Music Greats Overlooked
What began as a meaningful institution, the Chronicle's Texas Music Hall of Fame, is fast becoming an embarrassment -- with the help of the Chronicle staff, it seems. The recent practice of listing nominees in this category (while none appear in other categories) is misguided and somewhat suspicious. If this is supposed to be a nod to unsung local talent, then call it such. If it's supposed to recognize the giants who made Texas the greatest and most varied musical hotbed in America, consider some of the greats yet to be inducted -- whom the staff apparently didn't think merited a nomination.
Country: Ernest Tubb, George Jones, Johnny Bush, Roger Miller. Blues: Blind Lemon Jefferson, Leadbelly, Charles Brown, Clarence Gatemouth Brown, Z.Z. Hill. Rock and Roll: Johnny Horton, Bobby Fuller, Ronnie Dawson, Sam the Sham & the Pharoahs, the Nightcaps. Jazz: Charlie Christian, Illinois Jacquet, Herb Ellis, David Fathead Newman, Austin-born Teddy Wilson. R&B: King Curtis, Barbara Lynn, Amos Milburn, Percy Mayfield. Conjunto/Tejano: Lydia Mendoza, Freddy Fender, Little Joe y la Familia, Sunny & the Sunliners/Sunglows, Selena. Western Swing: Milton Brown, Hank Thompson, Johnny Gimble, the Lightcrust Doughboys, and the bands Asleep at the Wheel and the Texas Playboys (not just their leaders). Gospel: Blind Willie Johnson, Elmer Aikens. The people the Chronicle instead nominated are no doubt deserving of some sort of recognition, but the notion of inducting Tina Marsh before the jazz titans listed above is ludicrous, and I'm sure Monte Warden would agree that his career has yet to hit its stride, let alone peak. This is as if baseball's Hall of Fame inducted Sammy Sosa prior to Babe Ruth. Don't let those I've listed and so many others become the Roger Marises of Texas music.
Oops! I almost forgot the Classical category. Has anyone on the Chronicle staff heard of Van Cliburn?
I recently lost my grandmother and felt very connected to Anne Lewis' story about Cordie Gilbert ["Cordie's Walks," Vol.18, No.20]. My grandmother was also very connected to the local community around her, and your story reminds me how much our senior citizens impact all of our lives. Thanks again for a heartwarming story and a reminder to keep an open mind and open heart for those around us.
OK, Mike Clark-Madison, you got me. Your "Top Nine Buzzwords" [Vol.18, No.19] made me stop and laugh at myself for my zeal regarding the promises of Smart Growth, New Urbanism, etc. As my friends and co-workers can attest, I do foam at the mouth occasionally about the virtues of denser, mixed-use neighborhoods. They also look at me kind of strange as I bicycle-commute day in and day out. Yeah, I'm one of those people who read Amy B's letters every week in the Chronicle and scream, "You go, Girl!" I do, however, hope that you devote equal time and space in your column to lampoon the sprawl that is engulfing us ... or are strip malls, asphalt-ocean parking lots, endless traffic jams, horrific air quality, and thousands of SUVs with cattle guards (CATTLE GUARDS!!!!?????) your idea of utopia?
Planes, Trains, & Babich
At first glance, Don Petit's stated point of view (that heaven and earth should be moved immediately to widen I-35 to handle an eightfold increase in truck traffic, expected as a result of the NAFTA agreement) seems too silly even to consider. But this point of view is aired every day in government circles, and given money and approval. So we had better address it.
If it is true that, as Mr. Petit claims, one-fourth of the world's trade goods are to travel up and down I-35, then our course is clear: A railroad must be built along I-35. If the traffic volume on I-35 is really to increase eightfold, expanding the highway to handle it is impracticable. Highway I-35 currently consists of six lanes (three in each direction). It is not feasible to expand to 48 lanes (24 in each direction). Instead, it's time to build a train line.
A train line would be much less polluting and less of a public safety hazard than several million trucks careening up and down a 50-lane highway. Trains are much cleaner, safer, more space-efficient, and more fuel-efficient than trucks.
As a result of the highly effective war against trains waged by the car, oil, and rubber companies in this country, we have nearly no trains here. Americans travel by car and airplane -- the most polluting forms of transportation in the world. Goods transport is mostly by truck. This is extremely expensive, polluting, wasteful, and dangerous.
As for Mr. Petit's suggestion that we give highway builders a free hand, and suspend all worries about flood control, endangered species, air and water pollution, public safety, and expense, it's a very silly idea indeed.
Traffic Jam Ruminations
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
Why cannot portable traffic signs be placed at critical decision-making points well before jammed I-35/MoPac on-ramps, so that drivers may be advised that "in-town route is preferable"? Sign messages could be set up with pocket pager technology so that Lt. Calvin Smith's office could type in "faster or preferred" alternate routes minute by minute if necessary? Such as; "Northbound/Southbound Lamar is faster/more preferred than I-35/MoPac at this time." Use brilliantly coded flourescent green arrows at detour points in town, well in time for safe decision-making for drivers to stay "in town." For several weeks, hire extra (retired?) officers in uniform to staff tricky situations and intersections, until drivers get used to options.
