Is it art or exploitation?

This story I wrote for editor Charlotte Aguilar at The Leader newspaper in Houston.  It’s about a convicted felon (the guy that defaced a Picasso at the Menil museum), still wanted by police, who now has a showing of his art at a Heights gallery.   Should he be granted an exhibit?

To the owner of the Sawyer Heights gallery which is displaying Uriel Landeros’ work next week, it is “inspirational.”

To others in the Heights-area arts community, it is “insulting” to have the paintings of a man wanted by Houston police for the felony vandalism of a Picasso oil rewarded with an exhibit.

Either way, it’s too late to get an invitation to the event, as “the guest list is full and there are no exceptions,” said James Perez, the gallery owner of Cueto James Art Gallery at 2500 Summer St., which will host the opening 7 p.m.-11 p.m. Oct. 26.

John Cannon, spokesman for the Houston Police Department, confirmed that Landeros, wearing a hoodie, is wanted for entering the Menil Collection on June 13 and – using a stencil he created based on his signature images – spray-painted a bullfighter killing a bull and the word “Conquista” on Picasso’s Woman in a Red Armchair.

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Speaking out about I-45 expansion as TxDOT pares down options

This was a public meeting about infrastructure planning that wasn’t as boring as I’d thought it would be when assigned by The Leader in October 2012 to cover.  Of course, even the most minimalist of plans by the state department of transportation seem to take eons through planning and environmental processes.

Whether they’ll see managed traffic decks, lanes, tunnels, bridges or other future infrastructural changes hasn’t been decided yet, but U.S. Interstate 45 Corridor residents – including those in the eastern neighborhoods of the Heights – are tenaciously working to shape that highway’s future.

About 100 residents of neighborhoods along I-45, from Beltway 8 to downtown Houston gathered last Wednesday night at Jefferson Davis High School, 1101 Quitman, to hear — or question or comment on — the Texas Department of Transportation’s North Houston Highway Improvement Project’s alternatives.

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Seniors making New Years resolutions should include health care screenings

This is a story I wrote for the Houston Chronicle’s Senior Living section about what Tomball-area physicians would like to see seniors add to their New Year’s resolutions list.  It was published in January 2012, and I’m still trying to incorporate some of what I learned here into my own health schedule.

There are a few plans that should top the list when seniors draw up their resolutions for a happy, healthy new year, say two Tomball Regional Medical Center physicians who specialize in family medicine.

Quite a few of the must-include promises for an illness-preventive lifestyle are standard for any age group – quitting smoking, adopting a more organ-friendly, low-cholesterol diet and including a moderate daily exercise program, say Dr. Sam Rolon and Dr. Stephen Tabor.

Both Rolon and Tabor agree that seniors need to make at least one New Year’s resolution for a proactive approach to their own preventive healthcare by scheduling checkups needed for their age groups. That’s more important when it comes to annual screenings against colon, prostate and breast cancers and cardiovascular diseases. These tests, the doctors agreed, increase in urgency along with age and are not optional for seniors looking to continue productive, healthy lives.

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Business brings laser wars to backyards

In a June 2011 assignment, I was asked by a weekly Cypress Fairbanks-area publication, Community Impact News, to profile the action of Battlefield Houston, a laser-tag business.

CY-FAIR — Battlefield Houston, a local business that provides mobile outdoor laser tag and water tag games, can mount warfare at residential or community center doorsteps. Based in the Cy-Fair area, the organization provides the adrenaline rush of combat complete with barricades, fire power and camouflage paint.

“It’s like a game of chess where your teams are the chess pieces, trying to accomplish a goal, outsmart the other team, out-maneuver them, not knowing if there’s someone just as smart and just as cunning as you on the other side,” said John Pittman, the company’s owner and founder.

Depending on the length of the party and the package of equipment appropriate for the occasion—birthdays, nonprofit occasions, youth group celebrations, corporate team-building exercises—laser-tag or water-tag packages come with authentic military-issue looking guns, inflatable barricades, high-tech flotation vests, face paint and even personalized dog tags.

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Summer Hazards: How to cure those summertime blues

This story stemmed from a June 2010 assignment from Health Leader, a publication of the University of Texas Health Science Center, to interview several physicians about preventing medical woes that occur with more frequency in summer months.

Old Eddie Cochran rock lyrics – there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues – may not spring from medical fact, but the incidence of mild to serious ailments can rise along with Texas temperatures.

Skin rashes, insect bites or brushes with toxic plants, as well as accidents or illnesses during summer are usually curable. They are also preventable and treatable, often with nothing more than kitchen chemistry and common sense, say medical experts at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).

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U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan entertained by former classmates

This story involved military-sanctioned phone interviews with U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan during the war.  It was spurred in November 2008 by an America Voices press release received while I was a staff reporter with the Houston Chronicle’s neighborhood sections.  

Two Houstonians stationed at a U.S. air base near Afghanistan were happy to see faces from their old stomping grounds when a Bayou City-based international break-dance, rap and hip-hop group dropped in to present a show.

The early October performance by five members of Houston’s Urgeworks dance group, HaviKoro, at the Manas Air Base, 376th Air Expeditionary Wing, in Kyrgyzstan was a last-minute addition to the group’s U.S. Embassy cultural exchange tour.

The tour of the Baltic states is being coordinated by American Voices’ Houston Artists Abroad program.

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Katy veteran doesn’t let blindness slow him

This is one in a series of Houston Chronicle stories to publicize the annual Katy Rice Harvest Festival written while I was a staff reporter in July 2007.  The festival committee that year selected Kenny Adams, an amazingly active blind veteran of the Afghanistan war, as its parade marshal.  The visit with Kenny and his family remains one of my favorite and most inspiring moments in my career.

A foosball table is the latest addition to Kenny Adams‘ game room in his Cinco Ranch home, where he also plays darts, ping-pong and pool when not on the road to welcome veterans — and help disabled former soldiers — returning from war.

Adams knows something about the needs of returning veterans, especially those disabled while in service to their country. He was blinded three years ago on duty with the U.S. Army when accidentally shot while helping a buddy clean his rifle in Afghanistan.

Before and since October, when Adams rode as marshal at the head of the Katy Rice Harvest Festival Parade, he has worked with several veterans groups, particularly the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes, for which he is an official spokesman.

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