The Austin Chronicle


Crisis Controversy

December 27, 1996, Columns


Thank you for your article about the Austin Rape Crisis Center (Vol. 16, No. 16). As a long-time hot-line and public education volunteer, I have also been saddened by the decision of the Center's board and management that money is more important than people. The fact that so many dedicated and capable staff and volunteers have left the center (one way or the other) is an indication that something is very wrong there.

Ginger Eways is a nice, personable woman, but only to those who are willing to follow her way of doing things. Under her control, the Center has stopped being the "caring place" it used to be, and has instead become a place where services take second place to keeping rich donors happy.

After my two hot-line shifts at the end of this month, I will also stop being a volunteer for the Center. I have tried to hang on, hoping that things would change; but I have finally had to realize that they won't. When a necessary service like the Center becomes a toy for the Junior League, it's time for me to stop affirming that situation with my participation and move on.

Tom Davis

The Importance of ARCC

Dear Editor:

As a counselor at the Austin Rape Crisis Center, I have been privileged for the last year to work with an incredibly diverse group of clients. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I can't begin to stress the importance of the services offered by ARCC, or the warmth and compassion with which they are offered. As a feminist, and a political progressive, I choose to put my activism into action through working every day, and being present with the pain, and the courage of men, women, and children who are survivors of sexual assault and childhood sexual abuse. In my work with the Child and Adolescent program, about 85% of my clients are members of ethnic minorities, including Asian, and African-Americans, and [Hispanics]. As counselor for the Personal Safety Awareness Center, I serve survivors with a broad range of disabilities, about half of whom are ethnic minorities. Your article about ARCC seems to trivialize the needs of these clients, while pitting the needs of "minorities" against the needs of children, gays, lesbians, and people with disabilities. In my experience, ARCC strives to be sensitive to the needs of Austin in all its diversity. Rather than offering charity, we offer empowerment through a wide spectrum of services, from prevention programs, to crisis intervention, to therapeutic intervention for the long-term effects of sexual violence. In my work at ARCC, I have been fortunate to join the most caring, supportive, and competent professionals with whom I have ever worked. In particular, Ginger Eways and Jamie Avila deserve recognition for their skilled and tireless efforts in turning around a difficult financial situation to a position of strength, without sacrificing services which so many have found to be invaluable.


Lee Ann Cameron

Atheist Rights, Part Two


The other day I was present at City Council Chambers for the mayor's reading of a proclamation iterating the principle that led our founding fathers to eliminate the influence of religion on the processes of governing.

It came as no surprise but nevertheless, disappointment, when, after the proclamations were read, the city council preceded this session with a prayer. Although a prayer is not a full religious ceremony, it is, nevertheless, the domain of the church.

The bigger issue here is yet another indication of how difficult it is to change a habit when the one espoused (Separation of Church and State) has never fully taken place.

Harry George

Book Sprawl

To the Editor:

I was a bit appalled by Phil Sansone's remarks in your story on the invasion of the chain bookstores ("Chain Reaction," [Vol. 16, No. 13]). The Prez and CEO of BookPeople conveyed his apathy toward Wal-Mart rolling over the independent hardware and variety stores (mere purveyors of shower curtains), but expects our sympathy for the competition he face from Barnes & Noble and Borders. Why? Because apparently, he is the noble guardian of free speech in Austin. When the big guys take over, he cautions, the variety of available books will be reduced, and the scope of intellectual discourse and liberty will be narrowed.

I winced at Sansone's comments for several reasons.

1) Sansone's business is making money from the sale of books, not proselytizing for free speech. Though the two may certainly intersect, they are not synonymous. Though he may be a fervent believer in intellectual freedom, there are no doubt decisions he must make and policies he must implement as a businessman which, though unknown to him, are in fact at odds with this or that aspect of the maximization of free speech. There is nothing in the nature of running a bookstore which accords perfectly with or against the demands of maximum intellectual liberty. For Sansone to present himself as the keeper of free speech by virtue of his business is pompous and self-delusional.

2) Sansone's indifference to the Wal-Martization of the nation (which is one with the encroachment he himself fears) is arrogant in the extreme. It is a luxury not shared by the owners of generations-old businesses which have been strangled by the sterile giants which are Sprawl-Mart, Starbuck's, and Blockbusters, etc. I suspect Sansone spoke of his indifference to these giants in order to augment the apparent nobility of his "special" situation.

