I think you're reading a lot more into the response you got from city council staff to your request for predictions, etc., than you should ["Council Watch," Vol. 17, No. 18]. I'm reminded of the poster that reads: "Bad planning on your part does not necessarily constitute an automatic emergency on my part."
How about the possibility that, yes, even our intrepid councilmembers were taking a break at the end of the year, slowing down, reflecting on the last year's events, refreshing themselves, and preparing for the new year's onslaught. Perhaps responding to your e-mailed, off-the-cuff request to have the council do your work for you backfired, and you're too self-absorbed to recognize it.
Lighten up, my dear, and let's give everyone a little room to breathe. There's plenty of potential controversy lurking around the corner on its own without you making it up.
Eastside Neglected Again
Just like last year, all of Robert Bryce's Top Ten environmental stories for 1997 concerned Westside, statewide, national, and international problems ["Environs," Vol. 17, No. 18]. There was no mention of issues in other parts of Austin. His five predictions for the coming year had the same limited focus. Fortunately, environmental groups like Save Barton Creek Association, S.O.S. and the Sierra Club are working on all sides of town. Bryce could learn a lesson in diversity from these organizations.
Your website constantly hammers at FM Properties, Inc. and Circle C but not once have I seen criticism of Motorola (Austin). In the USA Today issue of January 12, 1998 (Money, page 4B), one of the biggest polluters in the semiconductor industry (chip plants) was Motorola (Austin). Again your type of journalism is selective and irresponsible. Your articles are always slanted to meet your political agenda. Hopefully your type of newspaper reporting is in the minority in the United States.
Lost Another One
So what about this two-star review of As Good As It Gets?? Just who is this reviewer M.B. [Marjorie Baumgarten] reviewing for? I would like to think that the reviews I find in your paper will give me hint about the quality of the film. Based on the above review I didn't go. But now I have gone, and I won't be looking to your paper for film reviews anymore.
How many cigarettes are you going to have to sell to come up with $15 billion?
I am writing in regards to Lee Nichols' "Media Clips" article about KOOP radio [Vol. 17, No. 18]. Nichols has no idea what's going on at Pacifica or within the FreePacifica movement or at KOOP. We have a written sheet of paper signed by 75% of the programmers at KOOP voting to run an informational disclaimer before and after PNN. Also we had a second vote at the next programmer's meeting where again 75% of the programmers voted for the disclaimer.
Nichols' charge that it was "some of the activists" that approved the disclaimer and pushed Pacifica to drop KOOP is totally wrong, and I have offered Lee the documents to prove it and he has only recently returned my e-mail saying I should write a letter to the Chronicle. This is an example of shoddy reporting with no facts-gathering at all. Lee did not interview or gather information from any of the people involved in the FreePacifica movement or even at KOOP.
Also, his defense of the "excellent Pacifica Network News" is disgusting. This is the kind of views conservative people have about the UFW's grape boycott. Because the taste of grapes is not offensive, should we ignore the boycott?
Lee also claims to be a leftist but he's attacking KOOP and the democratic decisionmaking. Lee's last line in the article is: "Will the left ever stop attacking itself long enough to accomplish anything?"
And what is this article if not an attack? What a hypocrite!
C. Paul Odekirk
[Lee Nichols responds: In the articles I have written this year on the KOOP/Pacifica controversy, I have received numerous informational e-mails from FreePacifica's Lyn Gerry and attended a presentation on the matter by Gerry when she visited KOOP. Also, I have interviewed several people within KOOP about this matter, including Odekirk.]
Neighbors Still Unhappy
To the Editor:
In response to recent media publicity about the proposed Triangle Square development, I want to clear up the misconception that the community has accepted the developer's latest plan. This is not the case at all, despite Cencor Realty's PR claims that we're all going to love the new-and-improved Triangle Square and live happily ever after in peace and harmony.
First of all, Cencor's current plan is not the plan that the community developed in the design charrette last November. Instead, the plan Cencor submitted to the city for zoning approval is essentially the same plan the community has objected to all along. The only major change is the addition of 40 apartments, which hardly constitutes a "mixed-used" development. And despite the objections of most neighborhood residents, the current plan still includes the giant, traffic-snarling Act III theatre and Randalls supermarket.
