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Houston family calls 911 when dad has psychotic episode; now sued by the deputy who killed him

When Marlene Yazar's husband Kemal experienced a psychotic episode, she was so scared for her safety and the safety of her children that she called 911. A paramedic arrived on the scene, but fled after Kemal threw a Bible at him. The paramedic called the police, and Harris County, TX Deputy Brady Pullen arrived on the scene. Ten minutes later, he and a colleague shot Kemal ten times, killing him. Then, he sued the Yazar family, naming Kemal's mother-in-law (who wasn't at home when the episode took place) because, according to him, the family were negligent in describing the threat the dead father, husband and breadwinner presented. Now, the family must not only mourn the passing of their dead loved one -- they have to defend themselves against a $100,000 lawsuit brought by the police officer who shot him dead. Cory 37

Film about Austin's psychedelic history

Austin60

Dirt Road To Psychedelia is a documentary about the underground culture and music scene in Austin, Texas during the 1960s. Above is the trailer.

"With a folk-singing Janis Joplin, the 13th Floor Elevators, peyote, LSD and the first psychedelic music venue in Texas, Austin was a fertile ground for the emerging counterculture of the 1960s," says director Scott Conn.

If you're lucky enough to be in Waxahachie, Texas this Sunday (3/23), check it out live at the wunderkammer that is the Webb Gallery as part of their "Big Hair & Sparkly Pants" Texas-themed group art show. You can also buy the DVD on Amazon.

Amazon reviews of Wendy Davis's running shoes

Texas Sen. Wendy Davis did something amazing when she filibustered for 13 hours solid to kill the state's omnibus abortion bill: standing, without help, food, water, or bathroom breaks, for 13 straight hours. In a pair of Mizuno Women's Wave Rider 16 Running Shoes. Fans of Ms Davis have taken to Amazon to show their support in the reviews, a strange form of public commentary with some precedent: "Guaranteed to outrun patriarchy on race day," and "I tried on a pair at the local mall and suddenly Texas Republicans started telling me what to do with my genitals." Cory 1

Texas Senate will vote on abortion bill Monday, at behest of Rick Perry

An 11-hour filibuster by Sen. Wendy Davis (and a heady late-night mixture of parliamentary confusion and public protest) prevented the Texas Senate from voting on a restrictive abortion bill that would close almost all the state's clinics and ban abortion after 20 weeks. That was Tuesday. Next Monday, the Senate will convene again to vote on the same bill, after Governor Rick Perry ordered a special session to make sure the bill passes. Maggie

700+ Texans ask lawmakers to hear "People's Filibuster" about abortion rights

Over 700 Texans gathered in their legislature to testify before the state government about the impact of Texas's pending omnibus abortion bill. This bill would impose complex, punitive restrictions on abortion clinics that would have the effect of shuttering all but five of the clinics where Texans can have a safe, legal abortion.

The participants in this "People's Filibuster" have found their elected representatives openly contemptuous of comment from the public, especially State Affairs Chair Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana) who called the individual, personal testimony "repetitive" and who eventually adjourned the meeting.

Only one woman is filibustering today, Senator Wendy Davis, who is in the middle of a 13-hour filibuster. (livestream)

Reproductive Health Reality Check has done excellent work covering the story, and today, they're raising funds to buy food to support the participants who are waiting all day and all night to tell their stories and be heard. I gave $50. Will you match it?

The BBC discovers the Texas Germans — and a dying dialect

My great-grandmother, Hedwig Nietzsche Koerth, never spoke English. My Grandpa Gustav didn't learn the language until he entered first grade. But, by the time I was in grade school — and was going through a brief fling of learning German — Grandpa no longer remembered much of what had once been his first language. Today, nobody in my immediate family speaks any German, much less the dying dialect of Texas German that my great-grandmother spoke. The BBC has an interesting story about the history and linguistics of Texas German, which will probably die out in the next couple generations — largely because the German Germans started a couple world wars in a row and changed the idea of what was and wasn't socially acceptable speech in America. Maggie

Girl who lost her hearing after West fertilizer plant exploded is now okay

The Today Show tracked down the Texas father who shot that now iconic video of the West fertilizer plant explosion — the one where you can hear his daughter screaming and pleading with him to leave after the explosion happens. Derrick Hurtt and his family were within 300 yards of the factory when it went up. They were there specifically to shoot some video of the burning plant. Hurtt's 12-year-old daughter, who says after the explosion that she can't hear anything, has regained her hearing. Maggie

Ammonium nitrate fertilizer isn't really a dangerous explosive (most of the time)

Fertilizer can explode*. We all know that. It was a key ingredient in the bomb that destroyed Oklahoma City’s Alfred P.

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Is the "secret" room at Houston's ZaZa a voyeuristic sex-dungeon for rich weirdos?


A redditor called joelikesmusic reported that a friend of his had been checked into a weird, narrow dungeon-like theme room at the Hotel Zaza in Houston (it's got lots of theme suites -- I once stayed in their awesome space-themed one with my family, on the way to my honeymoon). When he complained, the front desk apparently told him that it was a mistake -- no one was supposed to use that room.

