I'm a 47-year-old black female who reads your paper weekly, as does my four sisters. We are all college educated and know intellectual bullshit when we hear it. Your guys, Black & Barbaro, were copping out big time in the article on minority recruitment by alternative newspapers ["Needs More Color," Vol.17, No.13]. They sounded like friends of Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson.
"The changing nature of a bunch of different things brings us a bunch more minority writers, and then we become even more representative of the community." Yeah, right -- in 2050 or 2075? Then, this disingenuous statement, "You want a diversity of voices because you want a diversity of experience. But we already have a diversity of voices.... But it's an individual thing, not a racial thing." White boys PLEASE, give me a break.
No, you don't have to hire minorities to write about minority issues, since many of those are people issues. Minority writers, like the general population, have diverse interests and could write about many things. So, if you really want a diversity of voices to bring a diversity of experience to the many topics you cover, get a grip and start putting out some feelers or admit that you like it just fine with your liberal group of white buddies and don't want your boat rocked. And, admit that liberal types can be just as non-inclusive as the people they claim are standing in the way of social justice for all.
You guys are pathetic.
In an article on Mollie Katzen, writer Marion Winik "figured taking a vegetarian cookbook author from California to one of our local tofu joints would be a losing proposition...." What does this mean? Why include this seemingly unnecessary jab?
I sincerely doubt that anyone in Austin bringing a vegetarian-oriented visitor to West Lynn Cafe views it as a "losing proposition." I've seen the reactions countless dozens of times. Out-of-towners are very enthusiastic, sometimes telling me our restaurant was a high point of their visit. I've heard "There's nothing close to this in my town!" referring to cities all over the country -- yes, even Los Angeles and New York.
West Lynn Cafe has been mentioned in several national publications -- travel mags, airline mags, a New York Times travel piece on Austin, and others. Check out the current issue of Elle Decor -- it has a piece on Austin, and we're one of the dozen or so recommended restaurants. I've found us on the WWW described as "a MUST for visiting vegetarians!"
Yet every three or four months, the Chronicle food section has another gratuitous dig at our restaurants, or an unnecessary comment belittling vegetarianism. Why is this? Taste and preference are highly individual, and I'm perfectly okay if the food writers don't particularly care for what we're doing. But why the running theme, the continuing periodic potshots?
I half-jokingly -- but only half! -- told people that now that West Lynn Cafe has begun advertising in the Chronicle, the gratuitous digs/slams might finally stop. Maybe we need a bigger ad.
West Lynn Cafe
Amid all the flap and flutter about the 45th street Triangle, and the anxiety over annexation, a not so well publicized battle is getting off the ground over a triangle of land in Northwest Austin known as "The Quarries." This pastoral plot of 58 acres (about one-third of which is occupied by a spring-fed lake and flood plain) is surrounded on two sides by the single family homes of Balcones Woods and Mesa Park, and on the other side by MoPac railroad tracks. In addition, the area is a cul-de-sac, with only one residential road leading in or out from it.
Now, the owners of the land, Hyde Park Baptist Church, would like to cover this relatively natural area with a 45% impervious ground cover and build about 300,000 square feet of multi-purpose buildings (i.e. gym, high school, day care, etc.) and parking for 700 cars.
Are the residents surrounding the Quarries upset over this plan? You bet they are! Especially the 75 homeowners whose privacy fences directly border on the triangle. Is there anyone who would appreciate the noise, pollution, etc., a few feet from their privacy fence? I doubt it.
Will Hyde Park Baptist Church proceed with this plan despite all the neighborhood opposition? Probably -- it's their dirt! And in their corner are the lawyers, developers, and various how-to-do-it experts, while in the residents' corner are the peace-loving families. Maybe that's what "managed growth" means, but I'm almost tempted to agree with one resident who recently opined, "It seems as if the developers won't be happy until Austin is totally paved over."
Twist of Fate
An interesting twist to Joshua Fisher's article "Military Hospitality"[Vol.17, No.14] about the School of The Americas: The former Bolivian dictator emphasized, Gen. Hugo Banzer Suarez, is now the democratically elected President of Bolivia. His conservative party, the ADN, joined in coalition with the leftist MIR to defeat the U.S. supported centrist MNR.
To the Editor:
Regarding Mr. Hendryx's letter about city clearance of trees from power lines ["Postmarks," Vol.17, No.14], as a member and chairman of the city's Urban Forestry Board for seven years, I would like to respond to some of his questions and comments.
