The Xicanindio Poet
Thank you for publishing the article by Phil West on Raúlrsalinas ["Poetry as Activism," Vol. 16, No. 29]. It's about time he be given some recognition. Because of his commitment to peace and justice, the gentle soul that he is, Raúlrsalinas is one of the more important Xicanindio poets of our time.
Ironic and sad that Raúl Salinas, a wordsmith of his stature and experience has to self-publish and struggle to get the word out. Academia prefers to publish those poets who are safe and who do not ruffle our comfortableness. It will be a long time before Academia will recognize the strong voices of our poets, protecting themselves of the hard words thrown at them like stones, from poets who speak the truth.
We have lost the strong voices of Ricardo Sánchez, Ph.D., José Montalvo, José Antonio Burciaga, El Tigre, thus making it more important, more urgent that the voice and writings and the words of Raúlrsalinas be taught in our schools, community centers of learning, and the streets.
We wish him long life.
Trinidad Sánchez, Jr.
Planes, Trains, & Autos
I would like to praise Mr. Quinn's article on commuter rail; as a supporter of rail travel I was glad to learn of the plan to build a system here in central Texas. I'd like to comment on a few of the figures mentioned. I moved to Austin 36 months ago, and to learn that 100 people have died on I-35 in the short time I've lived here is truly shocking. As a transport bicyclist, I never travel on the interstate, and so am rather unacquainted with the severity of the traffic there. Mr. Quinn writes "[I-35] cuts through the heart of the city." A powerful phrase, yet an understatement.
The $100-150 million pricetag on the commuter rail proposal might seem expensive at first, but when you realize the cost is less than half of what is now being spent on 183 and 290, it becomes a real bargain. How much, and for how long, will traffic conditions improve when these gigantic roads are completed?
As far as getting $20-40 million from the federal government goes, perhaps Mr. Doggett might get an additional F-15 jet fighter tacked on to the next sale to the Saudis, just for us.
Light Rail California
During the early Nineties, I lived in San Jose and Sacramento, California for about three and a half years. Both cities have pretty good light rail systems.
In Sacramento, I lived beside a mid-town light rail station for nearly a year. The only noise or distraction that we experienced in our apartment building was the warning bells and flashing lights on the street crossing gates when the trains came through. It only takes a few days or weeks for one to get used to this.
I see that many Austinites fear that light rail could create a noise problem in their neighborhoods. This could very well happen if Capital Metro decides to purchase the cheapest train cars. Cheap cars would make a loud roaring noise while traveling down the track and progressively get louder the faster they go.
This was not much of a problem in Sacramento neighborhoods because Regional Transit there purchased medium-priced quality cars. They also avoided running their track through residential neighborhoods as much as possible with the exception of a few downtown and mid-town apartment buildings that were beside it.
I would like to point out that light rail is operated by electrical wires that are placed down the center of the track a few feet above the train and cars.
I lived in Austin during all of January of this year. I recently came back to Austin from a classless, nasty sewer, scam city, and endless traffic gridlock place called Houston. Because of the excellent job market and numerous other positives, I do plan to continue living here.
Based upon its layout and the many cities that I have lived in, I firmly believe that light rail would be an excellent match for Austin. I do support and like the track layout proposal that was pictured in the Sunday, February 23, American-Statesman article titled "Cap Metro stresses rail stations that fit in." This proposal is very similar to the track layout in San Jose.
Light rail will not prove to be a panacea for those who want to see a massive amount of current bus service eliminated. In the long run, such elimination should and will only involve areas very close to and streets along the final track layout that currently have bus service.
Bozos on the Road
There has been a lot of discussion about Austin traffic. I know what the problem is. There are a lot of bozos on the road: Those people who feel the need to do 50mph on a residential street and pass you if you are driving the speed limit. The jerks who honk when you slow down to make a turn, even though your indicator is flashing. The lame brains who constantly zigzag all over the highway trying to shave a few seconds off of their trip time. Hey, I have a message for all of you lead-footed, horn-blowing, tailgating clowns: Slow down and enjoy the ride!
