Free Press Houston April 2015

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eds l e t t er Believe everything you read.


I took my youngest son to get a haircut yesterday. He typically enjoys his hair longer but this time I decided to get it a little bit shorter. He thinks it is a buzz cut. Despite his smile in this picture, he got really mad at me. He said he likes this haircut but not on him. At the tender age of 9 he has decided what kind of haircut suits him. As for me, I shave my head. I shaved my head before I start losing my hair oddly enough. Thought I was a cholo. Anyways, everybody is flipping their shit about the 50th anniversary of the Astrodome. I say scrape it. The 300 million dollars or so it will cost to flip it into a nostalgic green space should be spent elsewhere. 300 milly buys a whole shit ton of much needed city infrastructure, school lunches, school computers, or just plain ole' schools. " Sorry kid, you are gonna have to skip breakfast because nostalgic white hipsters need to ride fixies inside the Astrodome." Ya see, now a whole group of kids has grown up from zygotes into adolescents without ever having been to the Dome. So here is our chance to scrape that motherfucker. Calm down, I am only kidding. Partially.


I n 2 0 11, N A S A A s t r o n o m e r s u s e d t h e S p i t ze r S p a c e Although some might see the circles as black holes Telescope to discover an abundance of buckyballs — resulting from this collision, that ’s simply not how the largest known molecules in space — floating in the black holes are formed. Instead, they can be seen void surrounding three dying stars. This discovery led as the deep black of space finding its way through to a theory that these molecules carried the seeds of skylights, the buckyballs and dodecahedrons hanglife to Earth. That theory inspired an incredible instaling from them drawing the stars themselves down lation by Jo Ann Fleischhauer, the sky and the fracture, towards the fracture. Together, they represent the on view at the Mariago Collective through April 25. infinite and the wonder, the macro and the micro “I look at the sky and the fracture as a poetic meldbound together as well as to the earth below. ing of science, religion, and art,” says curator Tommy “ This makes me remember going through my Gregory. “Jo Ann studies like no one I know; every day grandfather’s astronomy books,” Gregory said, picshe works on her art and subject matter.” turing the installation’s dark voids and the objects The installation pulls together years of scientific descending from them. research that began with Fleischhauer’s residency in the Department of Nanomedicine and Biomedical Engineering (nBME) at The University of Texas Health Science Center — although this wasn’t her first brush with the sciences. Throughout her artistic career, Fleischhauer has sought to bridge the gap between art and science — a pursuit that seems a growing trend among Houston artists such as Mel Chin, who recently reinterpreted data from the Panama Canal into SEA to SEE at the Mint Museum, and Debra Barrera, who started a residency last year in the School of Physics and Astronomy at Rice University Meditating on the idea of buckyballs and dodecah e drons , Fleisch ha u e r has use d th ese sha p es in multiple installations, casting and creating thousands of them over the years. These efforts can be seen in her latest work at the Mariago, as the sky and the fracture is the first exhibition at the Mariago to span both levels of the space. On the lower floor, a series of monoprints hang from the ceiling, angled as though they sat on podiums, hovering above remnants of the casts used to create the buckyballs and dodecahedrons in the upstairs installation. The stark white of the space is representative of a marble quarry, specifically one that the artist worked with while doing research in Italy, and the casts lie on the ground, empty, blank, fractured. T h e m o n o p r i n t s th e m s e l ve s co n s i s t of p h o tographs and drawings, digitally layered over one another and drawn upon yet again. Among the images contained within are fragmented slabs of marble and crustaceans, floating in the space of the print. While the marble slabs are a fairly direct reference to the quarry, the crustaceans connect the levels through both ideas of constellations and the physical process B y M i c h a e l M c F a d d e n through which marble is created. Marble is, more or P h o t o b y J i mm y H e mp h i l l less, a metamorphosed version of limestone, and most limestone is composed of skeletal fragments left behind by marine organisms, commonly crustaceans. Cast in the molds housed downstairs, the buckyThe earth, and the life that grows upon it, are balls, which were discovered in a lab at Rice University, heavily represented on this level of the installation. and the dodecahedrons hang with no consistent Even the laborious nature of this level of the installashape. They don’t seem to directly reference a contion connects sympathetic viewers with the quarrymen stellation, and the image of colliding galaxies isn’t fully who labor over the marble slabs referenced in the broapparent from the positioning itself. There is a moveken molds delicately laid out on the walnut floors. ment, though, referenced within their coloration. Each Together, these create the “fracture” of the installation. object’s coloration is unique, and certain colors can be On the walls of this level, hand-painted text surseen moving into one another throughout the installarounds the fracture and leads viewers upstairs towards tion. A beautiful representation of the space that only the sky. Acting as a sort of poem, these words replace astronomers tend to see, it stands as a mirror opposite the typical artist statement associated with exhibiof the space below it. tions. Pulled from Fleischhauer’s research, they offer While color would typically be more associated insight and access points into the meaning of the with the earth, Fleischhauer’s choice to use white installation. “Quarry milk,” for example, refers to how marble as a representation of the fracture sets a bold Fleischhauer noticed the river of the quarry in Italy aesthetic that strengthens the impact of both the churned and flowed like pouring milk while phrases lower space and the transition into the stars. like “galaxea milk” tie into “constellation” or “buckyFracture seems like a strange word for the instalball” as they guide the viewer into the sky. lation, though, because while there are numerous In the upper level of the space, this sky aspect fractures referenced within the work, between the consists of black circles painted on the ceiling, buckycasts, horizons, and the physical levels of the space, balls a n d do d e c a h e dro ns ha nging f ro m th e m . A there is a much stronger sense of the connections clear reference to stars, this part of the installation between everything, from the smallest molecule to the was inspired by an image of two galaxies colliding. macrocosm that is the universe.



I don’t know about yall but I have spots that I hate before I even go to them. St. Dane’s was one of them. It was one of the most obvious yuppie spots in Midtown before Midtown reminded the rest of us of falling limbs due to leprosy. I guess you could say that I would’ve (and probably did) call St. Dane’s the spots on your arm before they fell. Well, woe on me. I went to St. Dane’s, which, by the way was established in 2008—as their sign won’t let you miss—for the first time today. I’m not gonna lie, I was grumpy, I didn’t want to go, alas. I took the Bagby exit off that weird feeder road that comes out of 59 at the height of Main. St. Dane’s is immediately at the right. I drove into the parking lot and noticed that it was incredibly more packed than I thought it was going to be. Fortunately, someone was leaving their spot right in front of the entrance. As usual, parking the Whiskey Waker (my car) in a lot with nothing other than Beemers and Audis (‘cuz you know, Mercedes and Jaguars are no longer cool) makes me chuckle and remember that I can’t be super obvious about my flask. Walking in my, defenses instantly go down—they were playing Chicago (only the world’s best band ever

By Alvaro Chivas Fernandez

to be alive). Groovin’ and struttin’ I walked up to the only seat I could find without making it obvious that I was looking for a seat. Luckily for me, I sat at the bar. (Before you think ill of me I’ll have you know that I say that because the bar was so full that having to wait for someone to bring me food or drink to my table would’ve been an eternal feat.) O nce I sat down I was instantly at tended by Chelsea, the bartender. She was clearly busy but still pretended to be patient when I asked her my usual silly questions of ‘What ’s the cheapest drink? ’ and ‘Omg. Are you serious?! That’s your cheapest?!’ In the end, I got a $7 mini-pitcher of domestic. All of the above is ultimately irrelevant. I went to St. Dane’s for the steak. I sat down at the bar and ordered myself a steak, a steak with French fries and corn. I sat there drinking my beer for less than 15 minutes when my steak showed up. At first I was pretty peeved because the plate was plastic and the food looked gross so I ordered steak sauce (which I never do). Boy was I a fool. The steak was delicious. Granted, the black pepper taste, at first, might’ve been a bit overwhelming for those with a refined (read: delicate) palate. I really like black pepper so I didn’t mind, but then, once the first couple of bites were in my belly, the flavor eased up and became, honestly, delightful. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m fully aware that the meat used wasn’t the highest quality, or that the seasonings weren’t crafted in Cordon Bleu, or that the chef didn’t live in Paris for 25 years. I’m fully aware of that. My point is that the ribeye steak that I had tasted delicious. I just wish my sides would’ve been that good. My fries were pretty much crispy air and my corn tasted like bathsalts (not the drug) ((I hear…)) I enjoyed my food so much that I completely forgot about my beer and the music that was being played, and believe me, that rarely happens. Steak sauce barely touched, I realized that my food was gone. I was about to freak out because I didn’t remember finishing it and thought someone stole right from my plate. It’s ok though, I didn’t freak out, I remembered that I had in fact finished my steak and that that cloud I fondly remembering chewing on was actually the steak. As the youth might say, TBH I think I enjoyed myself so much at this spot because of the music. This was the first time I was at St. Dane’s so I don’t know if they always have such an amazing musical selection, but the night I went I was absolutely astonished. They played my favorite genre—adult contemporary— they played funk, they played 90s pop, they played radio-style ragamuffin. Drunk me was groovin’ the eff out of it. Now for the elephant in the room; the major flaw about this place is its patrons. Walking in, the air is instantly infused by chemical cologne and perfume. I heard the phrase, “Do you have any diet wheat beer?” within 10 minutes of sitting down. Someone had to be CONVINCED to take a shot that was bought for him because it was his birthday, but I think, worstly, their bathroom sucks for drugs. Once again, please don’t get me wrong. I was once told by a friend that if a bathroom doesn’t lock and/or it doesn’t have any tags inside the stall then it is no good for drugs. I’m an equal opportunity writer so it is my job to think of even those that the society does not deem worthy—that’s the only reason I bring up my last point. All in all, St. Dane’s was an enjoyable experience regardless of what I was expecting. The food was good. The music was good. The drinks (at least the pitcher) were reasonable. As much as it might pain me, I think I’ll be going back to this place.

