Fri., March 14, 1997
We are less than a thousand days from, and should be in a thinking mode as we count down to, January 1, 2000.
A chief question we can ask is, "How can we best assure in our efforts, that the 21st Century will be improved over the 20th?"
The Telecommunications Commission has been turning its attention to this, obviously in terms of technology. Ironically, however, it is not a technological question.
The ability as human beings to communicate, to cooperate, to focus combined efforts on problem solving -- these are our most important innovations. No technology would have come very far without it. As we move across the second millennium threshold, we should resolve to think of the lines that have come to divide us and work to overcome them, to create a community-building partnership.
To make this more than words, the Commission is working to bring to the City Council a proposal to put funds to work to enable telecommunications-centered partnership efforts to move forward. These funds (possibly as much as $1.4 million annually) would come from the General Fund, although the logic of it is that right-of-way revenues from telecommunications infrastructure installations should be reinvested in Austin's Information Age future.
This could go into effect this year, although it is likely that it will take until 2000 to really establish such an initiative fully and completely.
I hope the Chronicle will help the community by putting some effort into looking at this idea, and what the implications are for everyone as we go forward as a society adapting to the use of technology.
It may surprise you to learn that other cities in Texas, and in other parts of the U.S., and as far away as Korea are looking to Austin, as a leading-edge city prominent among examples of progressivism worldwide.
We might as well do it right.
If you want more information call the Cable Office at 499-2999.
Chair, Austin Telecommunications Commission
Planes, Trains, & Automobiles
Why aren't the powers that be supportive of non-auto transportation alternatives at the airport?
It's obvious. All this money is being spent to increase parking spaces. Not to make it convenient for the consumer, but to increase revenue.
Electric Trains, Not Diesel
I'd really like to see light rail in Austin. But I really wish we would get electric trains, not trains that run on diesel fuel. Electric trains are lighter, quieter, and pollute less. And they don't belch smoke into your face from a tailpipe. That's a big advantage.
The Austin American-Statesman, in a story about Capitol Metro's proposed rail line, printed a picture of one of Portland Oregon's trains. It's electric. But the one we're slated to get runs on diesel.
I wrote to Capitol Metro and asked why they preferred diesel to electric trains. They sent me a letter and several brochures, but they didn't answer my question.
It also seems a bit crazy to me to start introducing rail by way of a huge, expensive commuter train, instead of with something smaller, such as electric trolley lines in town. Replacing the fake trolleys ('Dillos) with real trolleys would be a natural small first step.
I think it's important to reinstate means of public transportation that don't blow out smoke from a tailpipe. Getting rid of all such things in favor of buses was a big step in the car companies' very successful strategy to destroy public transportation in the Southwestern United States.
Let's have rail, by all means. But let's not put in diesel trains when we could have electric ones. Please, if you agree, write to Capitol Metro about this. And if you'd like to have electric trolleys back, please write and let them know. It could make a lot of difference to Austin's future.
Eight Miles High
Your so called "banishment" had nothing to do with you artistic opinion. Nor did I "taunt" you in any way.
Miles, I engaged you in a discussion about comments you made in the Chronicle in December, 1994 stating that an artist who engaged in "a day without art" was self-serving. You also said that "A.D.W.O.A." was pointless.
Miles? Why did you lie to me and say you didn't write this letter? Miles? Why then did you admit to writing this letter and then say you didn't write it about me? I had "A Day Without Art." That make me "any artist."
Miles, when you attack a righteous person in the press, you forfeit your right to choose when and where rebuttals come.
Careful of those imaginary flames.
Matthew J. Feiner
Sorry About That
I have never claimed, verbally or in print, to be the Austin Campaign Director for U.S. PIRG. I have no idea why this title was affixed to my name in the published version of my letter to the Chronicle regarding Michael Ventura's article on Graceland.
While I enjoyed Dan Stafford's humorous reaction to this mistake (Mr. Stafford is the actual Campaign Director for U.S. PIRG, a fine organization, I'm sure), I noticed the Chronicle failed to own up to its blunder. As Elvis would say, let's take care of business, guys.
