Facts, Not Gossip
I am writing you this letter in response to an article about the Butthole Surfers that appeared in The Austin Chronicle ["Dancing About Architecture," Vol. 17, No. 33]. I am the publicist for the Butthole Surfers and was contacted by Ken Lieck with a few questions he had about the band. Not only was I misquoted in the subsequent article, my comments were also taken completely out of context.
The Chronicle used the Internet news service as a source, stating that the band's "A & R man just didn't hear a single, so the Buttholes will now be `reworking' some of the tracks," and quoting me responding "You can't believe everything you see on the Internet, but I would not be surprised." What I actually said was "You can't believe everything you read on the Internet." Mr. Lieck then asked if the band might be changing anything on the album. I responded "I would not be surprised if they did some tweaking, given that the street date was being pushed back." Therefore, Mr. Lieck twisted my quote to fit his agenda, which I believe was to write something nasty about the band.
The Butthole Surfers are an exceptional band who deserve better treatment from their hometown paper. The band have recorded another great album and I do hope that the next thing you publish about the band in your paper is not some gossip item, but a factual piece about the band' s music and their contribution to the Texas music scene.
I thank you for your time and attention with this matter.
Maria C. Malta, Capitol Records
Senior Director, Publicity & Media Relations
Texas Turnpike Authority biographer Jesse Sublett was correct when he observed in last week's letters section that there was indeed an independent agency in Texas known as the Texas Turnpike Authority (see "Pete's Principle," [Vol. 17, No. 37]) prior to 1997. Shortly after Mr. Sublett's 1995 History of the Texas Turnpike Authority was published, however, that agency was abolished by the Legislature, effective Sept. 1, 1997. I will forgive Mr. Sublett for not following the agency's progress after completing his book if he will agree to forgive me for not reading it. Two new agencies were formed in 1997: 1) the North Texas Tollway Authority, which took over some of the duties of the old TTA; and 2) the Texas Turnpike Authority Division of the Texas Department of Transportation. Similar name, but the new TTA is not an independent agency like the previous one, and it has a limited jurisdiction. The new division also has a brand new board, which met for the first time ever on Oct. 22, 1997, and a new executive director and staff. That fits my defintion of "newly formed," if not Sublett's.
Having traveled to Mexico extensively for about 35 years, residing there for the past nine, I must compliment you on the excellent presentation, "Mexico or Bust" [Vol. 17, No. 38].
Over those 35-plus years, I have bought and digested most of the guidebooks published in English or Spanish and, in general, agree with Ms. Messer that two of the best are those published by Lonely Planet and Moon Handbooks. While there exists a guidebook for every taste and need (including backpacking, bicycling, "beach-bumming," scuba diving, shopping, bird watching, etc.) until recently there has been a scarcity of gay guides. It is not suprising, therefore, that Gay Mexico - The Men of Mexico, by Edouard David and The Floating Lotus Publishers was overlooked.
As a traveled gay, I consider The Men of Mexico to be the best of the lot because of its accuracy and up-to-date information. I understand that the third edition is due this week and is an update of the second. Both are bilingual - a great help for the shy and/or Spanish-deficient - and include appropriate information for our lesbian sisters. The first edition is a collectors' item, both for its chit-chatty style and its inclusion of out-of-the-way and unknown places.
Keep up your great "Friends of Mexico" work and tradition.
Turtles & Tourists
Sweet stuff. A family vacation in Akumal, ["Mexico or Bust," Vol. 17, No. 36] "the place of the turtles," while the turtles are being driven off there and all down that coast of Mexico by resorts springing up and catering to the foreign tourists. Turtles that have nested there for millenia and return by some sort of primordial navigation to their birth beach.
Finding "happiness" on Isla Mujeres? Well, let's all go there and git some! Catch a plane to Cancun and we'll be in white sand in two hours.
Sorry. The other pieces I found enjoyable and informative, even compassionate sometimes. But I lived on that coast for four years and since have watched it slide into a Disneylandish nightmare. Once was pristine, enchanted, and home to many species of this planet, champion of biodiversity in the known galaxy, it is now being raped in the great Mexican tradition of the last 400 years.
If anybody would like to know the other side of the story from the shining hotels and modern airport and people serving drinks with tranquilo, check out http://www.turtledisaster.com.
Would You Like Fries With That Frequency?
