’s no secret — I don’t like cops, and protest like the first day of Occupy Houston gives me myriad excuses to just run my trap. Through it all, that whole day, I maintained an ongoing, steady commentary on the depravity of police. It was not until later that day, when a few of us went to Warren’s for some martinis to help us spend that night on the sidewalks in front of city hall, that I learned that the man I’d been railing on about cops all day was in fact a cop, himself!
So back in April, some anonymous activists made a website “outing” the already out police officer who was moving around casually, among the ranks of Houston’s left-wing radical scene. Initially, the grossest thing about this page was the way it dragged Hayes’s sister into an unprovoked mudslinging match that had nothing to do with her, but that was later removed. As it stands, the grossest remaining thing about it is point number four, in which these anonymous activists stake a claim of ownership of the bodies of women in their scene, to wit, “David Allen Hayes has engaged in sexual advances/activity with activists (including with those who are MUCH younger than he is).”
Now that’s what we call “Klassy with a capital K.” Do you creeps have any idea how this makes you look? You don’t own those women’s bodies and for you to think you have any right to an opinion as to what they do, consensually, with anyone else is going way too far.
This is not a wholesale testimonial on behalf of David Hayes. He is my friend, but I also understand that he is a cop, and as a cop he is an instrument of the law enforcement/criminal justice systems of a corrupt and oppressive state. In the eyes of the law, cops are better than you and me, and they believe this when they act like the biggest gang in town — protecting their own before they protect the public. His badge and uniform dehumanize him in that they elevate him above his fellow citizens on the streets, in the courthouse, and even as a casualty.
However, any seasoned activist also knows that sometimes people on the inside can be allies and assets, and practices such as “security culture,” in which information is shared only on a “need to know basis,” are the only time-tested means to defend against (preempt) leaks of sensitive information. I mean, do these geniuses actually need to be told not to share plans about illegal activities with an out and open cop? (Never mind that none of them are even organizing any such actions because they couldn’t organize themselves out of a wet paper bag if their lives depended on it.)
I am not defending David Hayes — I am sure he does stuff at work that goes against his conscience, as many people do, and he has said some boneheaded things — as all of us have. Nor am I compelling anybody to trust him, and I see the need to out undercover cops and snitches because they seed paranoia even when they’re not instigating shit they’ll later bust people for — I’m just saying this is about the dumbest “gotcha” I have ever heard of. You people outed as a cop someone who has never hidden he’s a cop. That makes you look really, really dumb. And if there are people out there who need to be told not to tell a cop about possible, alleged crimes, then I trust those idiots even less than I trust the self-acknowledged cop.
It’s really sad to think that people would stoop so low just to feed their own delusions of grandeur. You wish that you were under investigation and worthy of infiltration. Smh.
- Harbeer Sandhu
Worst Of The Worst Ofs - 2023
I’ve submitted to the “Worst of” edition of Free Press Houston since it started. I look forward to contributing to FPH, a paper I appreciate. I have a lot of respect for the FPH crew and assume it’s a mutual thing.
Sometimes, I like to write entries that could cause problems for me in my work life, as I might run in the same professional circles as my subjects, but the wonderful freedom of anonymity allows me to be more frank than I might otherwise. I have asked for my name to be withheld twice over the years. Once, years ago when I wrote about a funder of the major institution where I work, and last year, when I wrote about a member of my loose professional associations.
The first time, my name was attached to it anyway and I thought I might get some blowback (I did call him a war criminal, after all) but nothing happened. I made fun of the mistake to the editors, they apologized, and I kept writing my annual submissions. Last year, once again, I asked that my name be kept off my stories and was promised that it would be, but yet again, it wasn’t. When the story came out, there was my full name, printed under my submissions.
But it didn’t stop there. My name was also printed under other people’s submissions - including a super-hater one about Houston that I never would have written. After I complained, the online story was fixed, but when the print paper came out, there it was again, in all it’s utter fuckedupedness. It’s one thing to stand behind your own calling people out, fine, but it’s another thing altogether when people think you wrote some crap on Houston piece. So, I won’t write any this year. Starting now.
- Name Withheld