Questions with regard to extraordinary financial considerations: How many vehicles on average occupy a mile of each traffic jam per lane? Also, within each mile, how many persons occupy each vehicle? How is the value of the time of each person computed? Taxicab "waiting time" might be a good value to use, which is $18 per hour. As a certified mechanic since 1977, I can assure you that the heat of the summer adds enormously to the wear and tear on an automatic transmission. Prices in Austin have escalated painfully. Although I do not service them myself, simple calls to a dozen transmission shops will not only confirm this, but your research might actually horrify you as to all the costs. I am seeing vehicles that are "totalled" as a result. (Conservatively, a minimum of $2 per hour is added due to extra wear of an automatic transmission if the outside temperature is above 95º while stopped in traffic. Scheduled fluid changes are absolutely crucial.)
How does stress from our traffic impact the remainder of the work day?
If the problem with the traffic at Ben White and I-35 as far as TXDoT is concerned is only that of money, why don't they temporarily borrow money for a year so that the time-savings of all those poor people in traffic every day offsets the cost of the low simple interest? Why can there not be competition of quality and expeditiousness for segmented construction of each of the ramps of the Ben White/I-35 cloverleaf to four different construction firms in order to expedite construction of the sorely needed cloverleaf? The Japanese constructed a complete turnpike in Okinawa for the 1976 World's Fair by assigning segments of the job to different firms, and finished a quality job in only a year.
Is TXDoT locked in by law to only one way of doing business? Can that be changed by the Legislature? Why cannot the rules of land condemnation be revised (for these very highly specific cases), in order to better empower the vastly underserved needs of the many, who have to spend 10% of their free time in traffic jams? It would be a very moral and proper thing to condemn commercial properties at 125% of cost in these extraordinary cases.
Gretchen Does Raoul
I couldn't pass up this occasion to thank Greg Beets, Michael Corcoran, and Jason Cohen for being so good to me in '98. Raoul, thank you for giving me this opportunity to do so via your "Live Shots" review of Kris McKay [Vol.18, No.20]:
Gretchen Phillips has always been a bit embarrassed by her straight male following. After all, the longtime local singer-songwriter, who moved back from San Francisco a year ago, has never claimed to be heterosexual. On the contrary, she's lesbian. And yet over her many years of performing, a sizable portion of Phillips' audience has revealed itself to be straight men. Not that she isn't grateful; anyone who pays a cover charge or writes good reviews is reason enough to give thanks, and Phillips' audience has proved a loyal one. Still, the singer's music does target a particular segment of society, one defined by sexual orientation, so it's curious to find this specific demographic revealing itself in her fan base. Is it Phillips' considerable charisma? A voice at once delicate and steely? Songs steeped in emotional confessionalism that are disarming in their frankness? All of these, most likely; hers is a strong feminine voice in a time when strong feminine voices are at the height of their popularity in the marketplace. Lezzie-rock? Well, alright!
Seeking Answers to Drug Problem
Thanks for Mitchell's letter on getting drugs easily in Austin ["Postmarks," Vol.18, No.19]. Notice the irony; his letter about musician friends flirting with heroin addiction and the Austin Music Awards announcement -- same page. Music is healing, poppies are pretty, but life is dark when it turns out that your Austin musician son's hints that "some changes need to be made" turns out to mean that he has to kick heroin. For years I've watched him and his attractive, talented friends go through tremendous changes, from emergency hocking and unhocking musical instruments to ripping each other off to calling 911 when someone stops breathing after ingesting/injecting who knows what. I'm writing because I feel bewildered, angry, helpless. Are there other people who want to do something about this situation without "enabling" those they love and without turning into a prudish shrew? (Mitchell was "enabling" his friend by lying for him.) As poet Edward Dorn wrote, "America is unthinkable without drugs" reminding us of the Boston Tea Party. Remember the Eighties, Iran Contra, drugs for money, CIA involvement, etc? Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against government per se, nothing against drugs per se, but having practiced criminal law in Austin for 13 years, I don't believe criminalizing drug possession is an answer. (Although I recognize that prisons are big business.) We sometimes would count cases on the dockets of the Criminal Courts here, noticing that usually half are drug-related, many theft-related, so likely tangentially drug-related.
I'd welcome hearing from other people, musicians, parents, people in recovery, in the throes of addiction, in the criminal justice system, the "community supervision" system, anyone concerned about easy access to drugs in Austin. The system appears broken; I can't fix it. So I'm not practicing criminal law anymore. I'm trying to heal myself, my family, and be a good friend to those I love. We of the Sixties are not dead yet, but some of our children may be soon. Unless we make some changes Austin will be Plano.
Don't Blame Drugs
Hey Chronicle Dudes,
I'm writing you this letter because I'm tired of these bootlicking conservatives blaming all the world's problems on drugs and/or liberals.
