Fri., March 21, 1997
I am writing in response to Mr. Strawn's letter to the editor (Vol. 16, No. 28). The letter falsely accuses both the management of Barton Springs and the City of Austin Aquatics Department of wrongdoing at Barton Springs Pool and Emma Long. The truth is that Mr. Strawn has twisted the events in such a way as to create an image of Barton Springs and Emma Long as unsafe for the citizens of Austin.
Specifically, I would like to address his accusation that a "speeding tractor dragging a large brush ruptured its transmission fluid over the floor of the pool." The truth is that the tractor used for cleaning Barton Springs has never ruptured its transmission fluid. Mr. Strawn then proceeded to accuse me of a cover-up. How can one cover up an incident that never occurred?
Regarding the other incidents outlined in the letter, the Aquatics department certainly does not condone these types of activities, and when Mr. Strawn brought these matters to my attention, those individuals were reprimanded in accordance with City of Austin policies.
I am lucky enough to come to work everyday to a place that I love. Unfortunately, that place is also the center of much controversy, and it would appear that no issue can be resolved to everyone's satisfaction. The aquatics staff puts forth a tremendous effort on a daily basis. They work hard to create a safe facility in an environmentally (and politically) sensitive area. Barton Springs Pool hosted over 340,000 visitors in 1996, and the lifeguards rescued over 50 swimmers from drowning. My sincerest thanks goes to the staff for all their hard work and dedication.
Aquatics Program Supervisor
Gosh, well, thanks to all the people who not only liked me and my show enough (Monday nights at 9 on KVRX, 91.7, he said immodestly) to vote for me as one of the best deejays, but thanks to all of the obviously
enlightened folk who dig KVRX and our sibling-station KOOP. I think it's pretty amazing that a couple of volunteer organizations like ourselves operating at a paltry 3,000 watts can be voted a more popular radio
station than KUT, not to mention winning some "radio program" awards and "best sleeve art" for our recently-released Local Live CD. We must rock hard, or something.
So, with all the thanks to those who know about us, I'd like to extend an invitation to those who don't know we exist to tune their radio dials to 91.7, day or night, and check out the unbelievably diverse programming we offer, be it community-oriented or indie-rock heavy. See if it doesn't change your mind about radio, about music, or, heck, about your world view. We're coming atcha with music and fun and if you're not careful, you may learn something before it's done.
If you're a little fearful or skeptical and have a web browser handy, you can see our respective schedules on our websites: http://www.utexas.edu/students/kvrx and http://www.koop.org.
Thanks again to everyone. I gush and blush with embarrassment and delight.
Zootz Haney? Really?!
Regarding KLBJ winning the Austin Music Awards for the radio station category: Really?!
When I opened my current Chronicle and the ubiquitous Titty Bingo sticker fell out, it got me to wondering about some things. Do you have a Cecil Adams-type person on your staff who could answer some questions
1. How many gigs did Titty Bingo play last year? How many in Austin?
2. Have they ever released any recordings or been played on the radio?
3. Does anyone like them except for frat boys?
4. Where do they get the money to promote themselves?
5. What is the minimum number of Titty Bingo stickers needed to cut-and-paste together one that says "Go Go Itty Bitty Titty Boy?"
If any of the members of the band are huge bikers who would kick my ass, please disregard this.
A Curdled Spirit
I am troubled. Buoyed by your review, I took my daughter to see Sling Blade and came away with a curdled spirit and a turned stomach. What gives? Billy Bob Thornton has put together a slick little art-house flick with some high powered talent (in Robert Duvall's scene I kept wanting to shout "Gus, wake up! Blue Duck's got Lori and the cattle are about to stampede!"), but I sense a serious dishonesty at its core.
The morality of the story is flawed. With the core values of respect for women, understanding for children and homosexuals, compassion for the less fortunate, we are asked to include the principle that we should bash abusive rednecks with lawnmower blades. Thornton's portrayal of the central character is eerily compelling -- he's a kind of Jean Valjean of the MHMR system. A portrait closer to reality is the hero of Cormac McCarthy's Child of God. "Those to whom evil is done, do evil in return." The circle of evil is too neatly broken in this little fable. What you call stretching reality, I would call melodramatic sentimentalizing. In sentimentalizing his characters, Thornton condescends to them and to us, and I don't like being condescended to.
