The Austin Chronicle


It Was a Drum Machine

December 5, 1997, Columns

Dear Editor:

Re: "Beratin' Bertin" ["Postmarks," Vol.17, No.13]

Michael was not beaten with a synthesizer when he was a child.

Sincerely yours,

Mary Bertin

(Michael's Mother)

Chevy Chase, MD

Green Roman Druid


Can anyone tell me why our so-called environmentally correct city council is permitting the Utility Dept. to contract with an out-of-town company to clear-cut vast sections of older Austin neighborhoods? I'm sure many other readers have spent the past few weeks listening to the roar of chainsaws and branch-grinders, as these "Blume/Asplundh Tree Experts" from Willis, Texas, camp in our streets and ravage our yards. Pecan Springs looks like a horde of Orcs recently moved in, and I understand other parts of town are undergoing similar devastation.

Why? Apparently the city is, as usual, overreacting to a past event, in this case recent storms that saw some trees knock down some power lines. Thus, as punishment, no tree shall now be allowed to grow and flourish beneath or adjacent to a sacred city utility line.

I suppose if we lived in the Sahara and there was a sandstorm, and some people got sand in their tents, Austin's bureaucrats would make sand illegal and try to shovel the dunes away. Won't someone step in and admit that this is a wrong-headed, draconian policy? Hello! This is Central Texas and we have trees! And occasional storms! Deal with it!

This notion that we need a "seven-year cut" (arbitrary figures make officials feel empowered) for our own good is providing a cure worse than the disease. Our neighborhood is now permanently blighted (not that we needed any more ugliness, what with the airport and the Manor/Springdale killing zones). Individual homes are losing shade and windbreaks (what happened to energy efficiency and conservation?) and much of their privacy screening and attractiveness (what happened to our property rights?) at the hands of these pestiferous invaders and despoilers. Did King George come back or something? Do we need another revolution?

Austin used to be a place that loved and appreciated trees. Now we see the "Re-Leaf Austin" program as the cruel hypocrisy it is. I am sickened and angry; to paraphrase Tacitus, "They have created a desert, and call it `Green.'"

One unhappy druid,

Kevin Hendryx

Lars' Roomates

Dear Mr. Bradford,

Your story on Lars Eighner ["The Rest of His Days," Vol.17, No.12] was interesting and well written, with enough cheap emotion left out to make it fun. Unfortunately, the same can't be said of much of Eighner's work. Who knows? Maybe there isn't another story left in the poor soul. To that end, instead of waiting around with your friends for him to "get back on his feet" and putting him up in your own homes and doing all kinds of errands for him, why don't you set up a committee to find a house for him and other tortured artists? For roomates, Lars could bunk with a nightmarish duo of say, Roky Erikson and Daniel Johnston. That kind of stimulation might get him writing again. Other potential candidates could make future reservations. This committee would collect any royalty checks coming to the residents and channel the money back into rent, utilities, medication, etc. More sober and sane artists with absolutely nothing to say or contribute could drop by for some passive plagiarism.

I know... it's a really stupid idea. But so is trying to change another human being. It's pretty obvious Mr. Eighner has a death wish; hopefully though not during this joyful holiday season, where maybe a few more copies of his book can be sold and his story of neglect and poverty can be milked for all it's worth.

Tom Bowman

Sorry for His Dog


Should I feel sorry for this guy??? ["The Rest of His Days," Vol.17, No.12] I think not, seems to me he had a golden opportunity and blew it big time. For the rest of his days... yeah, right. I feel sorry for his dog and all the suckers that keep bailing him out.

R.S. Clattenburg

More Mike Fans

Dear Michael Ventura,

No... thank you. [Vol.17, No.12] Thank you for the honesty and insight of "Letters at 3am," but most of all thank you for the empathy and compassion that are continually the heart of what you share with -- and instill in -- your readers. Many happy returns -- as many as you wish for.

Very sincerely yours,

Mark Stevens

P.S. Have you ever published any collections of your essays? I would very much like to buy such a collection if it exists. If not, maybe it's time...

Protect Superfund

Dear Editor:

When one in every four Americans lives within four miles of a toxic waste dump, it is called industrial progress. These sites poison the land, contaminate the water, and even cause cancer, birth defects, brain, nerve, and liver damage. Right here in Brownsville, Texas, there is a pattern of babies being born without brains. Hmmm... could this have to do with the close proximity to toxic waste? Yet, if I poison my neighbor it is murder and punishable by death. Where's the logic?

Luckily, as Americans we have protection. The Superfund Law requires polluters to pay for long-term cleanup. But surprise! The polluters have launched a huge campaign to reverse Superfund and place the burden of cleanup on us, the taxpayers. They want us to be victims twice.