They're always trying to pawn words like personal responsibility off on other people, though they never seem to grasp the meaning themselves. Just because you do a little heroin or a hit of crack doesn't mean you can rape some chick or rob a bank.
I have been doing drugs for 22 years and I never raped or robbed anybody, and although it's not politically correct to say so I'm a happy, well-adjusted person.
Maybe if some of these Pat Boone lookalikes would look in the mirror they would find out what the real problem is, or better yet why don't these fake beer drinking yankees like George Bush Jr. go back to their own states and run them.
Abrazos, Aficionados de Samba
Since the late 1980s, my band Samba Police and I have had a standing date of sorts with some 3,000 Austinites at the yearly Brazilian-style Carnaval. It has been a pleasure and a thrill to perform for such a zany, fun-loving, and appreciative audience, and we will never forget those nights.
Unfortunately, we will not be appearing at the Coliseum this year, and I thought the pages of the Chronicle an appropriate place to express our thanks to all the audience members who year after year welcomed us back with high spirits and enthusiasm. There are the familiar faces I see at the foot of the stage year after year, and the guy who every year came to the stage to present me with a little gift ... I hope you all read this.
We are not, however, quitting the music business, and will present our own Brazilian Carnaval show, "A Night in Brazil," at La Zona Rosa on February 27. A portion of the proceeds will benefit homeless street children in Maceiô, Alagôas, Brazil.
Again, thank you, Austin, for years of support. May there be many more.
Susanna Sharp and Samba Police
Wake Up to "Power Elite"
For over a year the American public have been fed a nonstop diet of titillating "news" about Bill Clinton's sexual liaison with Monica Lewinsky and the resulting impeachment trial. Yes, Bill Clinton did commit perjury and did obstruct justice, and for this, he should by law be removed from office. However, the bigger crime is that the predominant media has suppressed the real information concerning events surrounding Clinton's tenure as both governor of Arkansas and as president. The following are just some of the extremely serious events that have been swept under the rug: 1. "Filegate" involved FBI files being used illegally against Clinton-Gore opponents; 2. "Canalgate" is where communist Chinese ally Hutchison Whompoa was accepted as "gatekeeper" of the Panama Canal in violation of the Canal Treaties; 3. The murder of Vince Foster; 4. The murder of Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown; 5. Illegal manipulation of commodities trading in which the Clintons made $100,000 from less than $1,000; 6. "Chinagate" involves Loral Inc. which gave millions to the Clinton-Gore campaign and in exchange received a waiver to sell national defense technology to communist China. This super-secret technology has allowed the Chinese to perfect their ability to deliver intercontinental nuclear warheads on American cities. These and other acts of criminal conduct and treason deserve the attention of the American people.
This orchestration of news is not unique to the Clinton period, it has been going on for decades. However, until and unless the citizens of this country (you) wake up to the reality that a self-proclaimed "power elite" control and manipulate our predominant media, we will continue to be lead down the primrose path of political correctness which will result in the loss of our freedoms.
He Don't Know Jesus
As much as I like reading Michael Ventura's "Letters at 3AM," I must agree with Stephen K. Cunningham that Ventura doesn't have a clue about Jesus ["Postmarks," Vol.18, No.20]. Ventura must have been listening to sodomite heretics posing as Christians when he penned his screed on Jesus. There seems to be a lot of that going on around here in New Sodom, TX.
P.S. Mary, the mother of Jesus, did have three other children after Jesus; James, Jude, and a sister, Ruth.
On Thursday, 7 January 1999, I was eyewitness to what has become a daily occurrence on RR1431 west of Cedar Park. I was going home from work when an automobile rear-ended a front end loader directly in front of me. Quick reflexes is all that kept me from hitting the car. After calling 911, I went to render first aid while awaiting for EMS technicians to arrive. While the injured loader operator was able to get his machine off the road, an elderly gentleman in the automobile was in serious condition. I did everything I could to help him. One of the EMS technicians told me a couple of minutes after they arrived that he had died. Even though I did not know the gentleman (and have so far not been able to find out his name), I was devastated.
This was the second accident in 22 days on 1431 to directly affect me. On 16 December 1998, my best friend at work was seriously injured in a four-car pile-up in front of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church where we work caring for children in the church's childhood center. Her six-year-old son miraculously escaped with only minor cuts and bruises. I do not know the status of the people in the other vehicles.
I hear the sirens every day. I see the ambulances and fire trucks drive past the church. My guess is that 75% of the time they are responding to an accident between Cedar Park and Jonestown. While most of these are probably fender benders, at least once a week there is a serious accident. Most are rear-end collisions because there is no center turn lane.
Texas prides itself on having the best and safest roads in the USA. The state needs to literally put its money where its mouth is. The addition of a center turn lane seems like a simple solution. Perhaps adding more traffic signals and reducing the speed limit would help.
Cedar Park, Travis and Williamson Counties, and the Texas Highway Department must do something to make this stretch of highway safer. Or are they going to wait until a mom and her kids leaving our childhood center are killed before they do anything about it?
Darrell W. Isenberg