Swim at Your Own Risk
This letter is more about municipal aquatic facility management than the reticent and reclusive salamander, uncomfortably thrust into national controversy for his reported contentiousness regarding clean water, ecology, and biodiversity. After the discovery of 12 dead salamanders on December 6, an investigation implicated the City's Aquatics Divisions practices. Having labored under the Aquatics Division as a Barton Springs lifeguard since mid-May of 1996, I must caution Austin residents and city officials that people as well as salamanders are endangered by the ongoing mismanagement of the Barton Springs Pool. Last May I was sent to the Emma Long Park swimming area, which is staffed by Barton Springs lifeguards on summer weekends. The Barton-experienced supervising head guard placed one guard in a stand at a time, while the other four played cards and read newspapers. Then, the head guard had all the guards leave an hour before the city's published period of responsibility. To avoid returning to our Barton Springs base suspiciously early, we stopped at a senior guard's house in Westlake for sandwiches, while abandoned patrons swam at Emma Long mistakenly expecting the public safety benefits of lifeguards. Last summer at Barton Springs, management was criminally placing broken glass around a hole in the Barton Springs fence to discourage young people from passing through. The glass was planted within a few yards of the shallow section of Barton Springs Pool where a thousand children play every day in the summer. Work hour abuses at the expense of public safety were less obvious at Barton Springs, where lifeguards were nearly always permitted by management to depart a paid half-hour early if their half-hour break came at the end of a shift. This was quite problematic because guards on break were essential in case any emergency was to arise and require both emergency care and the continued supervision of the swimmers. Barton Springs has an official policy concerning chemical spills, which is followed only when a spill cannot be swept discretely under the rocks. This summer during a draining of the pool for cleaning the underside of a speeding tractor dragging a large brush ruptured its transmission fluid over the floor of the pool. Supervisor Tom Nelson instructed the guards to quickly towel off the porous pool bottom in the hopes that no one had viewed the spill. No part of the official Barton Springs Spill Procedure was followed. The inevitable development and Dallasification of Austin represents an overwhelming threat to central Texans' quality of life and natural resources. Yet the springs, swimmers, and salamanders must also contend with a more immediate and unexpected adversary in the form of Aquatics Division mismanagement. As Barton Springs Pool produces (nets) a quarter-million dollars in revenue each year, our city can afford to invest in quality management for the protection of the springs and the swimmers.
Out of This World
It would be a shame for your fine publication not to mention the extraordinary object that is now very visible in both the morning and evening sky. The object, comet Hale-Bopp, is visible in the ENE at approximately 4:30am and in the WNW at around 7:30pm. This comet has defied traditional cometary models and is projected to shine at a magnitude of -0.3, (brighter than any object save the sun and full moon), by the time it reaches perihelion with the sun on Palm Sunday (3/23). March 23rd also marks the date of a 92% lunar eclipse, but that's another story.... Though Hale-Bopp's official discovery date is 7/23/95, recent information indicates it was "hanging behind Jupiter" as early as April, 1993 -- over a year before the Shoemaker-Levy 9's impact with the giant gas planet. This is absolutely unheard of. Comet Kahoutek held the record for distance discovered from the sun at seven months out. Hale-Bopp was discovered 40 months out, and at the time of this writing is out-gassing 330 tons of water a second! The Earth will pass through the comet's tail on May 6th -- prepare for a wet June. This baby is "out-of-this-world." If you frequent the Internet, you already know what a stir this object has caused. The last time it visited us, 1483 BC, Moses was leading the Exodus. For three weeks, Hale-Bopp will provide us with more information about the primordial solar system than any space mission could ever hope to divulge. Don't miss this once-in-3,600 year opportunity to see what possibly motivated the construction of the Great Pyramid and Stonehenge. This is not a clone, baby.
Do the Right Thing
When is the Chronicle going to stand up and do the right thing? I think that every week there is yet another full page ad for one of the main killers of the young: This week RJR unveils another ad for a cigarette. Come on, folks, get clean of this poisonous, addictive, and foul-smelling crap, by ceasing to take advertisement dollars from these murdering scum tobacco companies. Remember, when you are around cigarette smoke, you stink just like you were smoking it yourself.
A.Ron Carmichael, R.Ph.
Problems With Listings
I love your paper. Please don't take this letter as criticism. I simply want to point out an area you could improve.