I have the uneasy suspicion that what we have here is the sensibility of the violent video game Harvester -- which takes Southern gothic to its vicious extreme -- with the aesthetic of Fried Green Tomatoes. I feel something akin to spiritual ptomaine.
Dear Mr. Black:
I must protest Patrick Taggart's ill-informed and misleading statement that the Irish Travellers "differ from [G]ypsies, whose roots are in Eastern Europe, only in ancestry" ("No False Moves," Vol. 16, No.27).
Nothing could be further from the truth. Roma ("Gypsies") are recognized by the U.S. Bureau of the Census as a non-white minority of Asian origin -- not "Eastern European," although our ancestors reached the West from Eastern Europe after the abolition of five and a half centuries of slavery there in the 1860s. There are over one million Romani-Americans.
Our genetic, linguistic and cultural roots are in India. We have nothing whatsoever in common with Irish Travellers, and to lump the two populations together on the basis of the shared characteristic of nomadism is merely ignorant. That the Irish Travellers are sometimes referred to as "Gypsies" in the media is something that they strenuously object to, for the same reasons that I am making with regard to my own people. We are quite distinct populations.
I have taught regular courses in Romani language and culture at the University of Texas at both the undergraduate and the graduate levels since 1976. Mr. Taggart is welcome to sit in and audit at any time.
Romani Delegate to the UN and UNICEF
Professor of Linguistics and English
To the Editor:
Voters Should Know Better
Eugene Sepulveda, a gay man who serves on the board of the Human Rights Campaign, considers City Councilmember Eric Mitchell a friend. According to Sepulveda, his friend "claims that in the African American community that (the term `faggot') doesn't have a reference to sexual orientation." According to Sepulveda, numerous phone calls had been placed to Mitchell's office applauding Mitchell for a recent episode where he made offensive and threatening remarks to Councilmember Daryl Slusher and his aide.
In sum: Eric Mitchell should know better and should apologize publicly. Those who called Mitchell's office to register support should know better and be ashamed of themselves. And Sepulveda, a gay man who counts among his friends a divisive and threatening councilmember, should definitely know better -- and should start picking a better class of friends. There is more than enough reprehensible behavior to spread around in this episode. It's just one more chapter, though, in the lengthy story of why Austin voters should refuse Eric Mitchell another term in office.
Dear UT students and people in political power,
Greed & Gripes
May I ask again why it seems the Governor Bush, Jr. is unable to sit down with middle-class UT students and realize some smart students are forced to drop out due to skyrocketing tuition costs? Do you care? The loss causes me to lose sleep.
Why is it that other than Ron Wilson and just a few state representatives, no one cares about students whose families just are unable to afford to pay all these high administrators' salaries... paid for by raising fee costs?
Even Time magazine's front-page cover story focuses on this problem and Clinton's state of the union address saw this as "The Issue." Why does the Austin American-Statesman print every rationalization and excuse for politicians, but never holds one of them responsible? The most recent example was [when] the Statesman rationalized Eric Mitchell screaming "faggot" and the Statesman excusing this slur as not being a slur. Does he have a heart?
The problem is the greed and cold hearts of a great deal of elected officials and UT administrators... this is dishonorable... no wonder the UT president quit.
My compassionate heart is grieved,
Frank D. Bartlett
Perhaps we'd have more success creating a liveable physical environment if we talked about what kind of city we want Austin to be.
Personally, I'd like Austin to be a place that attracts and keeps interesting people who like to do interesting things in an interesting fashion, people who prefer rubbing shoulders, not bumpers, with other interesting people. I'd like Austin to be a city that draws not just singles and couples but also people with kids who choose to forego a big yard and a suburban school for social stimulation. The endless miles of half-dense suburbs that are making Austin resemble every other sprawling American urban area might even be contained as a result.
If we all work harder to become the interesting people who can attract other interesting people, the physical character of the city will respond and become denser... and more interesting.