I would suggest that Sansone reconsider his advertisement bragging that BookPeople is the largest bookstore in Austin, since this is precisely the philosophy behind the supposed appeal of the national chains. As for me, I'll continue shopping at the small and tenacious Congress Avenue Booksellers.


Megan Baker

Virtual Illness

To the Editors:

The "Page Two" article on e-mail (and computer) viruses [Vol. 16, No. 14] was both greatly appreciated and informative.

The notion of a pseudo entity that propagates around people by word-of-computer, who become immune to the entity upon discovery that the entity exists only as a nuisance, is especially apropos to the "virtual world" of the Internet. The cynically witty caution that any
e-msg with "Make Money Fast" in the subject contains a destructive virus is a lighter facet of the same "impersonal computer" usage that fosters e-mail flame wars.

The distinction between computer programs, which are sequences of instructions to the computer and are suceptible to computer virus infections, and computer documents, which tend to be sequences of instructions to people and are therefore not susceptible to (computer) virus infections, is both fundamentally true and functionally useful. Similarly, the observation that different computers respond to different instructions, and therefore distinct viruses only run on specific types of computers is also sensible.

However, the distinction between programs and documents (or "data," to use an obsolete term) is no longer valid. Specifically, documents created in Microsoft Word 6.0, Word for Mac 6.0, and Word for Win95 can become infected by "macro" viruses including Concept, Nuclear, Colors, and soon, many more.

Macros are neat features added to many programs that allow users to automate common tasks, such as adding a standard company letterhead to letters, or inserting commonly used paragraphs in customized form letters. Extensive "macro programming languages" have been implemented in many programs -- to the point where it's possible to program the programs.

Traditionally, macros are distinct features of a program added-on to the program by users. Macros have been contained in separate macro files, and actively called by users to operate upon documents at the initiative of the users.

Word 6.0 incorporates macros within documents, and also has a feature to "automatically" run any macro contained in a document. Macro viruses can thereby automatically copy themselves to other documents and mess with the computers without any help from the users of the computer!!!

The functional observation that programs written for one kind of computer can't run on other kinds of computers isn't true with respect to macro viruses because both Word for Windows and Word for Macs use similar macro languages, so that a PC virus can infect a Mac computer, and vice versa. The Word programs "translate" the macro instructions to operate upon the particular computer being used to read or edit the document.

So, what to do about Macro viruses??????

1) Use anti-virus programs. However, the easiest, surest thing for anti-virus programs to do is take a special (checksum) "picture" of a file, then check later to see whether or not the file has changed. This works great for most programs, which are not supposed to change. However, documents are supposed to be changed as they are added to, revised, and shared with other users over time.

2) Don't use Word 6.0. Buy a copy/license, then find somebody with Word 5.0 or 5.5 and use a copy of their version of the program. Unless a person actually needs one of the new features in Word 6.0, there isn't any reason to be using the new version with its susceptibility to mischief.

3) When using Word 6.0, use the "file/save as" option and open the "save file as type" option. Open up that pull-down box, and save the file as Word 4-5, or as WordPerfect 5.1, or as something other than "normal" (to use the expression in its most paradoxical context).

Some macro viruses prevent documents from being saved "normally," and macro viruses can easily intercept the save operation to maintain the Word 6.0 "format/features," but it's worth a try, anyway. Simply reducing the number of documents susceptible to "infection" can reduce the frequency and scope of the problem.

Kirk Becker

Orbital Egos

To the Editor:

I'd like to make a few comments concerning the "Space Rock" scene in Austin which was covered in an article in last week's Chronicle [Vol. 16, No. 14]. The article was very well written and covered the bands appropriately, but I just can't help but voice my frustration with the so-called "scene" in general. I play in two bands here in Austin (I won't mention the names because I don't know if my fellow bandmates would appreciate it) that are both heavily influenced by spacey, psychedelic music. I also have many friends who play in "Space Rock" bands. I have to say this "scene" has been infiltrated by people who care more about money and major-label status than music. Also, this "scene" stinks of competitiveness and overly inflated egos.

Hats off to older bands like ST-37 who have managed to keep playing great music without sacrificing any integrity. Some of the younger "space rock" bands should take some lessons from these guys. Also, from what I've seen happening in Denton, there's more support and not so much competition between bands there. It's a shame that the Austin scene fosters so many negative vibes. It should be a home for experimentalism and heart-felt song-writing, not competitiveness or blown-up egos.