First, I believe that Mr. Hendryx is totally correct when he describes the city's current line clearance practices as "over-reacting to a past event."
The city's current level of line clearance is radically severe in comparison to that which ocurred prior to September 1995 -- the month in which the city experienced what was described as a "30 year tornadic storm." This gave the utility the excuse it needed to perform the kind of clearance they had wanted to perform for years, but had been prevented from doing so by those of us who advised them on proper arboriculture.
Utility spokespersons, nice as they are, have said thay they have not changed their policy, but are merely adhering more strictly to existing policy. Regardless, the end result is the same: instead of "tunneling through" tree canopies, leaving much of the overhanging branches, now, anything overhanging the wires, or that has the potential to fall on the wires, is removed. While this certainly reduces outages, many residents are outraged by the disfigured, health-stressed trees that result.
According to the Electric Dept.'s own figures, approximately half of all outages in 1995 were from trees. In 1996, tree-related outages were reduced to one third. Also at about this time, the Dept.'s line clearance budget was doubled (for the second time in about five years) from $3.2 million to $6.4 million. So they spent double the money, but did not cut the so-called "problem" in half, only reducing it from one-half to one-third.
There are ways for citizens opposed to EUD's current tree-cutting policies to voice their concern. One is to write letters of complaint and mail them to council and the Urban Forestry Board (c/o the city, P.O. Box 1088, 78767). Another way is to visit city council meetings as well as meetings of the UFB and the Electric Utility Commission in person and voice your opinion. I recommend that you ask each of these entities to direct the Electric Dept. to revert to their previous clearance levels. In today's atmosphere of "utility deregulation," good luck.
Regarding Celeste Rowan's mistake-filled missive [Vol.17, No.14] about the decision of a few at KO.OP Radio to drop Pacifica Network News:
Rowan seems to have fallen hook, line, and sinker for the lame excuse put forth by a handful of malcontents that there was some sort of an emergency forcing the Board's hand to drop Pacifica News. There was never any "threats of lawsuits" by Pacifica Radio towards KO.OP Radio. Who told you there was? Paul Odekirk? Eduardo Vera? His wife? Celeste, did you even bother to check any of your facts? Apparently not.
Throughout history, tyrants have frequently used the excuse of an "emergency" to grab power, and the naïve and ignorant, the Celeste Rowans, have served as handy fodder.
By the way, Ms. Rowan, since you're not even listed as a member of KO.OP Radio, let alone serve on any committee, one has to wonder who really wrote the letter for you. Your ugly, unsubstantiated accusations and race-baiting only worsen an already deteriorating situation.
I'm sure others will point out the numerous flaws in your letter, but the one I wish to make note of is your comment: "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."
Uh, hello? Ever hear of KAZI 88.7FM, Austin Community Radio, Celeste? Their license has been held by "women and minority men," specifically African-American, for more than 15 years.
Nathan D. Stubblefield, Jr.
Annex With Caution
The City of Austin is embarking on a course of expanding city boundaries and population in an unprecedented effort that will likely have an adverse impact on the ability of African American voters to impact the election system.
Over the past five decades I have worked tirelessly for equality in all sectors of our community. These efforts include the fight to secure single-member districts for the election of members of the Texas Legislature, ending segregation in our schools and in our public facilities.
I have always believed, however, that the most precious of our civil rights and liberties is an undiluted and free vote. I have always encouraged political participation on the part of all voters and in particular African American voters. Moreover, I've always believed that the current Austin election is discriminatory at worst and paternalistic at best. Use of at-large elections with oppressive appendages such as the place system, majority vote requirement, and staggered terms has often exasperated minority electoral choices. Under the current election system the African American community must rely on the benevolence of the white majority to allow African American representation on the council. However, this arrangement does not always lead to the selection of the candidate preferred by the African American community but rather the selection of a candidate that the white community views as best. Even this degrading arrangement, however, will be in jeopardy with the annexation of conservative white voters hostile to the interest of the minority community. Unless the city changes the election system to offset the addition of these new white voters, I believe dire consequences will result for minority voters, and most especially African American voters.
In that regard therefore I urge your readers to urge the council to proceed with caution on this matter. I further ask you to join me in urging the council to use population data that is current in evaluating the impact of annexation on minority voting. And that this effort include a specific analysis on the impact the changes will have on African American voters. Finally I urge Austin residents to ask the council to charge the recently appointed Charter review committee to incorporate the impact of the annexations on its consideration of possible changes in the election system.
