I was very disappointed when I picked up the Chronicle this week and discovered that several of the films shown at the SXSW Film Festival had not been reviewed in your paper. I am talking about the shorts that appeared before many of the features. Only a couple of the more conscientious reviewers covering the features opted to mention the accompanying short films. I find this oversight particularly disappointing since many of these films were made by local filmmakers. These people deserve our (the Austin arts community's) support, or at least attention.
South by Every Which Way
To Brent Grulke and the entire SXSW staff:
Thanks once again for making it possible for bands like Eggbo not only to be heard by so many, but also to hear so many great bands from around the world (and quite possibly, beyond). We had a blast!!! For those who genuinely love and live for music, SXSW is a "heaven on earth." I applaud you all for making it a continued success.
Craig E. Smith ("Eggbo")
South by Eletric Lounge
Great things about SXSW 1998: 1) The Grievous Angels, 2) Shinola, 3) Nashville Pussy, 4) Old 97s with John Doe, 5) The Freight Hoppers, 6) The Damn Gourds.
Big Disappiontment about SXSW 1998: 1) $4 for a fucking Celis at The Electric Lounge (If you could get the vodka-swilling bartender's attention long enough for him/her to get you one.)
Thanks to SXSW for another great line-up!
Haiku Only, Please
South By Southwest... 1998
They come from near and far
For us to hear
The music they play
Until the break of day
Musicians from distant lands
And those who play in local bands
They come to Austin
Hoping to win
The hearts of young and old
Like Olympians seeking gold
They play every club
As well as the neighborhood pub
There are musicians who are flamboyant and wild
And those who are timid and mild
The city is overrun by tourists
Wearing bands on their wrists
Seeking the sounds of the festival
Found only in the Southwest
In the city they call the music capital of the world
Where you come to hear the best
And leave behind the rest
Austinites such as MC Overlord, Brian Lee, and Vallejo
Entertain us with songs from the soul
Then there are others such as Spacehog, Deege,
And The Ark Band
Who come from as far away as England
Playing music at the festival that comes
When the air is warm and the sun is bright
In a city where Stevie watches over our lake
And the bats take flight every night
The city that will never rest
The home of live music
And South By Southwest
Would someone please put that stupid "TV Eye" column out of its misery? Do you honestly think your readers care about this woman's thoughts concerning what is on TV each week? The Chronicle is a good local weekly newspaper, but it seems to me that certain members of your staff have recently become a lot more interested in Hollywood celebrity types (that article by Brad Pope about trying to hang out with TV stars in Aspen ["Burn Aspen, Burn," Vol. 17 No. 29] is another example of this. So was that silly story about how the Rolling Stones gave you guys free tickets to their show in NYC ["Flip the Switch," Vol. 17 No. 9]). I respect the Chronicle for its knowledgeable coverage of the Austin scene. If I wanted this kind of schlock I'd read People Magazine or Us. They do it better anyway.
The Food Court
Since USDA announced their proposed standards for labeling of organic food in January, many of my neighbors in Travis County have called, written, or stopped me in the street to express their grave concern.
These standards deviate from those recommended by the National Organic Standards Board, which is composed primarily of representatives from the organic community. USDA's standards allow food produced with such inorganic techniques as genetic engineering, irradiation, and fertilization with municipal sludge to be labeled as organic. Folks in Travis County who count on organic food to provide an alternative to food grown with conventional techniques know that the proposed standards are inadequate and misleading.
The many people who have joined me in contacting USDA arguing that the standards must be strengthened will be pleased to know that their efforts are beginnning to show. The Department of Agriculture is now emphasizing that the rules will be changed to reflect public concern. USDA official Tom O'Brien has said "Our intention is to develop a final rule that meets the expectation of organic farmers and consumers."
That's a start. But those of us who believe USDA should develop strong standards that guarantee the continued vitality of the organic food industry must keep watching to see that USDA's actions match their words. You can rest assured that I will keep my eye on USDA, and I appreciate our many concerned neighbors who are rightly insisting on change.
Up Against the Wall
I would like to respond to the Capitol Metro-bashing anti-environmental letter written by one Dalton W. Wall ["Postmarks," Vol. 17, No. 27]. The attitude depicted by Mr. Wall and others like him are so indicative of why we have an immense traffic problem here in Austin with its attendant ozone action days. If all of the naysayers would stop griping about public transit (and ours is one of the best in the country) and support it, high occupancy vehicle lanes, staggered work hours, and light rail then maybe, just maybe, we might make some headway on our transportaion problems. I am a non-driver (though I drove for many years previous to my moving to Austin four years ago) due to very poor vision acuity and I applaud Amy Babich and others like her as a vanguard force in the name of environmental preservation!!
Mr. Wall, quit moaning and groaning, quit attacking Ms. Babich, realize what damage cars and other vehicles are doing to the environment, and get a life for heaven's sake!!!
To all other anti-environmental and pro-auto supporters out there: You prefer to choke on your own fumes and hope that everyone else will. We who really care are not going to sit back and be idle, but we will continue and we will succeed. So, put that in your (tail) pipe and smoke it!!!!!!!