Infill, not Landfill
While I applaud the concept of urban infill, and even like some of the projects to date that qualify, I think that it's important to separate the good intention from its actual execution. The GSD&M building, of which I have had a great view from my office from ground-breaking to ribbon-cutting, really personifies that intention/execution contradiction. When I look over there, the thought that forms in my mind is: "Just because we can build big ole monolithic buildings with walls like Jasper Johns canvases doesn't mean we should." The fact that the size and needs of the human being have changed relatively little over the last gazillion years does not seem to come into play in building design nowadays, and I really believe it should. Architecture doesn't exist only between the four or six or 10 walls of the building -- architecture encompasses the street, the sidewalk, the parking lot, the parking meters, the telephone poles, the curb, the grass, the creek, the billboards, and thousands of unquantifiable things along the lines of the human imagination. Oh, how I long to see a site that subdues itself and simply glorifies life in all its smallness. Infill, yes; landfill, no.
Re: "Out of This World" from Brett Barney & Brook Sefton [Vol. 16, No. 28].
Earth to Brett & Brook...
This letter is a example of good intentions and really bad information. There are so many errors and misunderstandings, it is hard to know where to start. Comet Hale-Bopp is indeed an "extraordinary object", but other than a slight pause in brightening last summer, it has not "defied traditional cometary models."
As to brightness, -0.3 mag. is not brighter than anything than the sun and moon. Put Venus, Jupiter, Sirius, and Arcturus in there. Perihelion is April 1, not March 23. "Hanging behind Jupiter"? Nope. It shows up in two pictures taken in Australia on April 27, 1993. In those pics it is in the constellation of Sagittarius, and located at 42 degrees south. Jupiter on that same night was in Virgo, and a completely different part of the sky.
Pass thru the tail of the comet? Not that either. On May 6, the comet will be passing thru the orbital plane, from the north to south. At that point, it will be about 11 million miles outside the earth's orbit. Since a comet's tail always points away from the sun, the tail will be pointing out into space, not in toward earth. Earth, by the way, will not reach a point in its orbit near where the comet passed until January 3, 1998.
Incidentally, Hale-Bopp's last visit to the sun was about 2203 BC, not 1483 BC. The comet is really wonderful and will be putting on a good show for the next month or two, then can be appreciated most by the folks in the southern hemisphere.
A good web site for information on the Comet and viewing plans is the Austin
Keep looking up!
Re: Theocracy is repression
Your Theocracy or Mine?
It restores my faith in evolved animal behaviors to know that Ken Kennedy ("Postmarks," 3/14/97) isn't one of those wimpy, "turn the other cheek" kinda Christians, at least when it comes to atheists. Referring to mild-mannered David Kent as "hysterical" was refreshingly aggressive.
Kennedy is blind to the import of government worship. Maybe he'd understand better if his city council visits included Satanic rites or an atheist delivering homilies on Christian mysticism as a public health threat to the sanity of children.
As for the threat of theocracy, Kennedy must not have heard about the Alabama governor urging people to ignore court decisions banning Ten Commandments displays in state courts and overturning laws mandating public school prayer. Ken must have also missed Gov. Bush's plan to give tax dollars to church groups to provide welfare services and to allow Christian evangelizing in prisons.
Kennedy says theocracy is "a leadership establishing a national religion and dictating adherence to its tenets." I guess he means atheists don't have to worry about theism as a national religion until Promise Keeper Brown Shirts break down our doors and force prayer and baptism on us.
The increase in public life and commerce of "godly men" acting on their faith to punish and ostracize unbelievers wouldn't count. Atheists getting fired from jobs, being told to stand in the hallway while classmates prayed, or, being given a choice of a theistic 12-step program or jail by a judge would all be fine with Kennedy, since it isn't "theocracy."
If Mr. Kennedy still doesn't get it, I volunteer to come to his church and deliver an atheist sermon so that he and his fellow congregants can see how it feels to be forced to listen to hostile beliefs.
Re: the article on Space Rock that appeared in the Chronicle a few weeks back [Vol.16, No.14]:
You neglected to mention one of the fundamental purveyors of Space Rock in town, the now-defunct Flying Saucers. I'm sure members of more than a few of the bands you did mention would acknowledge their influence. The Flying Saucers were trafficking in the effects-heavy post-My Bloody Valentine thing as far back as 1991. Recommended are their two CDs, which are still floating around the record stores now.