As recent articles in the Chronicle show, the McDonaldization of American radio is now in full swing. I urge anyone who is shocked by the recent developments to visit the website of Americans for Radio Diversity at http://www.radiodiversity.com. This is a grassroots organization formed after the takeover of a popular independent station in Minneapolis by a large corporation. I know how Austinites value their diversity in live music - does radio deserve any less?
Regarding the State's exemption from local zoning and development laws, it was gratifying to hear, from Mr. Mattox, that we do have some choices - prisons, mental hospitals, or large traffic-generating suburban-type malls. Of course, the last two are already in place, and those of us in nearby neighborhoods surrounded by all the traffic, are beginning to feel we are in the first.
After reading the sententious huff and puff of most State officials, I'm trying to decide whether to write in Susan Moffat, co-chair of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association, or Sabrina Burmeister, co-founder of Neighbors of Triangle Park, in the November gubernatorial election. Or better yet, maybe one for governor and one for attorney general.
You Sober Up!
Sober up dude! I read you every week - but this pea thing is weird ["Coach's Corner," Vol. 17, No.37]. I lived in Texas for 45 years and never saw a pea in a Mexican restaurant. Just change your hangout.
P.S.: I went to the NCAA Sweet 16 here in St. Pete, Fla. What a bunch of incompetents. They had years to prepare - yet the sidewalks and the roads were torn up. I moved here to the beach last summer (got really tired of the Austin Police Dept.). Austin changed and I had trouble changing with it. No problem! I am not rich - living in a mobile that will blow away in a hurricane - but it's been safe since 1958. Hook 'em Horns.
UT '59 & Del Valle County Jail 199? - I forget!
I'll have another Margareti (sic)
Jeez, Lighten Up, Neal!
I know that you "gun" haters wet your pants at the mention of the word "gun," but not everything with gun in the subject path is a firearm. For instance, a "grease" gun is not a gun! It provides grease with which to lube things like vehicles or in your case, bicycles. A spray gun issues forth paint or color, some of you may use one to make the bizarre portrayals you pass off as "art." A nail gun is used to build things, like houses, you know, where the non-homeless live. A glue gun puts glue on things so they stick together.
So did you notice? All these things are "guns." All of them could be used to beat someone to death with, or nail them to death or poison someone. Now, a pellet gun is not a firearm. When you tell people that the young person that assaulted the other person with a pellet gun should be banned from graduating because the "no tolerance for firearms" policy was violated, you show your ignorance. A pellet gun uses air to propel a pellet down the barrel. And no matter how hard you try, you can't ban air! Now if you want to kick that kid out for assaulting someone and acting like an ass, that's okay.
But don't blame "guns."
And I've mentioned the word "gun" more than 10 times, so you are probably swimming in your own urine right now. I should go buy stock in the Depends company.
P.S. If you think that guns should be banned, then come and take it. I have enough ammo stored up to make the first few thousand gun-haters that try to take my guns "good liberals."
It's Called Compromise
I considered Lee Nichols' article ["Media Clips," Vol. 17, No. 36] on the differences between the policy views and public positions of Daryl Slusher the journalist and Daryl Slusher the city councilmember to be fair comment on a subject that has been bandied about in progressive circles for some time now. That said, I do believe Scott Henson's follow-up letter ["Postmarks," Vol. 17, No.37] is worthy of further discussion.
Mr.Henson plays fast and loose with his facts and allegations, and seems to have used Kayte VanScoy's weekly city hall gossip column (otherwise known as "Council Watch") as his source material. It should come as no surprise then that while some of the allegations were factually correct, they were also over-dramatized and misleading.
The allegation that Daryl was "pimping" for the convention center seemed especially egregious. The very nature of the accusation suggests that someone was paying. Who exactly? Moreover, when I saw Daryl stump for the bonds he talked almost exclusively about Prop 2. In fact, he worked his ass off to see that it passed, and has received very little recognition for his effort.
And let's not forget that all three bond propositions received the overwhelming support of the entire environmental community. At a specially called meeting of Austin environmentalists (with everyone from Yellow Bikers and Earth Firsters to the Audobon Society and the Nature Conservancy) the vote was 69 to 1 to support all three bonds. Add to that the official endorsements of S.O.S., Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, Save Barton Creek, and The Austin Chronicle. That's a long list of pimps.