Volma R. Overton
President Emeritus, Austin NAACP
To the Editor:
"Austin deserves better," writes "Augusta First" in last week's "Postmarks" [Vol.17, No.13] regarding the latest showcase from the Austin Cinemaker Coop. We regret we did not meet Augusta's expectations. In our defense, let us explain that we were working with a new location, a larger audience, and a longer program. We received more entries than ever before; unfortunately, some of them were delivered at the last minute, and we decided to include them. Perhaps we made a bad judgment call, but we did not want to disappoint the filmmakers. The many people with whom we talked after the show not only enjoyed the program, but went home inspired to pick up a super 8 camera.
That Augusta would focus solely on our mistakes (admittedly they were big ones) and take the opportunity to paint us as a cliquish, exclusive club seems calculated and malicious. Our phone number was on every piece of publicity that went out. Augusta, why didn't you call us to express your frustrations?
In one year, since our inception, the Cinemaker Coop has co-sponsored and held numerous screenings (featuring mostly small-gauge, local work), taught and hosted workshops (including visiting super 8 expert Toni Treadway), and held regular monthly meetings to bring together a growing community of "low-fi" and beginning filmmakers. All of this is done by sheer volunteer effort; every dime we earn goes directly into the Coop; to present all of the above and to purchase quality equipment, which we rent to the public and to UT-RTF students at affordable rates. As a result, together with other local film groups, we are nurturing a community for small format film that is very unique in the U.S. Despite the screw-ups at our recent screening, the Cinemaker Coop remains a competent and inclusive organization. We cordially invite you to attend one of our meetings.
Austin Cinemaker Coop
Blues Artist Blues
The articles by Andy Langer on touring musicians of Austin and Davis McLarty ["For Whom the Road Tolls," "Working for a Living," Vol.17, No.14] were outstanding. My drumming career on the Austin scene began around 1975 at age 15, eventually as a founding member of Third Degree, later recording and performing with Don Walser and Gary P. Nunn. In 1994 I moved to Marble Falls and founded Delzhaus Productions and organized my own blues rock act, The Gary Delz Power Trio. Since then, I've built a roster of clients across the Hill Country, and my band recorded and released a debut CD, so I certainly understand McClarty's difficulties, as it takes long hours to make it work. Airplay for Austin artists is a real problem as well, except on the Fredericksburg station KFAN, where Austin artists are played constantly (without having to beg or giveaway trips to Vail). I recently took time to package a complimentary CD and press release for Austin's "big paper" on the release of our CD. After hearing nothing since August, I made six calls before the editor's office replied. The editor assigned to my release then put three lines in their music rag stating "since I had called at least 100 times and was not going to quit, we had released a CD," one example of the smart-assed crap we go through just to receive print. (Last time I checked, I thought that was their job.) The subject of low wages to Austin-based acts is also something that hits home with me. I don't understand how venues charging $2-15 covers and selling $2.75 longnecks all night can tell you they just can't pay you any decent wages. The entire music community suffers, venues, agents, acts, fans, stations, and media when these happen. Time changes everything, hopefully again... soon.
Yeah, thanks to Andy Langer for his story about touring. It really brought back some great memories from our tour last summer that brought us down to Austin: the plethora of unreturned calls and wasted postage in setting up the tour, the overheating car, the two people at our show in Dallas, the all-night No Doz-fueled drives, the $20 gig in Kansas City, the unairconditioned sweatbox we played at in Wichita, the asshole soundguy in Chicago who cut our set off halfway through, the absolute idiots at U-Haul who gave us the wrong trailer twice, and of course the enormous credit card bill awaiting when we returned to Minnesota. All of this while most of us were using "vacation" time from our day jobs and worming our way out of previous commitments for 9 lousy days on the road. You've really got to have a sick, masochistic streak to be an unsigned band hitting the road without even so much as a booking agent helping you out, much less a major label and/or a manager. Who on earth would turn down $200 a night? I don't think we made that much the whole tour! On the plus side, though, were our great friends and fans in Austin (and a couple other places) and a super nice bar owner in St. Louis who couldn't pay us much but sent us back to our motel with a "variety pack" of 30 or so bottles of imported beer. So, I guess we'll be hitting the road again next year, just as soon as we're ready to take on some more humiliating, thankless punishment.
Dan Israel (and the Cultivators)
Your article on touring problems and difficulties ["For Whom the Road Tolls," Vol.17, No.14] was interesting. I'm your basic living room spud guitarist that has been following the local scene since the early Seventies.
The biggest problem with local bands not making it is they simply aren't very good, especially electric rock/alt bands.