John C. Bradshaw
Cream & a Lump of Scum
Regarding Thursday's "Media Clips" [Vol. 16, No. 31]:
As a long-time (four-year) employee of The Daily Texan, I'm gratified that the TSP board has recognized the Texan's managing editor as the person most fit to have final say on what shows up in each morning's edition. I've worked under four editors (whom I would rank somewhere between fair and middlin') and five managing editors (whom I'd rank between very good and outstanding). What people outside the paper often don't realize (and why should they care, current brouhaha notwithstanding?) is that the managing editor or a pair of assistants are the ones who actually find and resolve problems with page allocation and layout, who struggle to amplify and preserve reporters' work, and who are often in the Texan basement 'til 1, 2, or 3am to put the paper to bed. I've never seen a Texan editor who paid the late-night dues that the production staff, reporters, and photographers do routinely. So why should the editor have final say on news content if that power is strictly nominal anyhow? The catch-all of tradition is a weak argument when it comes to organizational structures that don't practice hazing with paddles. "Editor-in-Chief" is certainly a more imposing title than "General Manager," and for enduring the pettiness, silly cant, and fawning muck of a student election alone I'll concede that the Texan's editor deserves to put it on her resumé. But reasoning backwards from the title (and its putative souce in "student opinion") doesn't work. The incestuous greek bloc-voting (nepotism, anyone?) which carries UT elections is about as representative of student opinion as the NRA is of American opinions about handguns or Rush Limbaugh is of American political sentiment in general. And wounded, histrionic appeals to an imagined "democratic" tradition or imperative aside, a managing editor appointed by the TSP board (composed of voting members, mostly students) just isn't "Hitler meets the Weimar Republic." Sorry, it doesn't wash -- just ask the 90-or-so percent of UT students who didn't choose the editor, this year or last. Seems the editor-in-chief must demonstrate only political acumen, the managing editor actual competence. The board has a perfect opportunity to select candidates for managing editor with publishing and executive skills; few students have the reason or the chance. Is it any wonder that student elections of any kind end up proving that scum floats as well as cream?
P.S. I'll take my tempest with cream and sugar, please.
Ball Four: Take a Hike, Coach
This is for Coach.
I think your opinion on the decline in baseball stinks!
Athletes good enough to play baseball, do play baseball. Not basketball or football as you stated in your last column.
Have you forgotten Michael Jordan? One of the greatest basketball players of all time. He wanted to play baseball. Sure, he made the team, he is a great athlete, but, he was horrible!
Think about it for a minute, Coach. The physics of it all. A small ball hurling towards you at a speed of 100mph. What are your chances of hitting it with a long thin stick? How about the speed required to outrun a ball being thrown (at 100mph) to first base? How about the stamina required to play a nine inning game? Or the endurance to last a 160+ game season?
Now, toss in the intelligence required to play major league baseball. All those signs the coaches and manager give to the players. And the statistics! It's a lot of brainwork!
All in all, the best of the best athletes play baseball. The basic skills and requirements of a major league player are far and away higher than any other sport.
The decline in popularity of baseball has nothing to do with the players or owners. It's due to the past couple of generations of people who seek instant gratification. They are too impatient to stick out a whole game, much less follow a whole season.
Parents who won't take the time to teach their children how to follow baseball.
It's a shame.
If I went on, I'm sure I could link the entire moral decline of this country to people not taking the time to learn the importance of baseball. After all, baseball is a lot like life itself. Not only does it instill the joy of winning, but it teaches us all that losing is part of life, too.
Coach, I urge you to use your position to get people interested in baseball again. Think of it as a challenge. Think of it as an homage to the people who took the time to teach you. Whatever way you will, just think of it!
To the New King of Bull Creek:
You claim to own Bull Creek. You claim we are on "the same side." Man's deeds are proof of intent, we judge your intentions by your previous actions.