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It’s not surprising that a conversation with director Julien Temple b y should turn to music. He’s the go-to director for music documen- M i c h a e l taries, particularly those that profile the UK rock and punk scene of B e r g e r o n the ‘70s and ‘80s. So it’s almost a certainty that discourse on record albums and cassettes should get tossed about. “I used to drive around with Joe Strummer and he would stop at service stations because they still had remainder bins of cassettes,” says Temple. “It meant the journey, down the motorway, was a long one.” Temple’s latest film “The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson” follows the amazing guitarist for the English pub rock band Dr. Feelgood, as he learns of a diagnosis of terminal cancer. Wilco, known for his flamboyant chop attack style of playing, starts making appearances and even records an album with Roger Daltry. As The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson unwinds, the story repeatedly merges with clips from classic films. Films dealing with themes of death: “The Seventh Seal,” “A Matter of Life and Death,” Cocteau’s “Orpheus,” “Holy Mountain,” “Simon of the Desert,” a British television production of “ Hamlet at Elsinore” starring Christopher Plummer (look closely for Michael Caine as Horatio in the background of one shot from this 1964 teleplay), “Stalker,” “The Color of Pomegranates,” and a few others. Temple deconstructs the subject matter of Johnson’s terminal cancer by drawing parallels to imagery from 20th century cinema. Shots of a Don Giovanni character walking along the jetty are Temple himself in costume, shooting some connecting tangential links to the story on a day when Wilco was unable to show up. “Working with those narrative images from movies came from another film I was doing about Wilco [“Oil City Confidential”] and that was because there’s so little footage of Dr. Feelgood in existence. Temple explains how Dr. Feelgood came in at the end of the “hippie era” and carried the then current musical momentum forward. And how now they are all but forgotten. “I thought I could use British B-movies from the ‘50s, which is in itself a forgotten genre,” says Temple. “You’re telling your story but you’re also operating on

other levels. At that point we couldn’t license all the films so I reenact some of them. Some of the films you see are films that I love, that are the reason I started making films. I refract Wilko’s story through other films that deal with the same theme. The subject helped us license these clips, so they didn’t hold us to ransom, charging fees that a film like this couldn’t afford.” Even as we prepare to face the unavoidable, Wilco has an operation that results in a miracle cure of sorts. A tumor is removed that weighs as much as a big baby. In the end, Wilco returns to the jetty seen on the cover of Dr. Feelgood’s first LP, the 1975 release “Down By the Jetty.” Wilco proceeds to rock out in his patented playing mode, now bald, old and having kicked cancer’s ass. “They would come back from their city gigs, like bank robbers raiding English pubs, and come back in the early hours of the morning and smoke their last joint on the jetty next to their home.” You cannot exit from this film without feeling good yourself. “The Ecstasy of Wilco Johnson” had its world premiere at SXSW last month. Another must-see music doc had its world premiere at SXSW, as part of the 24 Beats a Second category, “Danny Says” is a remarkable doc that covers a couple of decades of tumultuous change in American culture as seen though the eyes of Danny Fields. Fields started as an Ivy League apprentice at Warhol’s Factory and proceeded to make friends in rock circles while working as a music journalist. The film covers Fields’ time with The Velvet Underground, The Doors, Iggy Pop and the Stooges and ending with his five-year stint as the manager for The Ramones from 1975 through 1980. Fields is the last person to pull punches as he recounts the good, the bad and the fugly. Jim Morrison tried (unsuccessfully) to have Fields fired as a publicist for Electra Records when Fields would not bow down to the Lizard King. Fields may have one of the most famous couches in New York City with all the rockers and shakers who have crashed there.

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The black intelligentsia and white critics love rap music with a message. Kendrick Lamar’s newest release, To Pimp A Butterfly, is getting a lot of praise for making a point, for speaking to and about the black community in a candid and “real” way, but who’s to say Migos or Drake is saying less or more? I like the album, however, I will say that it does sound a bit dated if you’ve ever heard a Tribe Called Quest, Erykah Badu, or a Dr. Dre album (in his better years of course). There’s a lot of funk and jazz, and I am 40, and I have heard a great deal of rap albums influenced by funk and jazz, so that particular sound is not new to me. The other part would be the songs like “Wesley’s Theory,” which addresses tax evasion and flossing, or “How Much A Dollar Cost,” which poses a homeless man as God, as examples of songs with heavy subject matter. There is even a song that talks about skin complexion called “Complexion (A Zulu Love)” and all of this is fine and good, but where is the bump, where is the song that makes me want to wash my car or fix that back right speaker? Even the sort of def poetry-ish interludes sound antiquated to me—as if Lamar just heard Floetry or Black Star for the first time. Kendrick Lamar is huge, which means that he can make a Mos Def album, but outsell Mos Def, but if you heard Mos Def do it, well....I am in no way opposed to a “cerebral” rap album, but the music and lyrics work in tandem in rap, and this album is way too long (79 minutes!!!) to evoke the School Daze soundtrack and end with the equivalent of the Tupac hologram at Coachella.

Kendrick Lamar To Pimp A Butterfly (TDE/Interscope)

Whenever Pavement is listed as an influence, you sort of expect it to be loose musically and lyrically, wordy and humorous. I feel that I could coin the term Malkmas-ian if I were so inclined. Courtney Barnett’s album is a treat to listen to; the music is easygoing; the songs are funny, stream of consciousness bits on fame, domesticity, and organic vegetables. Barnett writes the kind of songs that boast Oscar Wilde type one liners. Let us take the brilliant “Pedestrian At Best,” where she states “underworked and oversexed I must express my disinterest / the rats are back inside my head what would Freud’ve said,” or the equally superb “Kim’s Caravan” where she informs the listener “Don’t ask me what I really mean, I am just a reflection of what you really wanna see, so take what you want from me,” which, in a weird way, describes the sort of idolatry that is applied to artists whose words become Twitter quotes and Instagram hashtags, the idea of one’s worth only measured by how you can narrarate my life, my experience, my frustration with traffic and/or grocery stores. The music passes through like the changing scenery of buildings from a car window, or wind in the alley, or the consumption of a beer. These songs are the space you stare into on the edge of the bed with the television barely audible and the room lit by the informercial that began when the Law and Order marathon ended—huge in impact, but almost inconsequential-- the weight of an afterthought. Yes, it is an awesome album.

WHITE HILLS Walks For Motorists (Thrill Jockey)

Earl Sweatshirt has created a universe of a tiny space, he has made the room a planet, the comfort, or perhaps the cave, of home. His songs reek of paranoia, distrust, disgust, and the bravado of loneliness: fuck the world. Hip hop concerns itself with the communal: the world, the hood, the club. Sweatshirt’s world is barely lit by whatever light leaks through the blinds. The dynamic “Faucet” trudges along with the lines “ I hope my phone break, let it ring...When I run, don’t chase me.” It is not the sort of droll dialog of “the haters,” it is real discomfort, but not pitiful, “I don’t act hard, I’m a hard act to circus niggas turning into tricks, I’m making waves you surfing in’ em.” The listener never really learns what drove the protagonist inward, maybe a breakup, maybe the death of a loved one, maybe opposition to the trite. Whatever it was, these are the Salinger serenades, these are the pre-Howard Hughes-ian odes, the detachment. The music plods along one somber note to the next, one moonlight to another, the walls closing in vibrating to the bass, the dance of the smoke off the ash. This album is beautiful.

First up, the most excellent thing on my Soundcloud is the Burger Records stream. It is why we listen to rock. It is song, more than thought, or the overemphasis of attempts at art. Peach Kelli Pop touches the place that made you appreciate rock music or just music, it gets to the point quickly, it feels good, i sounds good, it sounds like people, there is no hint of machine or plan, there is song and feeling. “Plastic Love” is hook line and sinker, you are sold in the first 15 seconds, punk rock gold. “Please Come Home” is a milkshake, a delicious cookie, the first taste justifies the weight gain. When you are are trying to commit to the diet, this is the sugar that tempts you. This isn’t something to ponder and intellectualize, this is the thing to blast and enjoy, the as if there is no tomorrow thing. This day is already better.

Shabazz Palaces once informed us it’s a feeling. White Hills is the the vein before the oxygen, it is what is running through your veins, the live blood, not the scab. The first words of the album are “How dare we call ourselves creators,” and I believe that is a great start. When the Can groove of “LSD or USB” kicks in, you know you are there, the Vegas strip, the costume party in the desert, the forbidden, sexy in its danger, the snake wrapped around the writhing dancer’s album, the album’s centerpiece “ Lead The Way” the spinning strobe, the collapse on the couch at that party where the ceiling is at once escape and adventure. Does anyone else see that face?

Album opener “This What You Wanted” is six minutes of glory. Turn To Crime could do a metallic cold Suicide thing, but the pop shines through in the marvelous “Actions,” The Blade Runneresque ballad “Impatience” demonstrates an attention to pace and space, a willingness to let the song happen, to let the picture present itself. The wait as marvelous as the climax—the aural companion to the song’s sentiment.

Courtney Barnett Sometimes I Sit And Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom & Pop / Marathon Artists / Milk!) EARL SWEATSHIRT I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside (Tan Cressida/ Columbia) PEACH KELLI POP lll (Burger Records)

TURN TO CRIME Actions Mugg and Bop

By km anderson

FPH 04.15




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Fif teen years ago, if you walked into pretty much any place other than a comedy club and mentioned the name Marc Maron; no one would have known who you were talking about. In fact, even within the confines of a comedy club, some people still might not have known the comedian. The fact is that Maron, known for his WTF with Marc Maron podcast, has spent the bulk of his career on the “unknown” circuit. Appearing more times than any other guest on the various talk shows of Conan O’Brien, Maron has had more jobs come and go than most, and yet he’s still kept things moving forward. It wasn’t until about six years ago, where he, like many comics- found his voice through a little known medium known as podcasting. Since then he’s released two comedy albums, written a book, and even gotten his own weekly show on IFC appropriately title “Maron.” On April 25th, minus a brief appearance at the recent Oddball Comedy Festival, the comic brings his stand up show to Houston for the first time in years. It ’s hard for most people to wrap their heads around this, but the average bottom of the barrel comic is smarter than some of the people you know who attended ivy league universities. When you ask anyone who has spent time around comics, those quick witted moments that come of f as rif fs happen more often than not; and there’s a genius level of brain activity that makes it occur. The WTF podcast has become the “swan song” for many artists today because of Maron’s quick witted questions and responses to those who venture into his garage. When comics, musicians, and anyone “cool” are making the rounds of talk show appearances; Maron’s garage is always a place they’d like to get into. It’s a right of passage for so many people, and is in many ways one of those “bucket list” appearances that was like hitting up the “Tonight Show: with Johnny Carson.” A modern day Charlie Rose, Maron has somehow gotten comics like Louis CK, Stephen Wright, Jim Gaffigan, Todd Barry; and on and on to come by his house to tape an episode. The guide of shows is like a who’s who in entertainment today. Musicians like Dave Grohl and J. Mascis have told Maron more than they’ve told anyone before. Robin Williams spoke about death and dying to only Maron before he left this world. And Carlos Mencia admitted that he stole jokes from comics, only on WTF. You could literally talk about the multitudes of guests that have been on the podcast if you had enough time and space, and you still wouldn’t have reached the ethos of what the show represents.