The main reason I pick up the Chronicle is to find out where the best live music is. I rely on the club listings, but for the last several months, they have been riddled with errors. For example, for several weeks (including the February 21 issue), you list Shat Records/Earthpig & Fire on Tuesday night at Antone's. That is not correct. These bands always play on Wednesday. The advertisement paid for by Antone's was correct, but the listing was not. I know several people who have showed up the wrong nights or at the wrong clubs because of these errors. From the pattern I have seen, it looks like once an entry makes it into the "system," it stays forever (irrespective of whether the band is really playing there). Another example: Junior Brown is always listed as the Sunday night band at the Continental Club; in fact, he hasn't played there the last two weeks and won't until March 16. Check your February 21 issue. Last, why isn't the Mercury listed? That is the Sixth Street club that formerly was the White Rabbit. They pay for an ad every week and bring interesting out-of-town bands to Austin, as well as hiring good local talent. Why not list them?
Someone needs to at least compare the advertisements with the club listings to make sure they are consistent. Thank you for considering this suggestion.
My only other suggestion is not a complaint at all, but more of a wish. I liked the weekly restaurant reviews. They seem to have metamorphosed into stories about salsa, peppers, cooking classes, etc. I would like to learn about a new restaurant in every issue instead of just once or twice a month. Thanks.
Very truly yours,
J. Hampton Skelton
[Ed. Response from Listings Editor Julie Lucksinger: We strive to have correct listings in the "City Beat" section, yet the tenuous nature of the music business can make that difficult at times, and human error does occur. In regards to Shat Records/Earthpig, they were inadverdently listed on both Tuesday and Wednesday nights in the February 21 issue, but subsequent issues were correct. We regret the error. As for Junior Brown, he has not been listed every Sunday for months now -- the February 21 listing (which included Charlie Robison) was on the Continental Club calendar, as given to us by the club, as were his dates on February 9 (with Cornell Hurd) and 16. We were not notified that this date had been cancelled. Mercury Lounge has been listed under music venues for over a month (and only cut for space when needed), and bands have been listed sporadically as they (the bands) have contacted us. We are currently working with Mercury to try and get their listings in by our deadline, as their ad comes in too late to transfer the info into the City Beat listings. Lastly, calling our attention to any errors (even ones such as spellings!) is always welcomed, as we want the listings to be correct too!]
List by Type
Just a comment on the SXSW listings: I like the listing by venue. A lot of people prefer certain places, so this is perfect. In looking at the listings, though, I was a bit irritated that I couldn't look at the list of bands by type of music. Sometimes the names or blurbs will tip you off, but not all the time. What if I'd like to catch the jazz acts but not the country? I could suspect Hang 'Em High will be country acts, but is that true during SXSW? And what would you guess for Stubb's? There is no easy way to discern who is who. Anyway, just thought I'd throw in my two cents for next year's listings.
I am a woman with a very feminine interest in baseball: None whatsoever. To this day I cannot tell the difference between softball and baseball. I have been told, many times, but my intellect is not as strong as my "feminine" habits.
I am married to a former athlete and am the mother of two potential male athletes, one in Little League, the other too cool for organized anything.
With the impartiality of the barely interested, I have noted for many years: Baseball is a dying sport. As my husband rallies his forces for another year of coaching Little League, I hear baseball's death wails in his efforts. He knows he is on his own unless he falls on his knees and begs apathetic peers and parents. The help he acquires this way tends to be whiny and insincere. Even the peers on his City Geezer Ball team lack the enthusiasm to make good help. They cannot even attract teammates with less than 30 years to their credit. That may be 40, by now. Without youth, it is, indeed, a dying sport. I'll bet that has yet to grow statistics for the geezers to bandy around the TV screen, but it is easy enough for this uninterested broad to see as I wander the local fields, feeling for the spirit of the sport. It's gone. Pretty much. There are only a few, brave souls who even care enough to be there. I do not know, but I guess they just do it much better on TV. They ought to. TV athletes are paid enough.
"So," I think as I pack refreshments for the team, "baseball is going by way of the quilting bee and trains. I never fully understood the attraction in the first place."
Still, I wonder at the loss of yet another Native Son.