Dear Mr. Black,
& Better in Bed
I've got a few ideas on how we might possibly live with this new bike helmet law. First let me say that I've been cycling in this city for over 10 years; not only for enjoyment, but also as a necessary form of transportation, so I feel that I can throw in my qualified two-cents. In fact, I don't even have a driver's license.
From my point of view, it is indeed a jungle out there, but I'm still here to tell about it. Why? Because I'm cautious and ignore every bicycle helmet law implemented for my safety. Ride in the road with oncoming traffic? Nay, stay on the sidewalk. Anybody dumb enough to get onto a highway and hold up traffic in the right lane truly deserves to get mangled... and run over a few times for good measure. I would never presume that people in cars are interested in my well-being, and consider myself wholly responsible for my own actions. That's why I don't need a bunch of overfed, out-of-shape hypocrites telling me to wear a helmet. Now, if Bruce Todd decides to go shredding some hills on his beautiful red Shimano dirt bike after a tough day at the Headliner's club, I would guess he could stand a little protection. Or if Ronny Reynolds decides to haul out that 20-speed touring racer and knock out an easy 120 miles in under five hours, some fiberglass to cradle his delicate thinking cap could be just the ticket. The point is, these people should wear a helmet... if they want to.
So, let's take this ridiculous law even further to make things really stupid. Let's make it mandatory for every able-bodied citizen to ride a bicycle and ban all cars from the city limits. Only natural gas vehicles maintained by the city would be allowed to operate. Think of the possibilities; instead of standing around pointing radar guns at fat little yuppies in BMW's, our police force could be out there pointing real guns at murderers, rapists, and developers. DWI? A scourge of the past. Believe me, cycling drunk is not easy. The first hill will take the wind out of you so bad, that you'll just fall over on your side and go to sleep. Stress levels associated with driving in congested traffic would diminish, making people happier, healthier, and better in bed. Folks could actually see the city from their $200,000 homes sitting on the aquifer instead of the smoggy mess it is now.
Come to think of it, the only way I'd wear a helmet would be if people that drive cars now started to ride bicycles tomorrow... it could get real dangerous.
Dear Mr. Black:
The Right to Know
I am thrilled that you at the Chronicle continue to cover environmental and political issues with truth and without apologies. It's a nice contrast to the mainstream press that pervades our city's paper(s). Your attention to campaign finance reform, utility deregulation, the Barton Creek Salamander, S.O.S., and the other issues that affect us all is fabulous. I would hasten to remind you, though, that we in Austin also have a problem with toxic chemicals. Admittedly, most people associate this problem with Houston and the Gulf area, but Austin his hardly immune.
We are all familiar with Austin's rapid growth rate. That growth includes not only people but industries. Many of these industries are probably using some of the over 72,000 synthetic chemicals on the market today. It would be nice to know whether they are. Many of these chemicals have been linked to birth defects, cancer, and reproductive disorders.
As it happens, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) is working on a campaign to expand the Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986. We feel toxic chemical use and transportation reporting is required of any industry involved with toxics. Similarly, industries need to be reporting on more than the paltry list of chemicals in the current law. Labeling of products is also a necessity in protecting the public from substances such as toluene, which has been linked to spontaneous abortion and is found in some permanent markers.
We need to increase the community's right to know. Only then will folks have the tools and the power to stop the usage of these chemicals altogether. Our own Lloyd Doggett, who historically has stood for strong right-to-know laws, needs to be a champion of this issue in the 105th Congress, and we need to let him know that we want some guts in D.C.
The inadequacies of our alternative transportation systems (bus, bike, ped) become more apparent every day. Many entities share the blame for this inadequacy including city/state government, the private sector, and Capital Metro. Even though other barriers exist to the successful development/implementation of alternative transportation systems, such as poor land use planning, the local daily continues to focus the blame on the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
I am troubled by their incessant and demeaning attack on Capital Metro. This vociferous effort to expose shortcomings within the transportation agency has been a major factor in the resignation of the General Manager, Director of Planning, Director of Communications, the Advertising/Promotions Coordinator, and others. This attack has taken a personal toll on individuals that, in my opinion, were making a positive contribution to our community.