Ma rc Ma ron Re t urns T o Hous ton By David Garrick Photo by Dan Hallman

There’s also the television show on IFC, “Maron” where the comedian mixes bits from his comedy act with real life instances, and hints of being a world renowned podcaster. The show, gearing up for season three, is about a comic who’s making a podcast in his garage, and doing stand up as well. It’s a funny look at a mix of all of the Marc Marons that we, the audience, get to hear or read, or see. Where most television shows are meant to be a satirical look at a comic’s life, this show, coupled with his book, “Attempting Normal,” shows the comic as he truly is. In the book, Maron grapples with issues of drug addiction, fear, loneliness, and all of the gut wrenching details of Maron’s mind. All of the painful tales turned into punchlines we hear in his stand up and his podcast are contemplated and explored throughout the moments of failure and disgust into one beautiful package that places the reader inside the mind of the comic. But, the podcast, the T V show, or the memoir isn’t what ’s coming to Houston, it ’s the comedian. I saw Maron about ten years ago when I was out in LA. Dry, quick, and self imposed torturous humor is what I walked away with. The comic who has spent a lifetime crafting jokes around themes of bitterness and self hate can sometimes leave an audience in stitches, with an ounce of humility thrown in. On his latest, “Thinky Pain,” Maron covers every topic from a midlife crisis to the genius of Bill Hicks. The way in which he segues in between topics like atheism and hypochondria, or a distaste of sports and a porn is as effortless as it is beautiful. Maron, for the first time in a long time, feels like he’s in his element. That the Marc Maron that ’s performing on “Thinky Pain” is the Marc Maron audiences have wanted to see for the bulk of his career. It’s the same Maron from the podcast, the same tales as that from the television show; but there’s something about his delivery system when he’s at the helm of a mic, where he feels like he’s at home. That’s the Marc Maron that will be here in Houston at Fitzgerald’s on April 25th. The show, a stop on the Maronation Tour, will feature Maron in his element covering a myriad of topics where the set feels more like therapy than a bit. For a guy who ends his podcast on the regular with the question, “we good,” it seems like everything is great. But in the end, that’s the Maron we’ve all come to know and love. And any other version of him would feel like we were given something fraudulent.


If you were unaware, Houston has a comedy uprising that feels like it’s on the verge of something large. The mix of older comics, professional comics, and newer comics is something that really doesn’t seem to exist anywhere else. Every once and a while, you can catch a newer act and mistake them for a professional touring comic. That’s what happened the first time I saw our own Dale Cheesman. The ease at which he approaches the mic, the way that he’s always in the light, and the flow of jokes that seemed to all “hit” incorrectly made me think that he was a touring comic at an open mic. Since that night two years ago, Dale has done Houston Whatever Fest, the Come And Take It Comedy Festival, and has become a regular opener for touring comics at the Improv. FPH took some time to sit down with him to find out what makes him tick.

You’re from Houston, correct? How Long have you been doing stand-up? I am from Houston and I’ve been doing stand up for three years.

You have some jokes that might offend some people. But recently, Jim Gaffigan said, “I feel like comedians are gonna’ do what they do, and then they either get credit or criticism for it.” Do you feel like that about sums up your style? That you’re either getting praise or people questioning it? Yeah, I like dark comedy, but I can’t pull off Jeselnik or Stuart Lee style dark humor. It’s all lighthearted, whereas I’m trying to make people laugh at things they wouldn’t normally laugh at.

S ta nd Up & Deliv er

You grew up in a pretty normal upper middle class household with what appears to be a normal childhood. What about stand-up drew you to it, and where does your humor come from? I was trying not to live that “normal middle class” experience. I went to a private school that I was kicked out of, and the bubble of that world burst when I got into public school. My first day there, was the first time I skipped school and got drunk. From that point on I knew I wanted to do something different with my life.

Who are your favorite comics from the past, and your favorites who presently are around? From the past I like Richard Jeni, Bob Smiley, and Tommy Erwin. My first comedy album was Bob Smiley, and it was a Christian comedy album. I remember thinking, “Anyone can do this.” Presently, I like Jon Dore, Glenn Wool, Rory Scovel, and Mark Normand.

You seem to have one of the broadest ranges of humor I’ve ever seen in a comic, yet you sets come off as effortless. How long does it take your jokes to go from thoughts on a page to working in a set? I try to go up at an open mic with ten percent of an idea, then I tend to drop all of that because something happened on stage when I did the joke. Because I’m a new comic, I do a joke as it comes organically to see what works and what doesn’t.

You’ve become a regular working comic through sets at Improv, the Come And Take It Festival this year, and now doing the “Guestroom” series, and various shows around town; what’s the next step for you as a comic to get to that touring stage? The next step for me is to build a stronger feature act set. Right now I’m a host, and it’s hard to get those feature act sets. I mean, I’m a comic in his third year, so it would be absurd of me to start expecting things this early in.

You’re part of this newer crop of Houston comics like Ashton Womack, Jaffer Khan, and Gabe Bravo. Do you ever write with anyone in town or is it all solo, because you seem to kind of walk alone when I see you out?

Most of my stand up bits I write solo. We (Jaffer Khan, Matt Han, & Zach Dickson) collaborate for stuff we do on our podcast; but what’s written as a group stays as a group. None of the group stuff makes it into my solo set.

What’s your definition of a successful career in comedy? Not having to ask my parents for money for the last decade of my life would mean that I’m successful.

What’s a misconception people have about you? People seem to think that I’m smarter than I let on. But in all honesty, I’m just a dumb person struggling to keep up with everyone else.

You work as a waiter, but I would guess that you’ve had worse jobs in the past? All of my jobs have sucked. Once I was a camp counselor where my job was to let snakes bite me ten times a day for six weeks. It all started when someone from the camp saw me let a snake bite me, and I didn’t freak out. I had snakes as a kid, so it wasn’t a big deal to me. The next day I came in to see that my schedule all day said “wildlife.” All of the kids at the camp had heard that I could take a snake bite. So when I’d ask, “who wants to see the alligator?” All of the kids would just chant, “Snakes! Snakes! Snakes!” It was brutal. Dale Cheesman is easily a name that I doubt you’d forget, but one you should keep an eye on. There aren’t too many comics who seem to take the stage with the amount of ease that he does. While Dale preps for those days when he doesn’t have to borrow money from his parents, you can catch him when he opens for Joey Diaz at the Houston Improv on April 17th and 18th.

By David Garrick Photo by Stephen Odom

FPH 04.15















1275 MILBY ST.



Fuck sober, t hough t ful , l e v el-he a ded a dvice. Here’s t he t ru t h: BA DVICE B y M a r i n i V a n Sm i r r e n Art by Shelby Hohl

D i s c l a i m e r : Y o u d o n ’ t h a v e t o f u c k i n g r e a d t h i s i f y o u d o n ’ t l i k e i t . I k n o w I s o u n d l i k e a n a s s h o l e . T h e t i t l e s t a t e s : “ B A D VICE ” w h i c h therefore constitutes an awareness that one reading should anticipate the nature of said bad advice. Why is my aloe vera dying? Because it’s bored living in your apartment and disappointed that you asked the question to an advice column that is called BADvice instead of googling for the answer. Anyway, it’s supposed to help cuts, so try cutting yourself.

hey Badvice i have always wanted to ask you a question but never had anything good to ask. until now. How can I tell if my boyfriend is just using me for sex? Are your legs pinned back next to your head on a medical table in a dungeon? If that’s the case, YES he’s using you for sex but I’m not

know how many dudes out there are putting up with sociopaths that are “aight” and don’t give it up? You’re doing fine. You’re doing better than fine.

Belly Fat: How do I get rid of this shit? Why can’t my stomach look like all the bitches stomachs wearing crop tops? I don’t want to wear crop tops but I want the option to do so without looking like someone’s Uncle Leroy walking through the local Walmart on a Friday night. Sigh… I’m a fat Uncle Leroy. And sorry to all your fans who wear crop tops. I’m a jelly (literally) jerk. If you say “crop tops” over and over again it begins to not sound like a word. CropTop. FlipFlop. PitStop. FlatTop. MatchBox? I forgot why I came here. Oh yeah, I’m fat. Speaking of which, do guys like fat girls? I’m pleasantly plump not morbidly obese but this spare tire has made it

sure if the usage of “boyfriend” is accurate. Maybe “captor” is the word you’re looking for.

almost impossible for me to wear cute clothes without feeling insecure that everyone is looking at my gut. Should I name it? Idk man, any tips would be appreciated. Sincerely, about to develop an eating disorder but literally can’t because I love food.

i’m 28 years old and “common law”married to a woman i really love. we have no kids and she doesn’t mind that i’m always drinking and still enjoy skateboarding.i work and pay bills.the question is how do i get my mom to stop asking me to change my lifestyle and give her grand children every time i visit?

Dear About to Develop an Eating Disorder but Literally Can’t Because I Love Food, Here’s the thing… Shit or get off the pot. If you want to lose weight, guess what, healthy eating and exercise is the way you do it. If you want to continue your lifestyle and enjoy the pleasures of snacky bullshit, do it, but understand that you’re choosing that and gain some fucking confidence. See, there are guys that only like skinny girls, guys that only like fat girls, but there are also guys that only like confident girls. So, fuck it, name your gut. Wear cute clothes. Enjoy your food. Also, get over yourself. Not everyone is paying attention to your insecurities. They’re probably stressing out about their own… Also, in my opinion, crop tops only look good on girls who have skinny waists and no boobs. I’d rather have a nice set of tits than a couple crop tops I can wear until it dies out of fashion again.

You tell your mom that you went to a fertility clinic and found out that either you, or the woman you love, are unable to bear children. Act devastated about the news. If she ever brings it up again, let her know that it’s something you have come to terms with; however, you don’t want to discuss it because it pains you. Hopefully she’ll drop it, and then she’ll stop asking you to change your lifestyle too because she will feel bad about your situation. Then, when/ if the time comes that you decide you do want to have children, tell her and your child will be even more of a miracle baby that your mom will be super stoked.