This is exactly why we must speak out. Fight the corruption! Save our families! It's simple. Grab a pen and paper and write Congress, representatives, and our newspapers to let them know we care. Protecting Superfund is essential to public health. It is time to take back government. Remind Congress who they represent.

Sincerely concerned,

Amy Robertson

Losing Voices


Lee Nichols' article on minorities in independent journals ["Needs More Color," Vol.17, No.13] was excellent. It's too bad he did not use the same journalism on his review at KOOP's recent troubles ["Media Clips," Vol.17, No.8]. In his need to impress people in California he ignored the real reason that dropping Pacifica at the station has been controversial, which was to embarrass the new Board of Trustees at KOOP. The new Board that hasn't any Straight White Men on it has been attacked by a small but loud group of liberals who are upset that women and minority men have positions of power for the first time at an Austin radio station. It seems that it's embarrassing to them that the new board is an active one that is actually handling problems that have been ignored by past administrations at KOOP, including its large debt and no previous effort to take care of them. It is this dire financial situation that was the catalyst to finally break with Pacifica the threats of lawsuits left little for the board to do but say goodbye. Because of the new board's work, a major racist and sexist effort to discredit them is underway. Statements have been made publicly that only white men have done any work at KOOP in spite of the overwhelming effort by minorities to keep the station on the air. Racist, sexist cartoons are frequently floated around the station with messages on the KOOP e-mail stating that the board deserves this slander because it will not concede its stated purpose to follow KOOP's mission statement and open the station to more minority participation. As I said, this group are self-proclaimed liberals who were willing to allow minorities and women participation as long as white men are in the majority and in control, after all, what good are liberals if others refuse to be hapless victims to be patronized? Its time for the listeners of KOOP to start paying attention to what's going on at the station or we may lose our only independent voice in Austin.

Celeste Rowan

Wooley, Remove the Wool

Mr. Wooley!

What planet Earth are you from? ["Postmarks," Vol.17, No.13] Because the last time I checked on my planet Earth, people were starving in New York. Maybe that gutter kid (right here in Austin) I gave my change to last Friday was just a figment of my imagination, but she looked pretty damned hungry to me. God bless the nice family who was handing out food to these hungry kids (it was the day after Thanksgiving). Was that you, Mr. Wooley? I doubt it. You see, the problem with your kind is you are definitely not pro-life. Pro-birth, yes, but if you were really pro-life, you would recognized that there are, indeed, hungry people right here in the good ol' land of plenty -- America. I suggest you put your money where your mouth is and take care of the humans that are already here. This abortion issue is getting tired. I will agree with you that abortion is not the answer. However, I do think we might consider neutering idiots like you.

Christy Claxton

Gone with the Wind

Dear Ever Prudent Chronics:

Did I really see this on TV?

Mom: (Holding rope attached to young boy who is flying like a kite in strong wind.) "El Niño?"

Son: (Screaming over tempest) "We watch Mark Murray on KVUE-24!"

Missing Those Happy-Go-Lucky

Troy Kimmell Forecasts,

Brett "El Niño Insurance Adjuster" Barney

Escape to Alcatraz

Mr. Black:

A lot has been written recently about crime, punishment, and the predictable consequential results of prison mismanagement, graft and cost, along with the moral challenge of the state's right to execute certain offenders.

We may be doing it all wrong. There is another way which would solve most of these problems without creating more problems than it solves.

Why don't we just expel those convicted of certain crimes? We could start with those currently classified as capital crimes and add to it those so reprehensible as to be deserving.

We will need to aquire an island -- San Clemente comes to mind -- sufficiently remote, yet close enough to afford constant patrol to capture and return any attempted escapes.

The expellee would be put ashore with a hat, appropriate clothing, and footwear plus a five pound bag of rice. After that, he or she is on his or her own. We do not execute, we do not provide food, clothing, medical care, supervision, incarceration, recreation, or legal counsel. The expellee, having rejected the opportunity to live in a law-abiding society, now has exactly what he or she attempted to create within this society.

It's true that the expellee may be victimized, robbed of the rice and clothing, beaten in the process, raped, and/or murdered. Or maybe not. It is no longer our concern. They now have an opportunity to make a life in a society more to their choosing. Justice is served without cruel or unusual punishment, execution, incarceration, or even any further reponsibility.

Now, please don't cite the (ultimate) failure of France's Devil's Island. Just because the French could not pull it off many years ago is no reason to conclude that we cannot do it today.

After saving a goodly share of the present cost of running our prison system, less the cost of impregnable patrols, we would have a tidy sum left to reduce taxes. (This last is a joke -- the savings actually would be used to enrich retirement benefits for congressmen. After all, who is going to make this decision?)

Bob McCracken

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