I have often (and sometimes publicly) disagreed with Daryl and other city councilmembers on their specific decisions. However, I tend to see these differences as due to honest and open disagreements about the city's direction and process, and not as the pandering and even corruption that Mr. Henson's letter implies.
Someone we agree with 85-95% of the time is not our enemy. Obviously Daryl makes mistakes, but he is most assuredly doing what he believes is best for Austin and the people who live and work here. I, for one, am grateful.
Thanks for the space,
The Bible Tells Kurt So
Nauseating heresy has fallen to a new low in the pages of the Chronicle. ("Revival of the Spirit" and "The Bible Tells Us So," Vol.17, No.38) "The Bible Tells Us So" is all but laughable. There is no doubt this proof-texting is just a bastard offspring of wishful thinking. Let's address this heresy line by line. Start with Genesis 18 (not 19); 18:20 states, "The people of Sodom and Gomorrah are utterly evil and everything they do is wicked." "To know" means "To have sex with." In Genesis 19:8, Lot offers his two virgin daughters in place of the New Visitors Sodomites had demanded "to know." (This isn't rocket science, folks.)
Neo-Sodomites shoot themselves in the foot by quoting Ezekiel 16:48 in defense of homosexuality. Neo-Sodomites, like biblical sodomites, are proud (and non-repentant) of their sins, such as they are/were.
Leviticus 18 and 20 outline what is and is not fornication (sexual sin). Please read both chapters and get back to me on which rules you don't agree with, and why. Bethune's proof-texting heresy begs the question; where are the rules in the Bible that address homosexuality in any positive light? Heterosexuality and its rules are well-known and outlined in the Bible. Where are the rules of homosexuality outlined? They aren't! All homosexuality is forbidden, Bethune, not just faggotism and prostitution.
The ending "side note" by Kayte VanScoy proclaiming that "scholars" are "now fairly certain that James was a homosexual." Q: Which James, which scholars, and on what "facts" do they base this latest pro-homosexual creed? R.S.V.P.
Acts 15:20 and 15:28-29 confirm that the laws relative to sexual sin (see Lev. 18 and 20) were still in effect after the Coming of the Holy Spirit. Sorry Bethune, but your "Baptist autonomy" will never supercede the true word of God.
Grunge No More
In my five years of living in Austin I have finally become aware of something that I thought I would never experience while living here. The radio stations are hardly playing grunge anymore! The mesmerizing spell grunge had on Austin youth seems to finally be wearing off. I no longer have to cringe at the ever-monotonous sound of "hippie rock." Instead, I can enjoy the clever, swirling melodies of bands like Black Lab and Semisonic. Maybe now Austin high school students will finally realize that they're not really hippies and that taking showers daily is actually okay. Maybe now they'll realize that Mother Nature actually enjoys a big juicy steak once in a while. (Sure, Gardenburgers are okay, but they give you really bad gas.) I can't believe that a native El Pasoan has a better sense of musical appreciation than thousands of people who have had the privilege of living in the "Live Music Capital of the World." Anyways, I will continue to force the music of the Smiths and Depeche Mode into every ear within listening range, and continue my plight against the THA (Tree Huggers of America). Thank you Austin for finally waking up! Thank you for giving me a reason to stay.
Science Is Our Friend
Jack Vincent says ["Postmarks," Vol.17, No.38] he was taught that "science is knowledge." But science isn't knowledge - it's an approach to knowledge.
He claims that "there's no such thing as objective observation," and talks about scientists "changing phenomena by focusing their attention on them." I assume he's referring to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle: we can't know a particle's position and momentum both. The reason why is purely physical. Measuring a particle requires bumping into it - but particles are the tiniest things there are! Nothing is small enough to bump them without changing their position or momentum. This has nothing to do with "attention," and it's insignificant when dealing with larger objects.
He concludes that "scientific knowledge will always be fluid and changing and reflect more the state of mind of the scientist than outer reality." There is a grain of truth in this. Conclusions from scientific inquiry do change over time, but not because of "states of mind." The universe is huge and ancient. Many phenomena are remote in space or time. Scientists can only draw tentative conclusions from what they have observed. Later observations may require revision of old conclusions. Refining theories about remote phenomena isn't a "problem" - it's science's greatest contribution.
He says isolating phenomena for study deprives them of context. Well, the behavior of a pure chemical may not match its behavior when mixed with other things, but it will tell us how it acts when it's pure. These studies aren't devoid of context - each is a specific context.