Mayor Watson and all who conceived the "Green Zone" plan should be highly commended for their foresight. This natural area would preserve 15,000 acres of native Hill Country from being covered by more apartments and shopping centers stretching for miles over the most sensitive water and air quality zones in our area. More and more Austin is becoming Houston! Not only would such an investment in our future be environmentally rewarding, it would stop the greedy from the destroying of our Texas heritage. The cost to the citizen would be a little over one dollar a month. My children and grandchildren are well worth it. Are yours? The entire city would benefit financially from tourist dollars, and the costs that would be associated from the absence of pollution from a similarly developed parcel of land. The desired growth plan eastward would help redevelop East Austin into a thriving community representing the various cultural groups that make Austin such a wonderful and inclusive place to live. Even the so-called "Property Rights" folks can't complain (but will) as landowners would be fairly compensated. Please recall this is mostly undeveloped land. While Houston would have Loop 610 and Dallas Loop 635, Austin would have Green Loop circling the entire city with needed roadways added in a sensible manner, not just to serve "future development." Sure there are some questions to be asked, but with this kind of planning, Austin just might escape the urban war zones that most large cities have become. Your dollar will be returned to you several times over.
What Am I Bid for Kurt
Lame duck Bill Clinton would do well to remember (or discover) just who sold who into slavery from Africa (circa 1700-1800) and that slave trading continues in Africa today!
For the countries who don't have a "white" population, who do they blame all their problems on?! Thank God for the death rattle of flaming liberalism.
Over the Hump
In recent letters in both the Chronicle and the Statesman, frustrated car drivers have deplored our city's practice of putting up signs that set a road's speed limit at 30mph, while simultaneously installing speed humps that slow the road's traffic to 20mph.
These drivers have a legitimate point. The 30mph and the speed humps are contradictory. In addition, speed humps are very expensive.
The reason for the city's strange behavior in this matter is that our local speed limits are set according to state and/or national laws. Thus, laws outside city control set speed limits on quiet residential streets at 30mph. Since the speed limit on many streets needs lowering for safety reasons, and the city is forbidden to lower the speed limit, it installs the costly speed humps that puzzle and frustrate motorists.
I suggest that our city work to get local control of speed limits on our local streets. Austin is by no means the only city desiring such local control. The Surface Transportation Policy Progress newsletter recently reported that some cities in upstate New York have lowered speed limits on some streets from 30mph to 20mph. As far as I have heard, the state of New York has not hassled them for this.
Let's get local control of our local speed limits, as well as placement of stop signs and traffic lights. This will reduce frustration on the part of motorists and save the city millions of dollars.
Indonesia and Out
To the Editor:
Our government's support of the IMF's $43 billion bailout for Indonesia should be opposed by anyone with a conscience and a voice. US support is substantial, with Clinton promising a $3 billion contribution to the IMF package and high-level officials making regular visits to Jakarta to smooth the deal.
One problem is that some of the IMF and US funds would be skimmed off the top by the corrupt and tottering Suharto regime. And after foreign investors - and foreign profit - get the rest, nothing would reach Indonesia's 100 million plus poor.
US support also violates federal law (those pesky details). US Code Title 22, section 262d states:
"The US Government, in connection with its voice and vote in the IMF, shall advance the cause of human rights...by seeking to channel assistance toward countries other than those whose governments engage in a pattern of gross violations of human rights." (Surf the Code at http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/)
Anyone doubting whether Suharto's New Order is so engaged should read Amnesty International's "Power and Impunity: Human rights under the new order." (Find it at http://www.amnesty.org/) The report cites "human rights violations on a staggering scale... hundreds of thousands of civilians killed." And, the clincher, "the violations are not isolated occurrences... they are the product of a network of institutions, standard operating procedures and ideological assumptions."
Sounds like a clear "pattern" here, one that the IMF and US funds would only encourage. Let's help end the repression by opposing our government's - illegal - support of the bailout.
Gordon Banner, Kelly Seal, Martin Seay
East Timor Action Network/Austin
I read recently and heard on local radio about Leonardo DiCaprio's decision not to attend the Oscars, because he felt snubbed. Now, it is highly unusual for me to agree with the Academy, but for once I think they got it right. It is my understanding (since I have not yet seen the film and can only consider what friends have told me about it) that other than special effects and music the film was one of the weakest of the year. On top of that, I fail to understand the fascination with Leonardo, because, in my humble opinion, he has not made a decent film since Gilbert Grape. I think the Academy recognized this and took it into consideration during the nominating process.
Titanic deserved many of the awards it received, because of its special effects and music. What the Academy did, though, was to recognize that exciting the senses as well as the brain are equally important in movie making. It recognized that Titanic awakened the visual and audio senses in all who saw it. Still, the Academy made sure that quality acting and character interpretation were also rewarded in all of the major categories. Best Actor, Jack Nicholson, Best Actress, Helen Hunt, Best Supporting Actor, Robin Williams, and Best Supporting Actress, Kim Basinger. All of these players were recognized not for their film's visual/audio stimulation, but for their wonderful acting perfomances.
That is the way it should be.
Park Barrel Politics
Yet Another UT parking garage????
UT Austin's plan to demolish the Maxey House and build another parking garage at West 27th and University is an example of that institution's administrative arrogance. Austin's central city and university areas do not need another parking garage to invite further traffic to congest our streets. Mass transit will never work in Austin if our highly paid institutional authorities flaunt sane planning principles for the central city. In addition, I find it intriguing that UT's administrators, including Ed Sharpe, who lines up each month for a hefty salary as vice president for administration (and soon to move in as system vice chancellor for academic affairs), should make such a planning blunder about the Maxey House. That they believed it was built in the 1970s indicates their incompetence. It was used as the residence of the Episcopal suffragan bishop in the 1960s. Someone needs to crack the whip over the head (and maybe across lower parts) of any administrator who even mentions the idea of another parking garage in Austin. Let students, faculty, staff, and especially administrators ride Capital Metro. It's the smart thing to do. You'd expect so-called educators would realize that.