My girlfriend is a sociopath but she is stunning beautiful and a nymphomaniac, what do I do? What’s so different about this than normal? An attractive person that is vain? At least you’re getting sex out of it. Just plan accordingly to where you’re only around her when sex is involved. Do you

How old is too old for Friday night at Numbers? If you feel uncomfortable, you’re too old, but Numbers is one of those places where you can always go to feel young. James Templeton, co –producer of “Friday I’m in Love” a Number’s documentary, says, “Until you are physically unable to dance to “Warm Leatherette”, you are never too old to be at Numbers on a Friday night.” SUBMIT YOUR QUESTION TO BADVICE ONLINE


Bryan Parras is a Houstonian and an environmentalist. In 2005, he helped found Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS) with his father, Juan Parras, who has been fighting what oil companies do along the Gulf Coast for over thirty years. B r ya n has a u niq u e p e r sp e ctive on the B ritish P etroleum D e e pwater Horizon disaster, and not just because he shares his initials with BP. In 2010, Parras was hired by an academic research team to ser ve as their communit y liaison as they conducted an academic survey of Gulf Coast communities affected by the spill. Bryan has seen it all. He’s been out measuring levels of oil and dispersants in the open G ulf, he’s be en among the gators and the skeeters in the swamps and marshlands, he’s heard testimony at community meetings in elementary school cafeterias, and visited hospitals where injured workers lay. B r y a n’ s e f f o r t s , a l o n g w i t h h i s c o l leagues’ at TEJAS, can be found in their se m i- r e g u l a r u p d ate s i n Fr e e P r e s s Houston , but for the upcoming fif th anniversar y of the B ritish Petroleum Deepwater Horizon disaster, Managing Editor Harbeer Sandhu conducted this interview with the “other” BP, our own Bryan Parras.

I l l u s t r a t i o n s b y A u s t i n Sm i t & Blake Jones

Brya n Pa rr a s on t he Deep wat er Horizon Cata s t rophe

What do British Petroleum, along with state and federal regulatory agencies (such as the Environmental Protection Agency) say about the current state of the Gulf of Mexico, post Deepwater Horizon? On March 2, 2015, British Petroleum (BP) released its report on the 5 year anniversary of the Deepwater Drilling Disaster entitled GULF OF ME XICO: ENVIRONMENTAL RECOVERY AND RESTORATION. BP’s introductory messages proudly states that “Five years of investigation: the Gulf of Mexico is rebounding.” This is the conclusion drawn after the culmination of 240 studies that have been conducted to date at a cost of $1.3 billion. To date, this is the largest environmental assessment ever performed by Natural Resource Damage Assessment. The general tone of the report is one of optimism, with a little finger pointing but overall complimentary of BP’s actions. The report is illustrated with sunsets, baby oysters, a dolphin emerging from the water, action shots of cleanup efforts and a picture of a Gulf Coast microbe munching on a droplet of Macondo oil. The final assessment is ongoing but the following are a few of the major conclusions published in BP’s report. “A substantial quantity of oil dissolved, evaporated, biodegraded, photo-oxidated or was cleaned up as it traveled from the wellhead to the surface and then the shoreline,” the report states. Environmental impacts were mitigated by several factors like the location of the spill, the type of crude and of course their ‘highly effective’ response that minimized the amount of oil that reached the shoreline, and site specific cleanup efforts. The report is quick to remind us that Gulf species are resilient and able to adapt and rebound from environmental disturbances and points the finger at other stressors that plague the region that should be taken into consideration when looking at the overall health of the Gulf. The report concludes that the majority of the environmental impacts occurred immediately after the “accident,” near the wellhead and along oiled beaches and marshes. The areas that were affected are recover-

ing and there is no indication of long-term impacts to the population of “any” Gulf species. Fish and shellfish populations in the Gulf of Mexico did not experience significant, long-term harm and there is no evidence that the spill harmed Gulf marine mammal populations. In fact, Gulf seafood is among the most rigorously tested seafood on the market every sample tested was found to be well below FDA levels of concern, with 99% of the samples showing no detectable residue. The report is conspicuously quiet on the topic of human health. It does not address the health of thousands of cleanup workers, coastal communities, children and Vessels of Opportunity (VoO) operators that have since become sick. The report does include two reports from the Interagency Operational Science Advisory Team (OSAT). • In the first report, dated December 17, 2010, it says, “None of the water samples analyzed exceeded the EPA benchmarks for protection of human health. • The second report dated Februar y 10, 2011 , states that, “Calculated potential human health effects from short- and long-term exposure to oil residue were below EPA acceptable risk levels.” As you would expect, most of these claims fall flat after looking at overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

How do your own observations compare with official assessments? British Petroleum’s report reads more like a legal brief than an actual assessment and self-selects a series of studies that belie the truth. Unfortunately, for those living on the coast, the reality is not so pretty. The environment continues to suffer, communities continue to struggle economically, and the oil, like the impacts, will be with us for some time to come. Thousands continue to suffer from health impacts that have not subsided since cleanup efforts began. The presence of life in the Gulf is not a sign of its resilience but its desire for justice. Countless numbers of people were poisoned when BP carpet-bombed the Gulf Coast exposing cleanup workers, coastal communities, fishermen, unsuspecting tourists, and the environment to unprecedented amounts of Corexit. Whistle blowers and critics of BP who suffer from debilitating health impacts have been targeted, criminalized, harassed and threatened. Many have died prematurely, and an overwhelming amount of stress continues to plague communities to this day. Not one health claim was ever approved through BP’s Gulf Coast Claims Fund. The seafood industry is not in full recovery and back to baseline levels as BP suggest. Shrimp, Crab and Oyster landing reports are all down. Boat captains, processors and small business owners struggle to climb out of debt due to inadequate compensation from BP’s Gulf Coast Claims Fund and meager catches. The oyster industry has been particularly hit hard in Plaquemines Parish. In Barataria Bay, dolphins continue to wash up, and tar balls continue to wash up on Grand Isle. Meanwhile, communities across the Gulf continue to report long-term health impacts associated with cleanup efforts along the Gulf, and are unable to seek treatment. In a scathing rebuke of BPs report, The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration published its own response, stating that “BP misinterprets and misapplies data while ignoring published literature that doesn’t support its claim…” Over a week after BP’s report was released, the company had to admit that it was in the process of recovering a 25,000 pound tar mat off the Louisiana coast. In fact, they had started the cleanup Feb. 23, but failed to mention that in their report or during its release.


A month before that, in January, researchers at the University of Florida found up to 10 million gallons of crude oil from the Deepwater Horizon on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. There, it threatens wildlife and marine ecosystems because of slow decomposition due to less oxygen in the water, Live Science reports. Lead researcher, Jeff Chanton goes on to say that “It might be there for a long period of time, a little reservoir of contamination.” Moreover, the oil may cause tumors and lesions on underwater animals, research suggests. The environmental impacts are extensive, and a true picture of the complete impact may never be known. What we do know is that the devastation is far worse than British Petroleum is admitting. Florida to Texas, environmental impacts persist and will continue well into the future. These are a just a few examples. In Baratarria Bay, the bottlenose dolphin population has been hit particularly hard due to prolonged exposure to hydrocarbons, one study suggests. NOAA concluded, “the health effects seen in the Barataria Bay dolphins are significant and likely will lead to reduced survival and ability to reproduce.” Dolphin deaths in Louisiana are presently four times higher

New safety protocols have been put in place, and they’re being followed and enforced, so we can feel safe knowing there won’t be any repeats, right? No. In July 2004, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released the final report on its investigation into BP’s Deepwater Drilling Disaster. CSB found that “the blowout preventer intended to shut off the flow of high-pressure oil and gas failed to seal the well because drill pipe buckled for reasons the offshore drilling industry remains largely unaware of.” “This results in potential safety gaps in U.S. offshore operations and leaves open the possibility of another similar catastrophic accident,” according to lead investigator Cheryl MacKenzie. Deepwater drilling continues unmitigated in the Gulf of Mexico, and no new safety regulations are likely to happen in the near future. Neither industry nor government have addressed concerns in the CSB report. In a recent decision by U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier, BP was not found grossly negligent in its planning or preparation for a deepwater blowout or oil spill. This, despite evidence that BP knew of its shortcomings, lied about its ability to deal with a deepwater blowout in the first place, and cut corners on safety to save money. In an article published in Rolling Stone, Antonia Juhasz covers these issues and more, c alling U. S . Distric t Cour t J udge C arl Barbier’s ruling misguided. Meanwhile, the White House announced that it was planning to open parts of the Atlantic Coast for oil and gas exploration while imposing more restrictions off Alaska’s North Slope in a game of political cat and mouse. BP is a repeat offender and has already killed hundreds. Here in Texas, we are also remembering the 10th anniversary of the 2005 Texas City Explosion, where 15 were killed and 170 injured at a BP refinery. If BP can get away with Deepwater Horizon and Texas City in the U.S., imagine the carnage abroad. From the Niger Delta to the Amazon to the Candian Tar Sands, the fossil fuel industry refuses to clean up its mess and continues to operate with impunity.

So, what can people do? If our government is in bed with industry and everybody is lying to us, where can we go to learn the truth and what can we do to change things? than average, and stillborn dolphins continue to wash up every spring. Off the coast of Mississippi, Cat Island, a nesting ground for thousands of shorebirds, is literally washing away. Oiled mangroves are not regenerating, and pelicans and other shorebirds are noticeably absent from the island. In Florida, a Tampa nurse, Trisha Springstead was compelled to travel to Cat Point after examining children with identical health symptoms exhibited by thousands of BP cleanup workers. Symptoms included rashes, respirator y dif ficulties, cardiac problems, declining mental acuity, diminishing memory and anxiety. Hundreds of Floridians have reported “suffering from ailments associated with exposure to oil and Corexit” reports Bellona. In April 2013, the Government Accountability Projec t released Deadly Dispersants in the G ulf : Are Public Health and Environmental Tradedies the New Norm for Oil Spill Cleanups? The report concludes that BP sprayed unprecedented amounts of Corexit into the Gulf, making the oil more toxic, more abundant and bioavailable. Outspoken critics and whistleblowers of BP who suffered health impacts were routinely “spied on and harassed” by BP and its subcontractors, including home invasions and confiscation of their trash. Ok, well, what’s done is done—we can’t change the past, right? But surely things must be different.