In a recent American-Statesman article, John Gilvar (aide to Beverly Griffith) said, "The debate has shifted away from `No Randalls' or `No Act III'... We're talking about constructive ways to improve the project - not ways to stop the project." Well, Gilvar may have accepted the mall, but most neighborhood residents are still adamantly opposed to it. (I recommend that Gilvar take a drive along 45th Street, where dozens of new "No Strip Mall" yard signs have appeared in the past two weeks.) I credit Griffith and Gilvar for organizing the charrette in an attempt to reach a compromise on this issue. However, Cencor has yet to embrace the charrette plan or compromise on the fundamental issues such as huge stores and acres of asphalt.
The battle over the Triangle is far from over. My neighbors and I will continue to fight until we get what we want - either a much-needed neighborhood park or a development that is vastly different from the current plan.
More Dance Coverage
Missing from your "Best of" and obligatory year-end "Critics Top Tens" was any significant mention of contemporary dance, an important branch of the performing arts and one with a vibrant and growing community in Austin. Our community is fortunate to attract national acts, mostly through the University of Texas and Dance Umbrella, and we feel that these should be highlighted as well. Dance events were blatantly missing from the copious lists of top band shows, visual art shows, books, political events, restaurants, theatre productions, music eds, news stories, sports moments, video games, and musicians. Thus, we humbly submit our short list of 1997 top dance shows (in no particular order) from those we were fortunate enough to attend:
Top Local Shows:
In the Forest, Andrea Beckham at Public Domain
Now & Again, Darla Johnson & Andrew Long at McCullough Theatre
Three Girls & Guy, Kathy Dunn-Hamrick, Michelle Owens-Pearce, Cari Kerkhoff, and Tim Harling at Dougherty Arts Center
No Exit, Andrea Ariel at McCullough Theatre
Closeups, Kathy Dunn-Hamrick at Cafe Dance
Top Touring Shows:
Leonard Cruz at Synergy Studio
Alvin Ailey Dance Company at Bass Concert Hall
Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company at Bass Concert Hall
Susan Marshall/Phillip Glass at Bass Concert Hall
Best Community Dance Event:
Body Count, organized by Sally Jacques
Best Improvisational Group:
The Creeps, Ellen Bartel's slow motion movement troupe
Best Homegrown Event:
Austin Festival of Dance, which benefits AIDS research
We also want to recognize local, active choreographers who have national and international reputations, Sharir Dance Company and Jimmy Turner. We look forward to more coverage of dance in The Austin Chronicle in the future.
Carol M. Lewis & David G. Robinson
My Top FIve
Dear Mr. Black,
It's good to see "Page Two" back on page two. Your past couple of columns have been, in my humble, inexpert opinion, astute. Wayne Decker has real cheek to suggest "someone" else is more worthy to occupy that space.
Quentin Tarantino is obviously a genius. Pulp Fiction is a masterwork with no fewer than half a dozen brilliant characters and a sparkling supporting cast.
Apocalypse Now is arguably the best movie ever made (Citizen Kane not withstanding), certainly the best of the 80s. I wept after viewing The Deer Hunter and Platoon, but revisited Coppola's superlative, hallucinogenic vision of the Vietnam travesty five times during release.
Titanic is dynamic filmmaking at its finest, at least for those of us unashamed of our romantic bent. DiCaprio is magnifico with Cameron in command.
Film humanizes technology. Entertainment and education are of equal value; great film encompasses both. Drama exists because of amoral villains and (anti) heroes with their tragic flaws.
I saw L.A. Confidential last night after reading the Chronicle's piece, "Film Top Tens of 1997." Thumbs up for a movie, expertly crafted, in which the two good guys win.
I'll close with brief homage to Schindler's List, a work of art that effectively juxtaposes the most horrific and finally inspiring of human extremes.
Busy at the Coop
Recently, a couple of letters have criticized the Austin Cinemaker Coop and its workings. In defense of The Austin Cinemaker Coop, I would like to make this point: 56 short films were produced for Coop events in 1997.
Fifty-six short films in only the first year of this group's existence.
Things don't always go over without a hitch, especially in dealing with film that is no wider than a pencil. The Coop consists of a handful of film fiends and some donated equipment. Several people devote a lot of time and hard work to keep the Coop operating.
The idea behind the mini film fests (like "Attack of the Fifty Foot Reel") is to inspire filmmakers to work their craft and make films. The Coop offers a public screening of films made by any filmmaker willing to participate.