You've got to have three killer elements -- good tunes, good instrumental, and good singing. Economics, business, and radio is secondary (I may be too idealistic here).
Most Austin electric bands are nothing more than what we would call garage bands back in the early 70s. The few good ones like Vallejo and Ian Moore are great instrumentally but they sound too much like other big acts.
When Austin electric guys start playing and writing at the same level of competency as Sheryl Crow, Los Lobos, Phish, Blues Traveler, Spin Doctors, and older ones like Bob Dylan, The Band, Greatful Dead, Dire Straits or the Stones, then maybe they have a chance.
I just don't see any local electric bands with tunes and guitar playing in this caliber. If Escovedo is your idea of state of the art locally -- I'm sorry, I just don't get it. I'll stick with local stuff like Threadgill's troubadours, Nortons, Tish H., Toni Price, Don Walser, Meat Purveyors, Lounge Lizards, Fire Ants, etc. Keep an eye on Ana Egge. She's got the tunes, voice, and instrumental talent -- if she gets a hot band behind her like Sheryl Crow or Mary Chapin Carpenter -- she could be a local that can become big. She's young and has plenty of time to choose which way to go.
A sloppy guitarist and music lover,
But How Was the Acting?
Last Sunday night, the 23rd of November, I experienced true evil. I went to a play with no preconceived notions other than that it was allegedly religious, its name is "The Current Darkness."
The play is said to be about the "Forces of Darkness" attempting to take over a small town. It has a deeper message that can only be described as pure evil.
I don't mean this to be a review of the play, If one wants to go see its full four hour length and dive into its ankle depth then please go. It's free and worth every bit as much as one pays for it.
We all remember the scapegoating, stereotyping, debasement, and murder that Jews have suffered. Well now. New-Agers, Universalists, Buddhists, meditators, and homosexuals, line up, 'cause here comes the Christian Right. If you are any of the above, you are on their hit list. No "Christian" mercy, none of that silly "Forgiveness," just blood and guts and nooses. The play's bad guy is Old Scratch himself, fronted by a company called The Universal Consciousness Organization, run by a demon and several sympathizers, one of which (a woman) teaches high school kids demonic concepts such as "try to be at peace" or "meditation can be positive." According to the playwright everyone that has not sold their souls to Jesus in exchange for whatever the market will bear is demonic! This play is spiritual pornography, hardcore `My-way-or-no-way' stuff. It is no sweet Christmas pageant. As I once read in the Chronicle (loosely interpreted) it's hard to even think about the Christian right. One, you simply must because I guarantee that they're thinking about you. They are one of the true evils in the world.
To the Editor:
Judging from his appearances at out-of-state candidate forums, Governor George W. Bush, Jr. believes he has the leadership qualities to contend for the Presidency in the year 2000. If that is the case, why hasn't the Governor taken a leadership position on an issue of critical importance to the health and safety of Texans for generations to come -- the site selection process for a radioactive waste dump? In his public statements the governor distances himself from the decisionmaking process. Using former Governor Richards and the Texas legislature as political cover for his approval of the Sierra Blanca site may be smart politics, to me it demonstrates an absence of leadership.
Other opponents of the Sierra Blanca site have voiced their concerns about the technical issues which make it unacceptable for a shallow pit, radioactive waste repository. Those private citizens most engaged in the TNRCC hearing process feel that the hearings are a pro forma exercise and that the decision to go ahead with licensing has been taken behind closed doors at the highest levels of state government in consultation with shills for the nuclear power industry. Why else would the TNRCC exclude a 1983 engineering report which found Sierra Blanca unacceptable? And why hasn't the TNRCC committioned a transportation safety study to inform the public and itself of the risks entailed in shipping radioactive waste across Texas? Why hasn't the governor insisted that such a study be done?
Once the Sierra Blanca dump is liscensed, radioactive waste, including plutonium-contaminated components of decommissioned nuclear reactors, will begin moving across the breadth of Texas. Given the incidence of hazardous materials spills on the State's highways and railways, a nuclear spill with the possible dispersal of plutonium is inevitable. The transportation safety experts cannot tell us where or when an incident will occur, they can only tell us how frequent such incidents will be with some statistical accuracy.
Any Texan who thinks putting a radioactive waste dump in Sierra Blanca is okay ought to call his county commissioners and ask them what preparations they have made to contend with a radioactive waste spill in their jurisdiction. do they have the special personnel, equipment and training? Then call the local hospitals and ask them the same question. If dissatisfied with the responses, one ought to call the TNRCC at 1-800-687-4040 and demand that transportation safety issues be included in the hearing process. Then call the governor's office and ask why he isn't proactively engaged in this issue for the protection of those whose votes he now solicits.