Quit working for the fossil fuel industry. I mean that literally and figuratively. There are many ways that we unwittingly support the fossil fuel industry and work against our own interests. Don’t be a fossil fool and participate in marathons promoting oil and gas companies. Boycott events and programming sponsored by the fossil fuel and petrochemical industry. We can’t allow the fossil fuel industry to greenwash its image by sponsoring our family events. A recently published report, PICTURE THIS - A Portrait of 25 Years of BP Sponsorship from the UK based non-profit Platform, asked the question, “How bad does a company have to be before an arts organization refuses to be associated with it or take its money?” Use your smarts for good. You don’t have to look far away places like the Amazon or the Arctic to get involved and help save our future on this planet. What do you really know about the place where you work? How do the spaces you inhabit contribute to unmitigated climate change? Wake up and be a conscious participant in your own community. Organize. There are plenty of people working and fighting for change along the coast that need our support. Lend a hand where you can. If you truly love Gulf Coast food, culture, and country, then help protect it. We deserve better. Across the gulf, people are coming together and speaking out. The Gulf South is rising. Be a part of the future. Read Bridge The Gulf and follow #GulfSouthRising for more details.


RESPECTING PREGN A NT TEX A NS By Laila Khalili Last month, the ACLU of Tex as held a press conference at the state Capitol alongside the family of Marlise Muñoz and Re p re se nt ative Elliot t N a is ht at (D – Austin) to introduce HB 3183. This bill, also known as “Marlise’s Law,” would give pregnant women and their families the right to make their own end-of-life health care decisions, just like ever y o t h e r Te x a n . M a r l i s e ’ s L a w w o u l d repeal the pregnancy exclusions from sections of the Texas Health and Safety Code, which outlines procedures for end-of-life care. In November 2013 , the family of Marlise Muñoz was forced to grapple with the impossible—unexpectedly losing a wife, mother, and daughter at the young age of 33. Marlise was rushed to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth upon being found unresponsive in her home. Her family was told that she had suf fered a pulmonary embolism, and was declared brain dead. Marlise, who was a paramedic, had discussed with her family that she wo u l d wa n t to f o r g o m e d i c a l i n te rvention in such circumstances . Their wishes were ignored, however, when it was revealed that her doctors were required by state law to keep her on life-support. The reason: she was fourteen weeks pregnant. Texas is one of many states that severely restricts pregnant women’s r i g h t to e n d - of- l i f e c a re by p ro h i b i t i n g d o c to r s f r o m r e m ov i n g t h e m from life support. According to a 2012 re p o r t f ro m th e C e n te r f o r Wo m e n Policy Studies, Texas is one of 12 states that invalidates a woman’s a dvan ce direc tive if she happens to be pregnant—regardless of how far along in the pregnancy she is. Marlise’s Law “would allow women autonomy when planning their wishes regarding extraordinary medical interventions during end-of-life care,” said

Rep. Naishtat, the bill’s sponsor. “Marlise’s Law enables physicians, I l l u s t r a t i o n b y B l a k e J o n e s health care providers and medical institutions to honor a woman’s wishes and personal values, and preserve the doctor-patient relationship. This bill does not preclude a woman from receiving medical treatment.” It took a court order from district Judge R.H. Wallace, Jr. for the hospital to take Marlise Muñoz off life-support, 62 days after she was brought to the hospital. Sadly, this did not reduce the steep hospital costs or alleviate the emotional distress that the state of Texas put her family through. Marlise’s parents spoke at the press conference, sharing their painful experience and why it is important to honor and respect what families decide together during a tragic loss. “Marlise was human. She wasn’t an experiment. She wasn’t someone we wanted to see in a hospital tied to machines. We wanted her to live, and die, with dignity. And we didn’t get to see that,” said Ernie Machado, father of Marlise Muñoz. “The state tied not only our hands, but those of the doctors and the hospital too,” said Lynne Machado, mother of Marlise Muñoz. “What should have been an immensely private and personal moment for our family was used as a political debate. The doctors weren’t practicing medicine, they were practicing politics.” When a woman becomes pregnant, she and her family should not be deprived of the right to make end-of-life medical care decisions. These situations are profoundly personal and should be left to families and their doctors, just like everybody else. No family should be treated the way Marlise and her family were, but until the law is changed to reflect that our government trusts and respects Texas families, this could happen to anyone. Representative Matt Krause (R-Forth Worth) has already introduced legislation that would allow the state of Texas to appoint a representative to speak on behalf of the fetus if the pregnant woman is not conscious, which would further undermine the rights of families like Marlise’s. According to Rep. Krause, the state-appointed guardian’s job “is to look after the interest of the unborn child and ensure that the judge has the best information possible on the condition of the child when making their ruling.” This insinuates that the Muñoz family, and all Texas families, don’t already have the best interests of their loved ones at heart and need the state to make these personal decisions for them. While Rep. Krause may have good intentions, his proposal only intrudes on the rights of grieving families and prevents them from making important medical decisions with their doctors. “ When Marlise died, I did my best as a husband to fulfill her wishes,” said Erick Muñoz. “I don’t want to tell any family what to do in such a difficult time with such a private decision. I just want every family to have the right to make the best decision for them without interference from the government.”


B y A n d r e a Af r a

Sprang! One of my favorite locations to watch the season unfold is very close to the heart of the city at Hermann Park. From the Sam Houston statue, walk past the Reflection Pool and Japanese Garden, and then take a right over the pedestrian bridge spanning McGovern Lake. Believe it or not, you are now on an island surrounded by a slow, meandering waterway teaming with life. Two other islands occupy the lake, but there’s no pedestrian access as they ’ve been set aside for wildlife, especially migratory birds. Keep to your right as you walk ahead and you’ll see that the lake flows under the bridge and veers to the lef t. Follow its bank around all the way and you’ll find yourself near the playground and fishing pier. You may now venture off the path and approach the water, but tread lightly, as here be denizens light of foot, wing, and feather. Everywhere you look, something is happening. Yellow-crowned and Black-crowned Night-Herons wait along the treelined shore like feathered statues. Staring between the reeds and waterlilies with amberbeaded eyes, they survey the waters for an opportune fish. Butterflies? Every kind indigenous to Houston. Everywhere. Blink and you’ll miss the metallic cobaltblue damselflies as delicate as sewing needles, while the dragonflies are impossible to overlook. Dashers, Emperors, Skimmers, Saddlebags and other Odonata hunt small flying insects and defend their territory with aerial stunts man has yet to recreate through machinery. I’m stoked about their return, if that’s not already apparent. Red-eared sliders and snapping turtles share the lake with other fauna like bass, perch, nutria, ducks, geese, and large congregations of cormorants. In the grassy areas, rabbits graze on tender twigs, fairly unfazed by the sight of a human, and the squirrels are abundant and sometimes friendly to the point of being overbearing. Fishing is open to seniors and children under 12, and it’s a pretty common site to see a lone angler with a tackle box trying their luck. I asked one man if he’d caught anything, and he said he had been fishing there for six months without a single catch, so have backup dinner plans in mind. I leave the rest for you to discover on your own, and while yes, it’s getting hot and mosquitoes are a staple in our region, there is too much happening outdoors to be stuck inside. Take a towel, a picnic lunch, and a bottle of water and you’re golden. Bug spray, a camera, and people you like are optional but encouraged. Finally, I want to do something fun and adventurous for the readers, and to incentivize others to get outside and explore. I think there are few things more exciting than an occasional treasure hunt, don’t you? Each month, I’ll hide a little somethin’-somethin’ amid a natural setting. The main rule is to do no harm when trying to find it. It will never require digging or destruction of flora, but it may require a good deed or two. Follow @WildinHTX on Twitter and join the ‘Wild in Houston’ community page on Facebook to find out when clues are released. If you want to contribute anything to the booty chest, holler! Andrea Afra handles the FPH web stuff, but really just wants to write. for the intrepid.

A n isl a nd in t he l ak e at Herm a nn Pa rk

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JUNE 26 TEXAS FLOOD 2470 FM 1960 W.









For half a decade, Houston based arts organization, Our Image Film & Arts (OIFA), has been dedicated to curating and exhibiting compelling films and artworks by and about black cultures of the world through film screenings, organizational collaborations, and community embracing events. Each year OIFA produces its Our Image Film & Arts Festival. The events are open to folks of all cultures, ethnicities, and backgrounds who enjoy great content and creativity. This year April 17th-18th OIFA will be showcasing Our Image in Film a weekend of great cinema at Rice University’s Media Center in celebration of independent movies including shorts, international cinema, and an insightful documentary on the history and influence of Houston DJ culture, This Thing We Do. Produced by Jason Woods (aka DJ Flash Gordon Parks) and funded in part by a grant from Houston Arts Alliance This Thing We Do is a visual tour of a major component of Houston cultural influence, the DJ. In it, Parks gets insight from a DJ who’s who list of Bayou City pioneers including Daryl Scott of Blast Records, Gracie Chavez, DJ Sun of Soular Grooves, and Chuck Roast of Vinyl Edge Records and the legendary punk rock show Funhouse, to name a few. Flash Gordon Parks who describes himself as an “ethnomusicologist, collector, and documentarian from the city of Houston” feels the “deejay is a conduit of information supplying his or her audience with history, awareness and entertainment” and that “Gospel, Jazz, Blues, Soul, Funk, Rock and Hip-Hop are the cornerstones of Houston’s diverse cultural makeup.” The film, shot and edited by Damian Randle of Ill Mannered Media, “masterfully connects the dots between different genres, different eras and different sections of the city of Houston.“ This Thing We Do will make its Houston debut April 18th, 7pm at Rice Media Center. (Rice University campus, inside of entrance 8, on University Blvd. at Stockton Dr.) The film will be followed by a Q&A talk with Parks and a panel discussion consisting of some of the DJs present in the film. On the international cinema side, OIFA will be screening White Shadow, a film shot in Tanzania, executive produced by Ryan Gosling and featuring a cast of talented and powerful non-actors, which follows the story of the hunting and killing of albino Africans due to the belief of their flesh possessing mystical properties. The film was screened recently at Sundance Film Festival. The film wil screen at 5pm on April 18th. On April 17th OIFA will showcase Friday Night Short Night! including short films by local and national black filmmakers. The 1st film starts at 7pm. For a complete list of films, trailers and schedules go to