The ZaZa's management told the press that it was a "prison" themed room, and that there was no mystery, but intrepid redditors have been examining the pictures (especially the portrait of Jay Comeaux, a banking exec from the disgraced Stanford Banking Executive, and have been spinning out theories about secret societies and rituals in the comments.

However, one commenter called lejefferson makes a plausible case that the room is a sex-dungeon with a one-way voyeur's mirror, used by rich weirdos:

What person that you know keeps a creepy picture of a guy over their television. This is obviously a secret room either personal or for a small group of people for sexual liasons/ S&M prostitution or worse. The mirror and small space of the room also indicates there is a good chance that the mirror is two way and that people could pay to come watch the sexual/S&M events occuring. The photo of a Stanford Banking Executive, (Jay Comeaux), on the wall further indicates that this is a high society sex room. The fact that the clerk said, "This room isn't supposed to be rented out" indicates that there was a big mistake and they didn't want anyone to find out about the room. The bricks on the wall line up exactly with the placement of the mirror suggesting that they do not continue behind it but that this is a two way mirror.

ZaZa insiders question - what's up with room 322? (self.houston) (via Super Punch)

Texas student loses ID-badge case

The Texas student who sued over her school's insistence that she wear an RFID-embedded ID card has lost her appeal. The school had offered to issue her an RFID-free ID badge, but her family felt that the ID badge itself was related to the "mark of the beast" and asked the court to find that their religious freedoms were being infringed. The court disagreed. Cory

68,000 Texans no longer have to prove they're not dead in order to vote

68,000 Texans will no longer have to prove that they aren't dead in order to vote in the next election. The state of Texas has settled a suit brought on behalf of 68,000 "potentially deceased" Texas voters who shared a birthdate and a partial Social Security match with a person appearing on a federal death register. These people will now be able to vote, unless Texas can prove they're dead. Another 12,000 voters will still have to prove that they're not dead before casting a ballot. More from Lowering the Bar:

Under the previous rules, voters were identified as "potentially deceased" if there was at least a "weak match" (such as a birth date plus a partial Social Security number) between their information and the federal death records the state was consulting. The weakly matched dead made up 68,000 of the 80,000 people who received a letter from voting officials telling them they would be removed from the rolls if they didn't speak up. Under the settlement, the burden shifts to officials to prove those people are really dead; the remainder ("strong matches"), who are much more likely to be dead, will still have to prove otherwise if they can.

"Today's order [approving the settlement] is another step toward improving the integrity of the election system," said Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who had unsuccessfully tried to defend the state's original plan. I think it's actually the same step, but 85% smaller.

Texas Settles With Previously Dead Voters

Texas Republicans call for an end to critical thinking in schools

A meeting of the Texas Republican party in Fort Worth came out with a list of demands for the education system, including a demand that schools end the practice of teaching "higher order thinking skills" because these challenge "student's fixed beliefs" and undermine "parental authority."

In the section titled "Educating Our Children," the document states that "corporal punishment is effective" and recommends teachers be given "more authority" to deal with disciplinary problems.

Additionally, the document states the party opposes mandatory pre-school and kindergarten, saying parents are "best suited to train their children in their early development."

Texas Republican Party Calls For Abstinence Only Sex Ed, Corporal Punishment In Schools (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

56-year-old Texas grandma gets life without parole on first-time drug charges

In Fort Worth, Texas, Elisa Castillo—a 56-year-old grandmother with no prior drug offenses— has been sentenced to life without parole. She maintains her innocence, and never "touched the drugs that sent her to prison," points out the ACLU; "Her fate was sealed, in large part because she didn't have a card to play when negotiating her sentence." The Houston Chronicle has more. Xeni

Sloths, Magic and Tripping: The Art of Georganne Deen

Georganne Deen - "Song of Myself" detail

 I never thought I’d say this, but you are lucky if you live in the Dallas area. Georganne Deen is my favorite living artist and has a show at Webb Gallery in Waxahatchie, TX right now.

The Los Angeles Contemporary Art Museum has an excellent exhibition up right now called In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States. All of the heavy hitters are there, including Frida Kahlo, Dorothea Tanning, Remedios Varo and Leonora Carrington. Georganne Deen is heir to this legacy of wonderful (and crazy) group of women. Her work has all of the madness and magic and emotion that you would expect from the surrealists but with a wonderful awareness of current cultural cues and graphic design.

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Texas politician's internet ad features gentleman electrocuted while peeing (video)

Roland Sledge is a 66-year-old Houston energy lawyer running for a seat on the Texas state commission that regulates the oil and gas industries. In the YouTube ad above, the Republican candidate stares into the camera while standing in a pasture, and riffs on a Will Rogers quote: “Isn’t it about time we elected political leaders that have sense enough not to pee on electric fences?” You'll want to read the New York Times story here. (via Michael Roston)