Some of the films that have shown at the mini fests are made by first-time filmmakers who have never picked up a camera before, but have been dying to give it a try. The Coop provides an excuse for making that film. Other films were made by established filmmakers who just love the craft. Those films and all the films in between are important to the Austin Cinemaker Coop.
Many of the films made for the Coop have since screened in other film fests including The Super Super 8 Film Fest and The Athens Film Fest, and one film is scheduled to appear on John Pierson's Independent Film Channel show Split Screen in the spring of '98.
We challenge you, yes you, to pick up that old camera in Grandma's garage and have some fun. Bring your film down to a Coop meeting and inspire the rest of us to go out there and make films of our own. That's what it's all about, making and screening films. You show me yours and I'll show you mine.
Film Ninja and Equipment Director for the Austin Cinemaker Coop
Reviews, Not Advertising
This is in response to Helen Curtis Crozier's whiney critique ["Postmarks," Vol. 17, No. 18] regarding Pat Earvolino's review of Pacific Moon ["East Meets Westlake," Vol. 17, No. 15]. Helen, pay attention. The Chronicle is a newspaper, not a packet of advertising junk mail that gets dropped though the slot in your door. The reporting is supposed to be objective, for better or for worse. Too often the Chron's food section is pure politeness, apparently used to drum up advertising dollars, and it's good to see an honest and biting review for a change. I've eaten at Pacific Moon twice. Both times, it sucked. The service was shoddy and in some cases rude - mostly coming from the woman who I later found out was part owner. I went there with a group for lunch - a late lunch, the place was nearly empty - and instead of pushing a few tables together for our group of 10, we were seated at four different tables, all the while being made to feel that our patronage was an imposition on this obviously overburdened hostess. Some people aren't meant for the hospitality industry, and maybe an honest and scathing review is what it will take to make her realize this. I hope to see more of this type of food writing in these pages; if nothing else it gives credence to the positive reviews. If you want blind politeness, stick to reading coupons and ads. Or better yet, stick to reading XL.
Blowin' in the Wind
Hasn't anyone noticed the awful mess of plastic bags littering Shoal Creek (and every place else there's a branch to cling onto)? The question I'm beginning to think the grocery stores should ask us is: "Would you like to litter with plastic today?"
Look around... up in the tree behind your house, stuck on your neighbors' fences, hanging by every 10th branch along the creeks and highways, floating through the air as you drive by, along the hike and bike trails. It would be great if they were recycled into something useful, but somehow it seems like a million or more have escaped in central Texas... caught in the wind and whoosh they're off to wreak visual havoc on our landscape.
How much is the average grocery store saving on paper bags? Can't they make some biodegradable plastic? I wonder if we took a plastic bag inventory whose logo would show up on those trees most often.
To Get to the Other Side
At last, people are beginning to talk about transportation in Austin. This a good thing. People even occasionally mention pedestrians and bicyclists. Better and better. I suppose that we shouldn't be surprised that city planners aren't yet taking human power seriously as a means of transportation. We can't really expect that yet.
I was surprised and interested to learn that the city is going to build a pedestrian underpass, because I have just been thinking about pedestrian underpasses. The one the city is going to build is under 15th Street downtown. The ones I want built cross under I-35, 183, and other huge highways.
TxDOT is going to spend 20 million dollars to put up median walls on about 20 miles of I-35. This is because a lot of motorists are killed in head-on collisions on that part of I-35. But also a lot of people (about 15 a year, I think) are killed trying to walk across I-35. There are a lot more people who simply don't cross I-35 or 183 because they don't have cars or bicycles and are afraid to walk across. Even at the traffic lights (the only place where a bicyclist can even attempt to cross these highways), crossing these highways by bicycle is scary even for people who cross them often. It's scarier on foot. Doing it on foot rolling a baby carriage, or in a wheelchair or on crutches, is really scary. We really, really need pedestrian (and bicycle, tricycle, and wheelchair) crossings under these huge, dangerous highways.
Maybe TxDOT and the city could get together on this project. It would vastly improve transportation in Austin.
Best Coat Party Ever
Dear Austin Chronicle,
I'd like to take a minute to thank you for your help with this year's Coat Party. We raised over $5,000 and 1,000 coats for ARCH, the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless. This was far and away the most successful Coat Party ever.