at Rice Univ ersit y t o Fe at ure Hous ton DJ Documen ta ry

More about OUR IMAGE Our Image Film & Arts is a collaborative effort and labor of love by founders Marc “Furi” Newsome and Monie Henderson. Newsome, an award winning filmmaker and Henderson who relocated to Houston after a career in the New York arts community came together 5 years ago to create an organization which showcases positive, non-stereotypical imagery by and about black cultures of the world. “I always would go to film festivals in other cities and see these fantastic movies that never got seen again outside of the festival circuit. Before that I would wonder where are the black science fiction films, the thrillers, the non goofy love stories?” asks Newsome. “ When I’d travel to other countries, I’d see the ef fects of mainstream rap video imagery, and stereotypes as diplomats of African American culture. They (the residents) would think we really act like that.” “Meanwhile your average Hollywood movie showcases the same ethnicity/gender as this messiah like character via superhero movies, spy films, space movies, post apocalyptic genres – Captain Kirk, James Bond, Mad Max, Captain America, Neo from the Matrix, Luke Sky Walker, Moses, Jack Bauer – it’s repeatedly the same character, the heroic white male. Don’t get me wrong they’re all entertaining. But where’s OUR IMAGE?” As a result, OIFA set out to curate a healthy alternative and supplement the imagery that’s out there with images depicting black cultures of the global diaspora with great films and artworks showing black people as the problem solvers, the protagonists, the heroes using film and art as a community vehicle. Most of the films screened are completely independent of the Hollywood structure and still fantastically compelling and entertaining. OIFA has brought to Houston some of great documentaries, dramas, African science fiction films, and avant garde movies which have made their debuts at film festivals of the caliber of SXSW and Sundance. Our Image Film & Arts welcomes all ethnicities to come out and experience their thought provoking and entertaining events. In the past, the organization has had a great history of screening music documentaries including, Sly Stone: Coming Back For More, Finding Fela (a Fela Kuti biopic), Public Enemy: Welcome to the Terrordome, and have had appearances by Ali Shaheed Muhammad of Tribe Called Quest, Saul Williams, and Taleb Kweli at the events. OIFA has had an illustrious collaboration track record with some of the majors in the arts community including Project Row Houses, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Houston Cinema Arts Society, and Houston Museum of African American Culture. To follow the organization and what its up to regarding events and social media visit its website,

By Marc Newsome

FPH 04.15


50% CASH or 60% TRADE 1657 WESTHEIMER RD HOUSTON , TX 77006 713-528-5500 Pavement HP ad 5x3.5_MECH.indd 1

3/14/14 8:18 AM


A n in t ervie w wit h Ja n a Pel lush

By Erica Montana Thames

Jana Pellush is a tiny woman with a huge drive. Walking into the hall of USW Local 13-1, I didn’t even notice her sitting right in front of me among a crowd of union members who towered over her. Barely five feet tall, with a gentle voice, she is not the type of person you would expect to be a die-hard union activist. But after being around her for a few minutes, I could tell that Jana was powerful and well respected. Jana, a native Texan, has been working in refineries and a member of the union since 1974. Herself the daughter of an oil roughneck, Jana found her way to the job because of the encouragement of her roommate at the time, a woman who was a welder at the Shell Refinery in Deer Park. After a brief stint as a

librarian in 2004, she returned to the job and her brothers and sisters in the union. She sat down with me to talk about the current strike (still ongoing at some Houston locations).

many parts of the world that is still an issue. Who is going to stand up for the children of the world? It’s the labor movement. Who’s going to take up for the workers that get pennies of pay a day? It’s the labor movement. I’m seeing more labor involved in the environmental movement; I am happy about that.

What made you interested in union activism? People lost their lives for these rights. I’m sure there are people that can’t get this concept in their head. They think that their life is entirely individual, they think of their life in terms of a career, moving up in the world, getting a job with the company, getting promoted and getting raises. I’ve never seen my life in those terms. I’ve always been interested in politics and in social movements. The first movement that I was really conscious of was the movement for civil rights and of course I agreed with that. Then I saw the women’s movement and I saw how it related to my life, and then there were all these movements going on with gay rights. I was a supporter for the gay rights movement and was active in trying to get literature out on campus about why the gay rights movement was important. The [anti-]Vietnam war [movement], I was active in that. My worldview has been that there are issues that affect us, so the concept [of] moving through life with your own family and your own career and [that’s] your extent of participation of a broader society - that is how a lot of people see their life but that has not been how I see my life or how my close friends see their lives. And of course you’re interested in [issues] by the people you associate with, so there is something about how I grew up and saw the world which led me to these broader movements to become part of that. I can remember being in school and reading all about Jimmy Hoffa [disappearing]. Around that time, there were all these news reports about the Teamsters and I didn’t know what the Teamsters were or what they were all about but I began to learn what a union is and what a union can do and why you need to support the union movement.

What about your ideals drives you to union activism? Why is this strike a public issue? There are a range of what might be called “personal” issues that are definitely matters of “public” concern. For example, domestic violence, bullying in schools, how Gay/lesbian/transgender/bisexual people are treated, child abuse, how we treat our pets...Over the years we have come to see that society as a whole has an interest in intervening in situations where maltreatment may be occurring, and even making laws aimed at promoting fairness. The same applies to economic and safety issues that are brought up in strike situations: these are matters of public concern, especially in the oil and chemical industry, where leaks and explosions affect the community. No individual lives their life in a vacuum and if you think about your parents, your family, your immediate circle of friends and your schooling—all the different schools you go to, all the different teachers you have—you’re affected by that. And there have been movements in the past that have fought for a better life. The unions also fought against child labor, and in

I’ve done some reading about the labor movement, not at all as much as I would like to. But I know that the unions were organized by radicals. They weren’t middle of the road, “well maybe this or maybe that” people. They were radicals, they were socialists, they were communists. They were regular rank and file and saw what was going on and drew conclusions, and they knew that they needed to fight for an organization that would represent many. Not just be out for yourself, but the very concept of unionism is that you unite and fight for common interests of the many. The corporations have always fought tooth and nail for their interests, so to counterbalance that you at least need unions. Our first line of defense is a union, a well organized union, and it may be true that it takes something this crucial, this shocking, to make ourselves and others understand how important that is. Because I know that my life and everyone’s lives have been disrupted by the strike. Everyone involved in this has had their life disrupted. My routine has been disrupted and really your life has been turned upside down, so what


do you do in that situation? You really see what your core values are. I know what my core values are, I know that I worked with my brothers and sisters in the union for our common interests and I don’t desert that cause.

Can you tell me about the strike in 1980? I don’t recall what the national oil bargaining package contained at the outset of the strike in 1980, but I clearly remember that we got a dental plan for the first time and additional weeks of vacation for the high seniority workers. Remember, these were achievements that, after we ratified, covered ALL organized oil workers, and there were many more of us at that time (60,000). The 1980 strike began in early January and lasted 3 months. The contract expired on January 1 in those days. Apparently there were 6 days of extensions, because negotiations continued, as my journal at that time recorded on January 7: “Waiting for news of possible strike. Pretty good coverage on the local news. Due to fire at the fluid (catalytic cracking) unit, had to work [overtime] twice over the past week.” On January 13 I wrote: “This is the 6th day of the 1980 oil strike!” I referred to writing an article on the strike for the Militant newspaper. I continued to write updates for the Militant throughout the strike. I was also active in the anti-nuclear movement; the local organization was Mockingbird Alliance. “I am getting things pretty well organized on Mockingbird’s O utreach commit te e ,” and “ went to che ck out a possible new office site for M.A.” There was no lack of activities to keep me busy. My birthday was in February and I turned 30 during that strike (and 65 during this one). As a young woman, my priorities were different at that time. I wrote “Ideally, I’d like to spend four hours a day playing my bass, do some picketing and hanging around the hall a couple hours, drink some beer at the G and L and...” I am omitting the conclusion of that, but essentially it had to do with the opposite sex. Everyone from those days will remember the G and L ice house on Hwy 225, across from the plant. O n F e b r u a r y 1 3 , I w ro te , “ H a d a s u c c e s s f u l Mockingbird table at UH today. Two men were killed at the Amoco, Texas City, refinery today - they were contractors. Got another $15 this week, strike benefits. Plan to apply for food stamps soon. Early picket line tomorrow.”

How did the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization’s strike in 1981 affect you? The PATCO strike was a big deal. I remember going to a big support rally for them in Houston with some cowo r ke r s wh o a re n ow i n S OA R (Ste e lwo r ke r s Organization of Active Retirees), Earl Ehlers and Tom Gentry, and others. Today, Ronald Reagan appeals to a lot of working people who just don’t realize the role he played in intimidating working class people and our organizations. The full force of the U.S. government was set up against that union. It set into motion a dive downward for the labor movement. All the figures are out there showing the shrinking of the middle class. That so called middle class is just working people who have been boosted into a higher level of prosperity by the gains of the labor movement. All these campaigns around the country to raise the minimum wage are a response to the beating down of wages since the PATCO defeat. I think there is momentum in the country now to fight back. Our strike was part of that. I am looking forward to playing an active role in that movement. Last Thanksgiving I went to a support rally at a Houston WalMart store for the $15/hour minimum wage. The next important step for the labor movement is to get those WalMart and other low paid retail workers organized. In the oil industry, we have to organize the contract labor force. Every worker should be

organized into a union that works for those workers’ interests. That’s my goal.

How was union activism different when you first started your career? Strikes were more common in the 60s and 70s but not so much since the PATCO strike in the late 80s. We haven’t seen as many strikes; we haven’t seen as much labor militancy. Back in those days, it’s not that there were a lot of strikes but we had two year contracts. Every two years you knew that there was a possibility of a strike, it was just something that you understood. When I moved down to Houston in ‘72, I believe it was that year that there was an extensive strike over at the Shell plant that I work at now, I believe over safety issues. It was just a lot of comment in the news media about that strike. In 1989 when I worked at the Arco plant, we went on strike for three months. That brought home to me that if you work under a union contract and you have issues that are not being addressed by your company, you really need to be prepared to go out, to exercise the power that we in the labor movement have. Our main power is to withhold our labor, so you need to be prepared to do that.