I read with alarm Bill Toney's ("Postmarks," Vol.17, No.13) editorial proposal for a Universal Identification card. Such a card is offensive to me as someone who would follow Christ (and thus is leary of anything resembling the mark of the Beast), and as a lover of true liberty, which we seemed to have lost in this nation. For those who are unfamiliar with the term "mark of the Beast," it is a Biblical reference found in the book of Revelation to a mark of allegiance to a global dictator, the Antichrist, without which you will be unable to buy or sell, i.e. conduct the necessary economic activity needed to acquire food, clothing, and shelter. Think about all the permits you need now just to be able to conduct economic activity. You need look no farther than your own bank account. Try to conduct business without a bank account. Try to avoid giving out your Social Security number on a credit application, employment application, or even an application for a driver's license. You will rapidly see how difficult it is to do things and I can guarantee that you will see that you are all tied together more closely to the powerful State than any of our freedom-loving ancestors ever envisioned. And for those of you who think that a Universal ID is such a great idea, consider this: Every time you give out this info, whether it's a photo, digital signature, registration number for a piece of equipment, fingerprint, blood sample, drug or urine test, it means it's in somebody else's database, and that info can be used for all kinds of mischief. If our government or corporate America ever succeeds in building a cashless society, one where all financial and medical data is tied up in one big database where the right government official can decide on the basis of information in your file that you are a dissident/in-valid and are therefore to be denied credit, access to your finances, or access to medical care, you are effectively enslaved. Those of you who have had credit problems in the past can surely relate to what I am talking about. I urge all Austinites to actively oppose such mandatory forms of identification, because they are not really about allowing trade to occur more freely, they are about controlling the types of transactions that can occur, allowing Big Brother to track you more easily, and giving powerful institutions the ability to control your lives. For the doubters among you, I urge you to contact the U.S. Postal Service and ask them about their plans to issue national ID cards, and also read the Wall Street Journal article about Texas Congressman Lamar Smith's proposal of a chip implanted in the hand for identification (November 1995 [year plus or minus one?] issue of the Journal). And check out the Net at some of the privacy sites to get more info.
Hands Off Files
I just saw an item on local news about a man who was given a prison term of eight years because he took a computer to Dell for repair. According to the broadcast, somebody in the shop saw a file on his drive called young. When they opened the file they saw child porno.
Understand, I do not condone anybody who exploits children in any way. However, I have contempt for the violation of this man's privacy by persons who work for your company. What need did they have to snoop into this man's private things? This would be like a moving company going through your drawers as they load the truck. Don't you think that your customers deserve knowing that they can entrust equipment to you for repair without having to remove any private information from their system first? Understandably, it was not very bright of him to make himself vulnerable in this way, but nor was it right of your employees to go through his stuff. Are you paying your employees to provide technical repairs, or are you paying them to be technocops? Does Dell determine the moral standards of this or any community? I am appalled! You should all be ashamed!
Kenneth Jefferson Cottrell
Wooley in Dark Ages
I am compelled to respond to George Wooley's letter to "Postmarks" (Vol.17, No. 13). What planet is this guy talking about? The reason that such a large number of people live within 100 miles of the coast is because the interiors of many continents are predominantly barren wastelands (Africa and Australia, for example). There may be more trees in the world now; quantity is not quality. Saplings do not replace old-growth forests that are being hacked down, and the trees that are being planted are usually pines which will be harvested within 20 years.
I do agree that places like Somalia and Bangladesh have food distribution problems. But if those countries had smaller populations to distribute to, it would be a more manageable problem. And if you think that cities like London, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and New York have no starving people, you haven't looked under any bridges or in any alley dumpsters lately. You haven't been down by Town Lake, or on the Drag, where vagrants panhandle every few yards.
People are the greatest resource on this planet because we have the ability to work to solve our problems. We should work toward educating our youth so that abortion is less necessary, not more dangerous. People who support the right of every woman to choose are not pro-abortion. We support every woman's right to choose to either have a healthy, wanted child, or to have an abortion. Organizations like Mr. Wooley's seek to keep women in the dark ages and in the back alleys. As the 25th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade approaches, we have come upon a generation of people who do not remember the devastation of illegal abortion. Anti-choice groups would have those times revisited. Stand up for your right to chose. Keep abortion safe and legal.