A move to greater efficiency at the agency, which is needed, will now progress at a slower pace due to their departure.
The Statesman should offer creative solutions to alternative transportation challenges and less criticisms. If not, it will continue to lack respect in our community.
What you don't know doesn't hurt.
I am astounded by the controversy surrounding the bathhouse on Airport Boulevard. I am not a proponent or an opponent of the establishment. I merely want to suggest a more constructive and mature approach to the matter. I could care less whether the establishment exists or not. Doesn't anyone apply common sense or logic anymore in articulating their stance on a particular issue? There must be hundreds of sleazy strip-tease establishments littered throughout Austin and advertised in every newspaper across the country, yet no one seems to care. Why not? I certainly seem to believe it a legitimate argument. Aren't strip-tease establishments just as sexual in nature as bathhouses (if even the case)? Or is it simply over-looked because bathhouses have become synonymous with homosexuality? For God's sake, try a more rational and constructive approach in dealing with the issue. What is it about this establishment that puts so much fear into those who oppose it? Is it their curiosity? Is it their insecurity? Is it that they fear what they don't understand? Is it simply a matter of responsibility or is [it] that homosexuality has become a scapegoat for frustrated, uneducated personalities? If a particular group of individuals intends to focus their energy and efforts in opposing or challenging something or someone, do so by all means but be prepared to make an intelligent argument that supports the rationale. This neurotic and intrusive behavior only reflects on the immature individuals who expose themselves for what they are -- losers. This shouldn't even be an issue. The real problem lies in our inability [to] communicate and our obsession with seeking blame for our own faults and insecurities. Here's a good suggestion: Clean up your own house before pointing fingers at others.
Having been one of the avid, solid supporters of the S.O.S. ordinance, I've become concerned by the recent letter to you from Brigid Shea in the January 31, 1997 Chronicle.
Most of my support for S.O.S. was spiritual, rather than material. I've had much respect for Ms. Shea's leadership with that ordinance. The difficulties some councilmembers provoked on S.O.S.'s petition drive and ordinance is the same as that provoked by the public misuse and unethical behavior of some politicians locally to nationally. It is of the most ridiculous and is necessary. Nondemocracy is what it is.
Recently, the council has taken a nondemocracy approach with the petition drive done last year to give Austin citizens a vote on a most important issue -- campaign finance reform.
Now -- what I'm, frankly, shocked about in Ms. Shea's letter in your January 31, 1997 issue is two points. Personally, I appreciate Ms. Shea and her family -- that's none of my business anyway. These points I'm making are in the public arena. The two concerns are:
1) Having experienced difficulties, attributed to the corrupt political environment of the past 20-30 years, during and since the S.O.S. petition drive, why didn't Ms. Shea mention the "No More Corruption (aka Austinites for a Little Less Corruption)!" petition drive -- a current effort/movement? She gave no support, made no mention in her letter. Surprising!
2) I understand the notion of cooperation/trade-offs/compromise in the political arena -- and honest loyalty can be good. Maybe Ms. Shea's support for Kirk Watson's candidacy is okay. However, Mr. Max Nofziger deserves her support, attention, and respect as well (if not more so) -- let alone freedom -- to enter the mayoral race '97. He has familiarity with the council, but is not spoiled, nor sold-out.
Ms. Brigid Shea: Having met you recently, you seem like a special person. Public offices are a more serious matter, however, besides being "public office." Mr. Nofziger is, to me, one of the better political leaders we've had in this country the past couple of decades. Some reasons are his honesty, his public ethics, and the fact that he can admit his mistakes. Some politicians don't or can't do that -- they play dirty, beyond unethical, and ignorant of the people's directions. The U.S.A., now, has enough spiritual enlightenment to do away with things in politics that most of us are fed-up with. You were a good politician, too. Please don't taint that by ignoring another leader who is as close of a mirror (politically) to you as anyone is. Campaign finance reform is of major fundamental importance. Max for Mayor is a golden opportunity for this town -- Austin, Texas.
Eric Fortmeyer, Sr.