Why is this an environmental issue? I think the conventional understanding of this involves the location of polluting plants in low income, often minority neighborhoods. Let’s say in most cases the plants were there first, which drives down the desirability of the real estate and makes it more affordable. And if the plants want to expand, or if new ones come in, they can easily do so as there are not politically powerful voices against this. My concept of environmental justice today is a lot bigger. It means that, for the good of the entire planet, dirty, carcinogenic pollutants must be done away with. That means fossil fuels: oil, gas and coal. The best science we have shows that carbon emissions have to be cut drastically and SOON. It’s my belief that the young generation now at these refineries must be the last. I hope and pray these young people will inherit the job of final shutdowns of all the cokers, fluid catalytic cracking units, sulfur units and so on when they are in their fifties. The scientists give us till 2050 to get these carbon emissions down, way down. Let’s go for it.


Driving North on Shepherd, as you cross the train tracks before you hit the Katy Freeway, nestled between a church and a shed you will find a congregation of recent immigrants looking for work. I remember seeing them on the way to school one day, and asked myself if they were the terrorists Lou Dobbs was talking about. After the attacks of September 11th, as the U.S. headed for an economic recession, attitudes and conversations about Mexican immigrants began to shift. The people needed a scapegoat and xenophobia ran rampant. In 2005, the Arizona-based vigilante group known as the Minute Men came into notoriety for staking out day laborer hot spots like the one on Shepherd and outside Home Depots all across the US. To the average Minute Man, a war veteran enjoying the comforts of retirement while watching Fox news, it made sense to blame immigrants for the perils of the nation—someone needed to be a hero and others the target. When the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4437 in 2006—one of the most xenophobic and anticonstitutional bills in American history—the masses began to mobilize. It was one of those rare moments in history when popular sentiment reflected that a great injustice was being formalized and committed against the most vulnerable: immigrants. Soon, groups working on anti-war efforts as well as labor and social justice issues came together against the oppressive piece of legislation and in support of immigrants and immigration reform. In Houston, since immigration and labor are so closely related—immigrants come here seeking work, after all—immigrant rights organizers worked in unison with the labor movement. When moments like this come along, it is advisable to look at the actions of young people. They have the energy to escalate an issue into a movement due to their impulsiveness and natural state of rebellion. In Houston, where the majority of the population are people of color (historically of Black, Native and Mexican descent), young people began to walk out of school. At Reagan High school the principal , Rober t Pambello was talked into raising a Mexican flag below the American and Texan flags, by the majority latin@ student body, but was quickly ordered to remove it. The “Mega Marchas” or mass demonstrations started on March 10 th in Chicago. 500,000 thousand people took to the streets, on the 24 th , 20,000 marched to Senator Jon Kyl’s office in Phoenix, while in Georgia, tens of thousands of workers participated in a work stoppage, then LA, Ohio, Northern Virginia, Nashville.... and on the 30 th the Mexican flag was raised at Reagan. HISD was forced to take a stand. They called for a press conference in which they touted two of the student protestors, one of whom was me: “We want the media to have an example, of what students are capable of—organizing, being effective, making an impression” and Latina Club President: Tina Marie, “—without breaking rules and without breaking laws and working within the school system.” Over 500 students at Lamar High School met at the flagpole before school began on April 6, a demonstration modeled in part on “Prayer on the Pole” actions organized by Christian students to protest the separation of faith and education. Most of the students who came to the rally identified as Mexican. They brought flags and were ready to walk. Directly across the Lamar campus, on one of the busiest (if not the busiest) street in Houston, Westheimer, is the River Oaks Country Club. Tina Marie and I had decided that walking out would put students in physical danger from traffic, and we had learned the financial strains that police issued tickets placed on low income, under-educated youth from the other recent walk-outs in Houston and other cities. The rally was advertised through MySpace and mass text messages, and we flyer bombed the school

throughout the week. We asked that everyone wear white in solidarity. We even sent out a press release, and several media outlets came to the campus but were escorted by school security across the street to the commercial strip in front of Lamar. The plan was to hold the rally before school and walk in to class as a political act in support of immigration reform. I began the rally by letting people know what H.R. 4437 was, and what actions were being organized by the national movement to reform immigration law. Principal McSwain came down from his office balcony and asked to use our megaphone to speak about his Irish grandparents and faith, he was supportive of immigrants and “Prayer on the Pole.”When the bell rang, we all walked in, in our white shirts. Mexican students were disappointed that we hadn’t walked out, that we gave McSwain the megaphone, and when the school broadcast channel interviewed Tina and me immediately following the walk in, they christened us Timon and Pumba. McSwain invited us to the HISD press conference that was being held that same day, to which we drove in a limousine. We were the stars of the press conference and were granted permission to make a statement. Our action became known throughout the city because of the local and international coverage it had received. Looking back , I wish we had walked out and caused a real stir. Down Kirby...towards Shepherd... to where? I don’t know. That was for the masses to decide.

By Zelene Pineda Suchilt Illustration by Blake Jones


The biennial Tex as Legisl ative sessions are almost never “to arm and train the working class for self-defense.” cause for celebration for those of us on the political Similar leftist gun rights groups exist, but the caricaleft. Blatant hypocrisy threatens ground gained in the ture of the right-wing “gun nut” persists, at times for battle against fracking, reproductive rights are under good reason. You know the type—the working-class attack, and hard-won LGBT protections, won through conservative who votes against their own economic bitter struggle in Houston, may be undone in Austin. interests; someone who says disobliging things about However, two firearms bills which would permit racial minorities and LGBT folks, speaking with an open carry and concealed carry on public universi- accent that turns “hello” into a five syllable word, and ties sail easily through the Legislature, and will likely “government” into a contraction and curse simultaneto be approved , generating much anxiet y by the ously. The most extreme pro-gun elements however, usual suspects. Before I to get into that, first a bit of tend to alienate people otherwise sympathetic to gun up-front disclosure. rights advocacy be they on the left or right. I am a Concealed Handgun License (CHL) holder But among the golden throng of “Don’t Tread on and I own multiple firearms (with a particular fondness Me” Gadsden flags in the gun rights sector of the politfor Glocks and Eastern Bloc weaponry). I didn’t grow ical landscape, splotches of communist/socialist red up around firearms, but I took to them quite naturally. and anarchist black can be found. There are even intriI won’t break any marksmanship records but I can cately elaborated Marxist cases in favor of gun rights, hold my own with a firearm. My military service only and people I’ve come to think of as “non-traditional” helped to increase my comfort around them because gun rights advocates are too frequently overlooked in I’m a stickler for safety procedures (the military is all my opinion. about firearms safety). I’m also one of the apparently Politics aside, the usual liberal hand-wringing and rare and exotic political animals - I am a leftist in favor scaremongering that suggests people are going to be of gun rights. magically induced to shoot random strangers at the I’m not the only leftist who feels this way; there’s stroke of Governor Abbott’s pen is in full force, and ac tually a Facebook group which c alls it self the in my opinion, is as unfounded as it’s myopic. For one, “Socialist Rifle Association,” their stated mission being in the 20 year history of concealed carry in Texas, the

T wo Bil l s You Re a l ly Don’ t Need to Worry A bou t in a n O t herwise Hos til e L egisl at ure By Jacob Santillan Illustration by Blake Jones

Texas Department of Public Safety keeps on file the conviction rates for concealed handgun license holders. Of all crimes listed, CHL holders overwhelmingly account for less than one percent of criminal convictions. We aren’t exactly a wild-eyed lawless bunch. i t ’s a l s o i m p o r t a n t to n o te t h a t o p e n c a r r y and concealed c ampus c arr y won’ t mean a com plete free-for-all. Those bills would only allow those already licensed to carry concealed to do so. State law currently requires applicants to have their fingerprints on file, training that covers the laws governing weapons and the use of deadly force, handgun proficiency and safety, nonviolent dispute resolution, and proper storage practices which, if followed properly, eliminate the possibility of accidental injury to a child. State law also allows for what’s called “30.06 signage,” whereby a property owner or a place of business can legally prohibit a CHL holder from carrying on their premises. Violators can be arrested at risk of their CHL. Firearms are still not permitted in bars, nor college campuses, though the campus carry bill aims to expand concealed carry to public universities, and some already carry handguns on campus, illegally, with grim memories of the Virginia Tech shootings. “I can tell you as a strong Second Amendment supporter—somebody who runs in circles with people who frequently shoot, carry weapons, who have permits— my impression is that most of the people in Texas who have a permit do not carry a weapon now,” says military fiction author Chris Hernandez, also a 20 year veteran of Texas law enforcement. “ My impression is that there will be negligible impact with this law. Most people who aren’t carrying a weapon now, even though they have a permit, aren’t going to start carrying openly because tactically, you’re much better off carrying concealed. You will have small number of people who will open carry to make a point, just like the Open Carry Tarrant County morons up in Dallas/Fort Worth, walking into Chipotle with AKs, openly carry just to make a point. Those people will eventually get tired of the novelty.” I rarely carry concealed myself, much less openly, except on the rural proper ties of close personal friends. That’s mostly as a result of my personal choice of weapon, which doesn’t lend well to comfortable inside-the-waistband concealed carry. Fashion concerns aside, I also have no illusions of fooling anyone by carrying concealed in a fanny pack. I’m more than aware of the increased responsibility of carrying concealed at all, to say nothing of carrying openly, and if anything, I’d feel much more exposed carrying openly, and I suspect I’m not alone. “You find out carrying a pistol isn’t a magic wand.” Hernandez says. “It actually generates a huge number of personal responsibilities. It puts you in additional danger if you do not exercise common sense precautions against being disarmed, if you don’t exercise situational awareness, or if you’re too cheap to afford a security holster. There are a lot of things that can go wrong because you’re carrying a weapon.” My personal opposition to open carry is merely tactical, as I suspect will be the same for other CHL holders. For the occasional concealed carry citizen such as myself, the chief advantage of open carry legislation is that it lifts the worry that accidental exposure of a concealed handgun could lead to arrest and a costly legal battle—that’s it. Whether you or I share common cause with those on the left or right when it comes to gun rights, or any other issue, it’s important to remember that no issue is truly “owned” by the left or right. As long as diversity reigns, and as long as we can find common cause, calm down about open carry and campus carry—it’s going to be okay. I’ll see you at the range.