When you cleared the forest we heard the trees scream. (It takes a long time for them to die.) Downstream the creek silted over, killing our black bass, red cars, and Opelousas cats. (We have been stocking for 10 years.) That spring there were no baby frogs or baby fish. Turtle had to move. Snake moved, too.
When you built your tax shelters, the silt changed to concrete dust. The sand and gravel bars were covered in a glaze of cement. The survivors of the previous silting died. (Fish have to breathe.)
The hundreds of men you hired filled the bar ditches with trash from Hwy360 to the park entrance. The garbage remained until the rains, then flushed into our creek. Not once, or twice -- always. You can say you never noticed. You hired no one to clean up the mess you made. (We would never expect you to pick it up.)
You say you are concerned about the litter in your creek. We pray that your words may someday agree with your deeds.
Where It's At!
Because you carried the notice of Paul Beck's THIN Gallery opening I was able to go and really enjoyed the evening.
Enter 505 San Jacinto with trepidation. Having driven from south of South Austin to the center of town just south of Sixth Street. Sometimes I don't feel too comfortable visiting this part of town, but tonight there are a number of couples strolling the street. Entering the building, I head up the clean terrazzo steps. I think -- this might not be too bad. Someone calls my name, friends from Dallas that I invited with tongue in cheek because I am never quite sure what to expect. Paul does great work. Some -- much I do not understand. It looks great tonight. I am going to take some time to take a good look. Paul draws this lovely child's head -- my favorite. Next time leave the "X" off the lovely head.
Oh, there is a likeness of my two grandchildren. Now why didn't Paul finish that picture? Paul has a new choice of color in his presentation. Black, white, and amber overtones are over many of the drawings. So it is painting and drawing combined; some are framed, some are just neat paintings. You have to take the time in order to get the message. I am glad I took the time to view the show. It is very entertaining and interesting. See the art show.
To Anyone Who Cares...
I am lying here with Linda on my mind. It sounds like the lyrics to a classic country & western song, and it does have that element of tragedy, but the Linda I am referring to is world-renowned performance artist Linda Montano.
Linda Montano has been living in Austin and teaching performance art classes at the University of Texas for the past six years. During this time she has touched the lives of so many people, far exceeding the boundaries of UT. The list of artists who have studied under her is impressive, and the additional number of those inspired by her is untold. In many ways Linda has mothered performance art in Austin into the valid community that it is today, with her constant encouragement and support, as well as the development of new talent through her UT art class.
The performance art class, taught by Linda at UT, is unlike any other. During my first day of class, when guests included Annie Sprinkle, Pauline Oliveros, and Ellen Fullman, (another artist to soon be leaving Austin), I remember thinking how amazing it was that this was happening, and at the University of Texas of all places! Linda never hesitated to go out on a limb, especially when the results could be of benefit to her class or even one student.
Not surprising, considering Linda's style has always involved challenging the status quo. Montano gained her fame during the Seventies in the Bay Area when she started her studies of LIFE=ART. She carried these practices on to the other side of the continent, and was equally successful in New York, where she gained national and international attention during a performance of being literally tied to another artist for an entire year. During her career, she has collaborated with numerous artists and carved out her own niche in the art world. Her resume reads like a Who's Who, with her being featured in practically every art book concerning contemporary art, performance art, and feminist art. She has also published several of her own books concerning art in everyday life, is a pioneer in duration art, and is famous for, among other things, her involvement with the Seven Chakra Performance, now approaching its 13th year. (Perhaps you have seen her strolling about town dressed exclusively in the color representing the chakra she is working on during a particular year.) Linda Montano is well known in the performance art circle the world over.
Recently, Linda came up for tenure review at UT and her request was denied. What this means is that the position Linda has been working towards for the past six years has been refused. This also means that Linda will most likely no longer be teaching at UT, and will consequently be leaving Austin, Texas. This is the thanks given by UT officials to someone willing to take a chance?! This also signifies the respect that the University holds for legitimate art and artists, especially when that art or artist dares to stray from the beaten path. Security for an artist is just as important as it is to other members of society; be it job security, retirement benefits, or health insurance. Linda has lost all of that, and we have lost Linda Montano. The loss to the University, Austin, and especially the art community is immense, and Linda will be sorely missed. It just proves that if you go out on a limb, you take the risk of having someone cut it off.