The Statesman's article on Sen. Zaffarini's "bill" greatly upset, but I'm glad to know the Chronicle is getting the real facts out ["Where There's a Bill," Vol. 16, No. 23], which upset me even more. As an 18 year-old native Austinite who regularly supports live music in clubs that sell alcohol, I feel qualified to let Rep. Alvarado know that if he wants to keep minors out of nightclubs that serve alcohol (through H.B. 599), he should focus his efforts elsewhere simply because minors do not go to clubs to drink, for a variety of reasons. Minors, like most music fans, go to clubs primarily to listen to music. Minors who want to drink do not often go to nightclubs because the cost of alcohol at live music venues is about 600% more than the cost of alcohol at a convenience store, where I would say the majority of minors purchase alcohol. Yet another factor is that music venues are rigid about ID. I have never not been carded at a club in Austin, but I can't count on my fingers how many times I've not been asked for ID at convenience stores when I brought alcohol to the counter. The problem of underage drinking, and drinking and driving, begins where the alcohol is bought, and the fact is that not much alcohol is sold to minors in nightclubs. Rep. Alvarado should concentrate his heroic lawmaking tactics on convenience stores, grocery stores, and bars, where fake IDs or no IDs are more likely to work and where more minors attempt to purchase or consume alcohol. On another note, depriving minors of the wonderful experiences that come from hearing live music would be tragic, as would the loss of revenue the clubs and (especially) the musicians would incur. Rep. Alvarado is trying to solve a problem in places the problem does not exist. In doing so he would take away one of my greatest sources of joy, force me into depression, possibly alcoholism. Where would I buy my booze to drown away my sorrows? Not at Antone's, Liberty Lunch, Emo's, Flamingo Cantina, Steamboat, Black Cat, Electric Lounge, La Zona Rosa, etc....
Peace through music,
Diamond in the Rough
Just saw a clipping of Greg Beets' 12/13/96 review of Neil Diamond's "In My Lifetime" box set [Vol. 16, no. 15], which I produced for Sony.
Mr. Beets' was one of the only reviews I've read that fathomed this package's intent and commented on it with wit and intelligence. Please pass this note along to him, and ask him if he has any interest in writing the occasional liner notes.
Glad to find your publication on the Internet. I used to write for Metroland in Albany, NY, and grabbed the exchange copy of the Chronicle every week, but haven't seen a copy for two years now. I'll be checking in often. And what's Ed Ward up to these days?
Best regards from a cold and slushy NY,
While waiting every day for the Sixth and Lamar Street light to change so I can race to MoPac, I have studied and tried to find something I like about the new GSD&M building. I cannot find anything I like about it. It looks like the rejected album cover for the 1976 Eagles release, Hotel California, with left-over graphics from a FAO Schwartz "Candy Land" holiday promotion. If this new office building is GSD&M "Idea City"s boldest neighborhood statement... then I think this is one ad agency that has run out of ideas.
Style, Zeal, & the Cosmos
Reading "Postmarks" weekly, I am always struck by the large number of intelligent, informed, witty, and passionate residents in the Austin area. Michael Ventura (whom, I suppose, doesn't hail from here) continues to astound me with his depth of style and zeal, although our world views are polar.
I can appreciate very well the position of anti-religionists; and they are not alone among Americans who will never elect a televangelist to the Presidency, because only a tiny fraction of folks, even among Fundamentalists, want our government to be a theocracy.
"Sixty-eight million" lives lost to Christian repression is horrendous, no less so because hundreds of millions of murders were committed by Stalin and Chairman Mao in pursuit of a materialistic ideal. In reality, the latter were more significant in terms of sheer numbers of casualties and threat to democracy, but in principle, the atrocities of a "Christian" Hitler are more tragic due to the score of their hypocrisy. However, Hitler, who could more accurately be described as an Anti-Christ than a Christian, was motivated by culture, not theology.
Union of church and state entails a leader establishing a national religion and dictating adherence to its tenets. An invocation before a City Council meeting (which I do not endorse) does not meet that criterion, and was not an attempt to repress, bring to salvation, or alter the beliefs of Ms. Von Houser, Howard Thompson, or the hysterical David Kent. I believe a majority of Americans would not tolerate a law which "harshly punished" atheists (or Moslems) en masse.
Pointing out the arrogance of definitively declaring dumb matter to be the cause of human consciousness is not slander; suggesting that most atheists are as intolerant as some Christian zealots is not slanderous, hostile, or misleading, as Mr. Kent and Mr. Thomas have claimed.
Because Carl Sagan was a great thinker and pop astronomer of our time, I hope he was mistaken about his own lack of a soul, and that his mind is yet self-aware and pondering in awe the mysteries of this cosmos and its cause. I fail to see how this is such a malevolent human aspiration.