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Ma rijua n a Decrimin a liz ation

By Dean Becker I l l u s t r a t i o n b y A u s t i n Sm i t h

Hell has not frozen over, but pigs are flying... to Austin, to quash efforts to legalize cannabis in Texas. “The eyes of Texas” are opening to the truth that cannabis is being recognized (again) for it ’s remarkable abilities as a medicine for numerous maladies and conditions. Major media in the US has shone a bright spotlight and given a particular focus to the benefit possible for children with n e u ro m u s c u l a r d i s e a s e s . Va r i o u s Texas organizations have worked to educate and embolden our representatives, including the M arijuana Policy Proje c t, N O R M L c h a p t e r s f r o m a r o u n d Te x a s , Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, US Veterans, patients, a working Texas judge, and thousands of individual Texans. We have 13 bills currently under consideration by the Texas legislature to change our state’s laws on weed. Ranging from the “Affirmative Defense” bill that would allow you to request status as a medical marijuana patient (after you are busted), to my favorite bill (HB 2365), presented by Rep David Simpson out of Kilgore, who states: “I am proposing that this plant be regulated like tomatoes, jalapeños or coffee.” I f Re p re s e nt ative S i m ps o n ’s b ill i s passed, it will immediately take billions of profits away from barbarous cartels in Mexico and US gangs who profit by selling flowers and other plant products to our children. Of course the police, prosecutors and prison wardens are in a tizzy not wanting to lose their favorite cash cow, and are pressuring our elected to stay the course in a war that can never be won. Within the last two years , the drug formerly known as marijuana has been

examined and debated as never before, and given “legal” status for recreational use in four US states and the District of Columbia. Except in DC, this “legal” cannabis is monitored, taxed, inspected, and overseen like no other “legal” product in the history of mankind. This constant oversight ensures that the price to grow and distribute will remain especially high. When you include the cost of inspection, monitoring and massive taxes, the price of cannabis stays 50 to 100 times above “farm-gate” value, thus ensuring that the black market continues to exist. As of now, high quality, outdoor grown cannabis sells for up to $4,000 a pound and more than $8,000 a pound when sold by the gram. If we simply “do away with” Texas’ cannabis laws as recommended in Simpson’s bill, the price would drop well below $100 a pound and destroy the ability of the illegal sellers to compete, thus eliminating the black market vendors who have no qualms about selling drugs to our children. A year ago, I would not have given a 1% chance for any of these bills to pass, but in the last few months, some major players have stood tall for common sense in this regard. In December, a guest on my Cultural Baggage radio show was Charles A. McClelland Jr., police chief of our own fair city. Our interview became a national story with dozens of outlets carrying the thoughts of the Chief. Each story, all positive, quoted the Chief saying the drug war is “a miserable failure.” More recently, he told me his choice of the cannabis bills put before our legislature was to “support decriminalization and lowering of fines and penalties.” Last October, Mayor Parker came on my show to say, “We need a complete rethinking of the nation’s drug laws. We have seen over and over again that outright prohibition doesn’t work.” Since taking over from her husband as DA of Harris County, Devon Anderson has refused to be a guest on my show and after she took office, our Sheriff Adrian Garcia has also refused to speak about the drug war over the airwaves. Here’s what the Sheriff had to say back in 2010: “ I can’t deny that we need to do something better”. In years past, you would hear a seemingly endless echo of “We can’t legalize in Texas as long as there is a Federal law against cannabis.” This situation has not stopped more than 20 states from legalizing cannabis for medical purposes, yet the thought of Federal interference has been a powerful stumbling block in Texas—the one state most likely to assert “States’ Rights” in any other context. In 2015, President Obama, Attorney General Holder, a handful of retired US attorneys, as well as dozens of US Representatives have moved the bar of discussion to one of possibility. Just last month, at least six US Senators put forward a very comprehensive medical cannabis bill that would ensure scientific study, force the Veterans Administration to permit our veterans the use of cannabis, allow banks to open accounts for cannabis dispensaries, permit interstate shipments, and would give states the ability to determine if cannabis is right for their citizens with no worry of Federal interference. Knowing the truth about the drug war is one thing, but to say as much, as our courageous police chief and others have done, is quite another. The drug war is a belief system, a quasi religion that often compels people to remain silent despite the obvious horror that this prohibition brings forward each day. Whether at work, at church, in school or most any venue, for decades, we dared not speak of the “miserable failure” of drug prohibition, even though it has never stopped even one determined child from getting their hands on drugs. What we truly must “prohibit” is the black market. Drug prohibition of the ludicrously named controlled substances generates revenues of more than $300 billion dollars a year. Beneficiaries of this loot are terrorists, bloody Latin cartels and the US gangs who lure our children into lives of crime and addiction. These bad actors do not want legalization of any drugs, for it would kill their golden goose. Let’s start by legalizing cannabis for adults, regulate it, sell it for pennies on the black market dollar, and then not tax it so much that we ensure the continuance of the cartels and gangs. I project that, soon thereafter, we will decide to judge adults simply by their actions and not by the plant products in their pocket—like it used to be in America. Dean Becker produces nine radio programs per week for Pacifica and the Drug Truth Network. Cultural Baggage is broadcast in Houston on KPFT, 90.1 FM on Fridays at 4:30 PM. He is a former policeman and is now a “speaker” for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Becker is a contributing expert for the James A. Baker III Institute and author of To End The War On Drugs (available on Amazon).


By Harbeer Sandhu Photo by Galina Kurlat

A rs longa , vita bre vis, goes the Latin maxim, one of only true self. This imperfect world has no place for many platitudes decrying the fleeting nature of our perfection (or only a plastic perfection, unconsumexistence as compared to the endurance of our most mated). beloved records. John Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn” “ Forget your perfect of fering,” sings Leonard is a poetic meditation on this simple statement—life is Cohen. “There is a crack in everything / That’s how the short but art lasts forever-- and that the poem has not light gets in.” just survived, but remained relevant for almost 200 Persian rug makers introduce a deliberate imperyears—and that the 200-year-old poem describes a fection into their designs (a bit of asymmetry, for 2,000-year-old vase—its continued existence proves example), because only Allah is allowed to fabriits own assertion. cate perfection. In the same vein, Navajo rug makers Keats’s poem interprets a red and black urn from believe that the weaver’s soul enters the rug during ancient Greece, an archeological object (a hardy ves- the weaving process, so they deliberately introduce sel unlike some others we’ll get to in a minute). On the at least one imperfection that the weaver’s soul might vase, a pair of lovers gaze at one another, on the cusp escape. of a kiss beneath a tree. Though the lovers will never Enter Galina Kurlat with her antiquated techconsummate their kiss—their ideal forms are forever niques, the anti-Photoshop: her large format cameras, frozen in this static image—neither will their beauty her ambrotypes (glass positive images made by coatfade, just as the tree will never shed its lush foliage. ing a glass plate with collodian and sensitizing it with Life fades, but art, the ideal, unsullied by gritty real- a silver nitrate bath, then exposing the still wet plate ity, persists. and processing it within minutes), her discontinued But it is not without persistent human effort that Polaroid Type 55 and positive/negative films; these even art is preserved. The Chauvet Cave in France, temperamental materials and processes which leave containing some of the oldest surviving paintings so much space for chance, magic, and chaos to enter. known to humans (dating back some 32,000 years) Pushing this idea even further, Kurlat will scratch her was sealed off from the public soon after its discovery negatives and tweak the chemicals used to process in 1994, lest its decay be hastened by human interfer- the images to welcome in more entropy—a tension ence (as in the caves at Lascaux). Museums and private between control and the lack thereof—a literal crack collections employ preservationists for this very rea- to let the literal light in, “so that a uncontrolled serson, and we have all seen the UV-filtered, hermetically endipity dictates the final portrait.” The (final?) result sealed glass cases that enclose great works within the looks something like the portraits of the Northern perfect temperature and humidity to prevent aging. Renaissance—dark, moody, brooding, classical, and And the preservation process begins before even the timeless—photographs which, like memory, become piece’s composition, with the artist’s choice of materi- an imperfect record, which age like the Portrait of als, the best of which are sold as “archival quality.” Dorian Gray. On the other hand, ephemeral or temporal forms In her close-up series of “blemished ” skin, such as ice sculpture, performance art, graffiti, and “ Remnants ,” scars and stretch marks take on the sand mandalas deliberately eschew this imperative to appearance of landmarks, each a story on the landimmortality. Viewers must see the piece/performance scape of her subjects’ bodies, frail and fragile like the exactly when it happens, or they are left to rely on photographs, themselves. Ironically, Kurlat says that documentation in the form of videos or photographs. she is “interested in the person as a whole,” and these Photographs, of course, are forever. A photo- isolated, disembodied body parts indeed do succeed graph captures and fixes a moment in time—so much in evoking that integrity. so that the final wash in developing a negative and For her portrait series, called “Safe Distance,” printing a photo is called the “fix.” Light is shined on a Kurlat invites sitters into her studio and places them light-sensitive surface, developer is added to activate before the camera, which becomes something of a the chemicals, and then the image is fixed—a perfect barrier between her and the subject, which forces the record of surface appearances—so perfect that until photographer into the role of a voyeur. All this creates the age of digital manipulation, a photograph was on a tension between hiding vs revealing, or hiding while par with an eyewitness account. A perfect record of posing, and the resulting images reveal a depth that a moment. We see this reference to time even in the haunts the viewer. There are ghosts in these images, names we use to describe photos: snapshot, insta- living in the space between the negative and the print, gram, “Kodak moment” or “the decisive moment.” between the molecules of the light-sensitive emulsion, So, like any photographer, Galina Kurlat stops imperfectly fixed to a crumbling medium, just as we time…kind of. The Russian-born, New York educated, humans cling desperately to our own fading egos. erstwhile Houstonian who is preparing to return to The photographs, Kurlat says, are a lie—they are New York takes contemporary photographs using posed, composed, and artificially lit. Yet the unflinchantiquated techniques. Kurlat says that she is not ingly honest, close-up view of her camera is the arrow interested in creating an “accurate representation” of with which she aims to pierce that lie—the crack that a person or a thing; rather, she strives to reveal their lets the light in. essence, and that essence is a fleeting thing, a thing which cannot be fixed in time. Kurlat ’s latest show, Proximity, will open at Acker According to the Kabbalah, God poured spiritual Imaging Gallery this Saturday, April 11th, and remain energy into the objects that make up the universe, through the 29th. which are like vessels (urns?) containing that energy, but the divine energy was so great that the “perfect Other shows featuring Kurlat this spring include reality” shattered. Just as a seed must decompose and Imaging Now at the Memphis College of Art, several break open to release the life inside, so must all things shows in Denver, one show in France, and another in decay to become their full self. Their fleeting self. The Albuquerque.

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