Thank you, Linda Montano!
S. Alton Dulaney
Problem or Solution?
Steve Knickerbocker, in his letter published 3/28/97 [Vol. 16, No. 30], argues that the (helmetless) cyclists do not pay fuel tax or vehicle registration and should therefore stay off the roads. It's well-established that the vast majority of cyclists own and operate a motor vehicle on a regular basis -- and therefore are paying their road taxes for the right to use the roads. These commuters generally choose cycling for the health benefits, the convenience, the savings, or merely for the sheer pleasure of it -- with the result of decreased automobile congestion, air pollution and wear and tear on the roads.
If Mr. Knickerbocker (and other artery-clogged, self-impoverishing operators of single-occupant vehicles) feel that bicyclists are hindering the flow of traffic they could express to our city council the desire that more dedicated bike lanes and non-motorized corridors for commuters be made available. I'm quite sure that cyclists would be ecstatic to leave behind as many huge, fast, dangerous SOV's as possible -- especially the ones operated by the frustrated (and within a few years, that should be just about all of them).
Failing the above courses of action, here's a final one: Cut out the following sentence and tape it to the steering wheel: "Commuters who choose alternate modes of transportation are part of the solution, not part of the problem!"
As for mandatory helmets for adult cyclists, let those who ride decide!
Automobile owner, fuel taxpayer, and Austin cyclist,
I must respond to two letters. In Issue 3/21/97 [Vol. 16, No. 30], a reader aired his "qualified two cents' worth" regarding cycling. He states that by disobeying most traffic laws on his bike, he's safer, and that riding legally, occasionally slowing a car deserves mangling. In saying this, he backstabs his fellow cyclists. Serious resentment abides in motorists towards cyclists like him who ignore the law. He contributes to all cyclists' persecution while saying legal riders deserve mangling. Such attitudes need discouraging. A Mr. Knickerbocker responded to the cyclist's letter with the assertion that he wouldn't respect the rights and safety of us cyclists until we're paying fees, charges, and taxes. This is absurd. Why? Months ago, sand was spread to give cars traction. Much of it's still on shoulders and in bike lanes, making road bikes' turning and braking more hazardous. In practice, our system is indifferent to bikes' legislated safety and rights. If everyone cycled (or combined bikes with buses) where feasible, rush hours would be lighter, air would be less toxic, riding safer, and the aerobic workouts would reduce insurance costs down the road. City government should implement policies encouraging cycling. Mr. Knickerbocker and I agree on one point: Traffic law awareness is lacking. Plans to educate motorists and cyclists should be enacted, paid for by motorists. Rights and responsibilities of cyclists and motorists are readily available (see the Texas Traffic Laws). A driver's most important responsibility is to pass a bike at a safe and reasonable distance. If unable to do so, they must slow down (actually moving foot over to brake) until safe passing is possible. To "buzz" a cyclist (pass closely on purpose, happens lots) is "deadly conduct," a felony with up to a four-year sentence and hefty fine.
Kar Kultur Kills!
To the Editors:
Three cheers for Amy Babich in her response last week to the nerd who said bicyclists don't pay for streets and highways. Folks have actually asked me if I wasn't using Amy Babich as a pen name.
I consider it an honor, but assure them that she's simply a right-on, real woman with strong convictions that mirror mine.
I saw a dead female gray fox lying on the side of 2222 near Balcones the other day. She reiterated that "stinkmobiles" are equal-opportunity killers. Young, old, white, black, brown, male, female, dog, cat, deer, fox, possum, or racoon. Kar Kultur Kills!
The hideous array of chemicals emitted (combusted and uncombusted) poison all our lives and are helping dissolve our precious ozone layer.