Finally, he says "the big lie" is that "science and technology enhance the quality of life." What standard does he use to measure quality of life? Lifespan has risen from 30 years in ancient times to 80 nowadays.
We need better science education, not attacks on science's imaginary flaws.
Love Your Technology
Jack Vincent writes ["Postmarks," Vol. 17, No. 38] that because perception may involve alteration of the object of perception, "scientific knowledge... [is] more the state of mind of the scientist than outer reality." I suppose Newton's mechanics were also a mere bias, and maybe gravity doesn't work if one makes up their mind that it doesn't. By the way, what the heck is "outer reality" supposed to mean?
Jack is correct that knowledge must have context, which includes the precepts it is based on. Calling science subjective assumes that precepts are subjective, which they aren't: They're an automatic process. I might be colorblind - that's my state of mind - but objects still reflect light in "colorful" wavelengths. And despite such a hindrance on my perceptive ability, colors still exist and I can still reason about them (differently than other people can, but still objectively).
As for his other point, stating that "each" technological advancement reduces our quality of life would indicate that he must prefer living in a cave to living in a house; he can't have it both ways. Outright damnation of technology seems pretty queer when it's printed in a newspaper!
Shooters Are Victims
In the recent media discussions concerning the subject of school shootings many contributing factors have been blamed, but the main reason has been either overlooked or ignored. School children evolve their own pecking orders similar to a dog pack with a bully or a "most popular" as the alpha dog. The alpha designates the omega and they engage in its continuous harrassment. If the omega effaces him or herself and accepts the low position, then the pack makes a slight adjustment and the abuse takes on a lighthearted tone. However, if the omega does not accept its place, he or she becomes an outsider. In Japan there is a rash of school-related suicides caused by the same phenomena. There they respond by killing themselves, whereas here they kill their tormentors or those more fortunate to have been accepted by the group. The problem is acceptance vs. rejection and the outsiders are pushed beyond their limits by those who refuse to acknowledge the humanity of their victims. No amount of counseling or parental love can give the outsider the unattainable acceptance of the "in crowd" which is the remedy or cure. Who among us, the readers, doesn't recall from our own school days the poor unfortunate children who were mercilessly tormented for being new or different? I guarantee you that at each school where a shooting occurred those kids know why the shooter "went postal." In Japan they are considering legislation to prosecute the kids who drive their peers to suicide. I suggest that sensitivity classes be made mandatory at all levels in public schools.
Bike Plan Falls Short
This week's "Council Watch" [Vol. 17, No.38] cited the bicycle plan as a measure that will reduce the number of miles driven by car in Austin, and hence improve air quality. While the bicycle plan is a step in the right direction, it may be too small a step to acheive anything by itself. More is needed.
The bicycle plan calls for the bike lanes - that is, stripes on the roads. It also calls for no car parking in new bike lanes. Car parking in most already-existing bike lanes is permitted in Austin. This makes Austin's already-existing bike lanes a hazard to bicyclists.
An ordinance forbidding cars to park in already-existing bicycle lanes will be discussed this summer. Let's hope it passes. I've asked car drivers what they would need in order to bicycle to work. The most frequent answers are: a) secure bicycle parking at the workplace; b) park-and-ride transit for bicycles, with secure bicycle parking at the transit stop; c) ways to cross busy streets safely and easily. It is very discouraging, when riding a bicycle, to sit in the sun by the side of a busy street and wait, while car after hot, smelly car whizzes by. Pedestrian and bicyclist crossing of busy streets can be facilitated by bridges or tunnels, or (more cheaply) by push-button pedestrian lights at midblock locations, like the one on 45th Street in front of the School for the Blind.
Visible walking and bicycling (instead of car driving) by prominent citizens would also be encouraging. If the city wants people to bicycle rather than drive cars, it needs to take some practical steps beyond approving the bicycle plan.
I think it's great that Dan Morales is slapping the Governor with a $25 million fine for tortious interference in the tobacco settlement.
Now, if only Janet Reno will appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the special prosecutor Starr.
Sorry to learn you found my letter concerning Daryl Slusher ["Postmarks," Vol. 17, No. 38] "egregious" and thought I had a "personal ax to grind." Though I have no desire to get in a public feud with you (or really, for that matter, Daryl, though it may not seem that way), I wanted to correct a couple of your mistaken impressions.