Natalie Hill

Musical Healing


Thank you Electric Lounge for holding a benefit for me at your fine establishment. You throw one hell of a party: Dumptruck, Buick MacKane, Pork, Good, and Charlie & Andrew. Thank you friends, neighbors, comrades, lovers, and good people of Austin for coming. Being hit by a drunk driver and suffering head injuries and seizures as a result hurts bad. Having wonderful people who care and help you, heals a lot of hurtin'.

I love you,

Rob Gaines



Well, someone went and did it again.... It seems that that that Condo fire on 26th Street was caused by a careless smoker tossing a lit butt down a trash chute.

I guess I'm being naive in thinking that a child bright enough to get into UT (assuming it was a student that did it) would understand that throwing a burning ember into the trash would not be a wise thing to do.

One incident like this, I can certainly blame on your random idiot, but, among many (not all) smokers, there seems to be the thought that butts (lit or not) are not trash and certainly not dangerous. One can just look at the number of roadside fires during the summer to see proof of this. Also, take a look at the ground at any public place, and you'll see proof there, as well.

I hope they find the person behind the condo fire, and I'm sure they will. When this person is caught, he/she should be charged with:

-- Arson

-- Attempted murder

-- Reckless endangerment

-- Vandalism

-- Being stupid

-- Assult with a deadly weapon

-- A bunch of other stuff

Then... let the civil suits start rolling in.

Maybe then the "thoughtless" (note: I'm not referring to all) smokers will take notice.

James Monro

Rattling the Chains

Letter to the Editor:

This past weekend I was watching the national news and all that I heard was "AIDS -- AIDS and more AIDS." When the national news ended and the local news came on, all that I heard was more "AIDS and more AIDS."

When are the people of this world going to realize that AIDS is not a badge of honor, that the only entity that is honored by AIDS is the "Devil" himself?

When do we come to understand that the people who suffer from AIDS have asked for it? They have asked for it by defying all the laws of a loving "God," by promiscuous sleeping around or using drugs. They then in turn spread this dread disease to people that they profess to love, wives, and even unborn children.

They carelessly infect themselves and then feel nothing when the rest of the world pays for it in physical suffering and monetary costs. Why is there more money spent in research on AIDS than there is for cancer research?

It is true that in this world man has free agency to do as he will; however he must understand that his actions have consequences that must be borne by every other living soul.

The spreading of AIDS should carry criminal penalties. I am not a smoker, however, how can we justify the laws and penalties against smoking and allow a crime such as AIDS go unpunished? Death is as certain from AIDS as it is from a gunshot, and is certainly more painful in that it carries so much more suffering.

I will pray for you all, but I will not honor your actions.

Yours truly,

W. H. "Bill" Wiggins

Circuit Is No Party

Dear Editor:

I would like to respond to your feature article [Nov. 29] about the party circuit for musicians in Austin. Your article was informative and pretty accurate, but I want to verbalize some observations.

It is a dream come true for a working band to be booked through talent agencies and playing parties is easy money. But, the article made it sound like any band in town can do this and if they don't, they just ain't hip. That's not the case. The band I front is one of the few zydeco bands in Austin and we do a lot of parties through the agencies such as Popular Talent, Gary Smeltzer, BBA Management, and Emerald Entertainment. These agents, as well as others, are very particular about the bands they send out to jobs, and they should be, it's their living. In order to work through a talent agent, the band must be established, extremely professional, able to handle any situation effectively and act as a representative of the agency. So, you might make the big money, but the work is more of a compromise than what you might find in a club setting. The people calling the agent usually don't know exactly what they want, specifics are quite vague, including directions to the gig, and the agent will take up to 20% for your work. A lot of the agents' clients will pay with a check, or will mail your check to who knows where or may not pay you at all at the end of the gig. So, there's a lot to be thought out when working through an agency.

That article also gave the impression that this is a way to exist and make a decent living in the music scene here. Most of the bands mentioned also supplement their agency work with club dates, which brings to light an entirely different situation. Once a band is booked through the agencies, it's difficult for the agent to justify their prices to clients if that same band regularly plays Sixth Street for tips and a percentage of the bar. As a working musician, that puts us in a precarious position. You want to work and need to work and the agencies don't necessarily have enough work for your band to live on all the time, and you can't really go back to playing for tips and beer. What do you do then?