There is no way we could pull off an event like this without the continued support of The Austin Chronicle. For the second year in a row you guys have been a major part of our success. Thanks!
Of course, we would also like to thank all of the wonderful bands that donated their time (Toni Price, Guy Forsyth, George Devore, Quatro Paw, Leeann Atherton, Doak Short and Dave Locksley); our great volunteers, some of whom worked more than 12 hours on show day; KGSR for giving us a major promotional push; Live Oak Brewing Company for their incredible generosity, tireless work and great beer; Pato's Tacos for giving us a funky, comfortable, zero-cost venue and, of course, every single one of the 1,200 people who showed up, donated money and coats and made this the best Coat Party ever. There are also many individuals I'd like to thank for going far beyond the call of duty, but I don't have room to thank all of you here. You know who you are and you know I won't forget your help.
This year the Coat Party came of age as an annual Austin event. This is in large part because of your help. There was a common feeling among all of those who helped this year. Everyone having anything to do with this year's Coat Party felt they received more than they gave. Mathematically impossible, maybe, but very possible in the world of heart and soul.
Thank you all for your help. I look forward to working with you on future Coat Parties.
Spokesman for Crombie the Coat
Equity and Honesty
U.N. and U.S. officials said on TV that they are vigorously pursuing a "diplomatic" solution to the standoff with Iraq. I listened and I heard ultimatums and threats of mass destruction if Iraq does not capitulate, but I didn't hear one specific overture of a "diplomatic" nature. So, I hereby submit, and guarantee the effectiveness of, the following diplomatic initiative.
If Iraq will grant the international inspection team unrestricted access to all suspected mass destructive weapons sites, the US/UN will require Israel to grant unrestricted access to all of its mass destructive weapons sites. In addition the US/UN will require Israel to release Mordecai Vanuna. He is a former employee of the nuclear weapons facility in Dimona who blew the whistle by publishing pictures in a British newspaper. This crime and his conversion to another religion angered the Israelis, and in 1987 agents of the Massad kidnapped him in Italy and took him by armed force to Israel where he has languished in prison until now.
If the US/UN could bring itself to make such a magnanimous proposal to Iraq it would put a little equity and honesty in our diplomacy and seriously address the problem of worldwide mass destructive weapons proliferation.
Jewel R. Johnson
Roll Out the Money
Don't ever get a red carpet lease. From my experience it is the worst deal on the planet. Car companies will tell you that hundreds of customers are satisfied. It's a lie. A red carpet lease really means you roll out the red carpet for the dealerships. The lease agreement will tell you that you will pay a certain amount of money to lease a car, which I might add will be a larger amount than the car is really worth. Then after your lease is up (say two years) you have the option of buying the car or getting a new car to lease. The only problem is that in order to buy the car you again have to pay the full price of the car. So you really pay for the car twice. Or you have the option of giving the car back which means you lost all of the money you put into the car. So the car dealership now has a used car to sell to someone else. Which means the car is paid for twice. In my opinion that is not a red carpet lease for the customer. It's another way for the dealership to rob their customers.
If the City of Austin is wearing a sign that says "Kick me, I'm from Austin," it's because the city council and Mayor Watson put it there. The illegal annexation of Circle C has caused a response of at least four lawsuits (with a few more to come) from parties with an interest in the Circle C area. The annexation was illegal not only because of voting rights violations, but because the area was designated a valid Water Quality Protection Zone (WQPZ) by the TNRCC on the date of filing before the annexation was complete, and violation of two terms of the Circle C MUDs consent agreement, among other things. The city received a letter from the TNRCC that indicated the Circle C area had met the TNRCC requirements for a WQPZ before the annexation took affect, yet has continued the annexation program.
The city is paying outside council, from city funds, to defend these lawsuits, and for the privilege of winning, the city gets to pay at least $43 million in Bond Debt and developer reimbursables in order to obtain a $1.4 million per year gain in tax revenues. For the privilege of losing, the city will have provided at least three months of municipal services free of charge to the residents of Circle C. This sounds like a lose-lose proposition to me. What logical reason could there be for this irresponsible use of city tax dollars and municipal powers?
The city leaders were warned in the public hearings that this would happen. They were warned to not pursue this matter by Circle C residents, and by state leaders. Vote your mind at the next city election, I know I will.
Thank you for listening,