First, not only is it not "ludicrous" that Daryl "nixed" S.O.S. restrictions for the benefit of Circle C homeowners, it is history. Though the council had every legal right to impose these restrictions, Slusher and the council chose not to, ostensibly out of fear over what the Legislature would do to them if they weren't "reasonable." That's not me talking, that's the Chronicle, Bill Bunch, etc. It's also history that as a journalist Daryl criticized councilmembers incesssantly for not imposing S.O.S. restrictions when they had a legal opportunity. Why should his performance not be measured by that same yardstick?
As for the Austin Police Association, the event you referred to happened soon after he got in and is ancient history. Didn't you hear? The council gave the cops a $27 million raise without requiring one concession related to curbing brutality incidents, and Jesus Garza declared we'd reached a "new era" in council-police relations. Though I can't prove it, it's my firm belief that this vote was an explicit quid pro quo deal to keep the police from endorsing our incumbents' opponents in the next two rounds of elections. When the issue came up, I and a few other folks wanted to speak against it, but the council (which had only discussed this $27 million bone in executive session) had placed the item on the consent agenda to be passed with no discussion. Daryl refused to set the item for a time certain, but informed me of his decision too late to get another councimember's assistance (21/2 hours before the meeting). He told me later that he did this because he knew I would criticize the police and he "just didn't want to piss off the cops."
In the months that preceded and followed that egregious, backroom deal, I'd tried to get Daryl to begin looking at the mounting incidents of police brutality, particularly the Cedar Avenue incident but also others. Daryl said he would, but it turned out he was only humoring me. Months went by and he never lifted a finger, despite my reminders and periodic letters or questions about what he was doing. By the time the Cedar Avenue trial came up, Daryl wasn't returning my phone calls. When I finally cornered him, he claimed he legaLly couldn't talk about a lawsuit, though other councilmembers talked to me. Even so, his inaction speaks volumes. My prediction: The police will, because of the pay raise vote, either endorse Daryl or stay out of his race next year; same with the rest of them. And in return, I expect neither Daryl nor any of his cohorts to seriously attempt to regulate the police in any way, especially on police brutality. He's essentially said as much, and at this point I would have to see some leadership from him on brutality issues before I'd believe any differently.
Next, let me say I seriously doubt you've seen "a lot of people similar to" me, period, and your analysis of my motivations for this letter are way off base. I don't expect Daryl to agree with me on every issue and don't think I can "push him around." Nor do I expect anyone to "follow" me anywhere, and would shoo them way if they did. On the other hand, I've got just as much right to express my opinion as the next guy, and if I think Daryl's wrong I'm damn well gonna say so. If you don't like it, tough, but don't expect me to "leave mad." I've watched a lot of liberal politicians sell out over the years, and just because Daryl was a committed activist for two decades doesn't mean he's not a candidate. If folks had called Ann Richards on the carpet every time she ran to the center, maybe she wouldn't have alienated her liberal base, Austin and the Rio Grande Valley wouldn't have turned out low for her, and she could have beaten George Bush and be governor today. As Jim Hightower puts it, in politics as in life, there's nothing in the middle of the road but a yellow stripe and dead armadillos.
I didn't work my ass off for Daryl Slusher so he could get up there and be the fourth or fifth best councilmember on the dais. I did it because I thought he would be a leader, that he would push an agenda left of the mainstream, like all of his columnist and campaign rhetoric. For his first year, he did. But now that we've got this 7-0 council, he's decided to go along to get along. He has told me that I should "never expect" him "to go against this mayor on anything significant," and frankly, the mayor's a lot more conservative than I am. The votes I named in that letter aren't anomalies, they're evidence of a definite shift in Daryl's focus and ideology - a coopting by the centrist elements on the council. You may not like me saying it in public, but I'm not "making up things."
Finally, I'll leave you with a thought from Charles Baudelaire which sums up my purpose in criticizing Daryl:
"If, when a man has fallen into habits of idleness, of laziness and of sloth, putting off his most important duties continually till the morrow, another man were to wake him one fine morning with the heavy blows of a whip, and were to whip him mercilessly until he who would not work for pleasure now worked for fear, would not that man, the chastiser, indeed be his benefactor and truest friend?"
Jesus, what's with these native cultures? Robbed at Zilker, broad daylight Sunday afternoon, some Anglo tells me to "forget about it" while a family picnic loots my unattended vehicle.
W.J. ("Chuck") Lee