My point being that even though it's a wonderful thing to be booked through agencies for parties around town, it's not necessarily the musical gravy train that this article made it out to be. But thanks for making the public aware.


Joyce Anderson

Third Degree

America Is $, Not Art


Yes, that title "America Is an Artist," [Vol. 16, No. 12] set me off before I even read Michael Ventura's latest piece. I admit it. I knew I was going to be very hard to convince. And when he rounded out his opinion with a quote from Nietzsche, troping Nietzsche's adjective "all-too-human" by standing it on its head, I knew that a response was in order, and I knew how to frame it.

Mr. Ventura's more-than-apparent goodwill, his willingness to speak from the heart, and his penchant for grand subject matter has taken him a long way, and I was impressed by his first three or four articles for the Chronicle -- articles where, for whatever reason, both his prose and his polemics were more disciplined. It must be difficult to be truly incisive week in, week out, but the sloppy thinking in this latest article cannot be passed over as a slow night's work. It is more than cosmetic. When writing about the X-Files or Las Vegas, it is enough to be entertaining. But if you are going to milk my sacred cow, you best know where the udders are.

To gloss the central thesis: America is the most inventive country in the history of the world. Artists are also inventive. America must be an artist. Some of us, too weak to fully embrace the artist within, react politically. This is understandable, though "small-minded." That's it. Beautifully reductive. Clear and quick-moving. With lots of examples and references and famous people's names. And false, false, false. Ventura makes no attempt to differentiate between inventive, original, creative, and artistic. He elides from inventor to scientist to artist, slurring all distinctions. There is no discussion of the quality of creativity of inventiveness involved in various actions. And there is no mention of the value of these actions. His goggled-eyed amazement in the face of capital-N Novelty, undifferentiated, is sorely distressing. I expect such asinine horn-tooting from the advertisers and boosters of the world, selling us on our pathetic selves. But not here. Ventura needs sobering up, and I recommend Wendell Berry's prose as just the tonic.

I suggest that, as far as quantity goes, 20th century America is most inventive for purely statistical reasons. We have the most people with the most free time. But his is no reason, in and of itself, for backslapping. Very little of what we now do is memorable. The scientific advance since the time of Newton, really, is miraculous, but this does not make America or anyone else an artist. Define art a little more narrowly, and it becomes clear that most of America's art legacy is not in creativity or construction, but in deconstruction. Ventura does not mention that the novel, the short story, the poem, the easel painting, the free-standing sculpture, the art object in general, have all been deconstructed by us. Nor does he note that most of the artists he names fled the U.S. in search of an artistic milieu, hated America, and are now treated only as artifacts. Poe and Eliot may have invented the modern short story and poem, for example, but the contemporary short story and poem are far-removed, nearly debtless little beasts. Popular music and film are quite healthy, and some of the output might be called artistic, but no one could accuse these media of being top-heavy.

There are brilliant people in this country and wonderful things are being done, but in general, America is most emphatically not an artist. America is a business, where some creative output is merchandised as entertainment. All else is obsolescent or obsolete. Even on the fringes, outside the markets, America is an artist only by the most generous of definitions. America is a self-indulgent, unrefined artist, sciolistic and presumptuous. Our shallow political character is not a reaction to our artistic depth. They are two sides of a one-sided coin. Inundated by information and analysis, our left brains now have a thousand ways of saying, of intiming, nothing -- with three or four more discovered each week; while our Ids, grounded only in last week's news and a few misty quasi-Freudian memories of our pre-television selves, subsist bulimicaly on the spiritual equivalent of Dexatrim and Diet Coke.

Ventura might have addressed the degenerate state of modern American creativity, a state that Nietzsche was good enough to all but predict for us, a state more frightening than any episode of the X-Files or even Millenium, because true. But his would have meant taking on the highly original bunch who get their stroking from the Chronicle, and who no doubt do not want to hear it.

Miles Mathis

Incapable Americans


Apart from being totally incredulous at the way public schools are run and financed in the U.S. (I taught in France for 10 years), I also have trouble understanding how opponents of the Christian Coalition consistently fail to attack the character of their puppetmaster Pat Robertson. He is the friend of Mobutu, for Heaven's sake! Any public figure in France would be run out of town if such a relationship became common knowledge and were documented. Are you Americans incapable of seeing the obvious and acting on it ?

Philippe Dambournet

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