On top of the 450 million cars already consuming 225 billion gallons of gas (war juice) a year, there's 140 million folks in China lined up to buy cars that aren't made yet, an estimated 50 million more in Russia, etc.
My dad was an oil geologist and for some reason he always said that there wouldn't be cars after 2010. He also said we could just leave the oil in the ground! Considering that plastics production creates ozone layer-killing gases from the factory to the landfill, I tend more and more to think he was right on. I'd, of course, add leave the uranium and gold in the ground, too. It's a matter of survival! One way or another our current process of "Marsifying" Earth will halt. Here's to hope and education.
Atheists Not Nothing
A letter writer in the March 14 issue [Vol. 16, No. 29] of your paper insisted on characterizing "most atheists" as "intolerant." Everyone needs to understand that individual atheists inhabit the whole range of personality types, political affiliations, economic and social status, and so forth. Since there is no atheist doctrine or code of behavior to adhere to, the only trait that can correctly be attached to atheists as a group is that they are not theists.
The original issue to which the letter writer responded is the prayer that precedes Austin's city council meetings. I do agree that there is no need for it (private businesses manage to function without preceding their meetings with prayer sessions), but I cannot agree that it is harmless. The authors of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution had firsthand experience in their home states with the negative effects of mixing government with religion; that's one reason they knew to prohibit it. Praying before city council meetings not only mocks their wisdom, it sets the terrible example for the citizens of this city that disregarding the Constitution is okay. The praying also sets a precedent of unnecessarily mixing city business with emotionally charged and divisive religious ideas when our government needs to be projecting an atmosphere of calm, rational neutrality. Perhaps the prayer's most insidious function is that it acts as a religious loyalty oath, making non-Christians who cannot participate in good conscience easily identifiable to anyone with a television. This kind of intimidation is unconscionable in a society that strives to include all of its citizens.
The letter writer seems convinced that serious motion toward changing our form of government to a theocracy would be stopped in time through the efforts of enlightened citizens. But how far is he willing to let it go? It makes much more sense to eliminate the problem while it is in a relatively innocuous stage. Therefore, I would like to urge anyone who respects state/church separation and attends a city council meeting, whether he or she is religious or not, to stay seated during the prayer, which does not belong in that setting.
Jesus & the Hale-Bopps
I found it oddly amusing (and somewhat disturbing from the standpoint of journalistic objectivity) that, in reporting on the mass suicide in California, each of the five local television news teams ran coverage which characterized the dead as both disturbed and delusional for their belief in an otherwordly being watching over them who would intervene and resurrect the righteous upon their deaths. Each of the five news teams then, and without exception, followed in the same broadcast with coverage of Christian celebrations around the world of the crucifixion and resurrection of a man whose actual historicity is affirmed by no historical source other than a rather fantastic book put forth by a core of fanatical believers, whose followers believe that he rose from the dead and will return on the final day to resurrect the righteous and lead them to some mystical place in the sky. Only one news team bothered to mention that the resurrection of Christ is a religious belief and not an established fact, and none reported that, in the name of this belief, a number vastly larger than 39 have killed, been killed, or taken their own lives. I won't embroil myself in disputes over which belief system is right, and neither should any objective journalist, but sooner or later someone should realize that the real culprit here is not in the particulars of any belief system, but is embedded deep in the human psyche and in the nature of belief itself.
Mark F. Vega
Is anybody else sick and goddamn tired of the incessant telemarketing calls from AT&T long distance service? Is there any legal recourse for this type of approach ("May I speak to the person in charge of the AT&T long distance account?"). Is it possible to initiate a class action more effectively than an individual complaint? I've notified the Direct Marketing Association (Box 9014, Farmingdale, NY 11735-9014 to stop receiving calls) and complained to the VPs for public relations (Richard Martin/William H. Oliver, AT&T Corporation, 1301 Ave. of the Americas, NY, NY 10019; Fax 212/841-4649).