The Sweet Science
I commend the Chronicle for the excellent piece on boxing, and for giving the subject front page prominence ["The Good Fight," Vol.18, No.22]. Although I do not know Mr. Vela, I knew other such dedicated people like him during my years as an amateur boxer, and I admire both his commitment and your willingness to call attention to his hard work.
I began my training in another city, in a police department-run gym, where the trainer was also a volunteer (a wonderful man named Colis Phillips). I continued my training at the Pan Am gym, not under Mr. Vela, but under Martin Ortiz, another guy who was nice enough to give me his time and help me become a winner at the Golden Gloves at the luxurious City Coliseum. After that, I trained with Richard Lord, one of the first pupils in his then-newly opened "concentration camp" (you don't know "abs" until you know Richard).
All of these men were/are generous, hard-working, and honest people who I think epitomize boxing. I am frustrated at the constant bad-mouthing this sport receives from those quite ignorant of "the sweet science," such as the recent diatribe by media personality Jeff Ward, who referred to boxing as a sport for idiots and animals. It is this type of attitude again born out of a knowledge limited to the antics of a very small minority's (read: Tyson, King, Spinks) stupid antics, and the occasional death, that leads to so-called intellectual members of our community calling for the sport to be banned.
Do we call for the elimination of all football programs based on the antics of some of the Dallas Cowboys (or even, dare I say it, our own Longhorns)? Or the end of basketball programs because of the deaths of new NBA recruits?
I wish the opponents of boxing would pull their heads out of their asses long enough to get an unobstructed look at the benefits programs like ABAD offer to kids, so often kids with no other positive outlets for their energy, and at the upstanding behavior of professionals like George Foreman, Sugar Ray Leonard, and even our own Richard Lord, and maybe they'll get a clue.
Military Helped King
I would like to offer you my disgust at your inclusion of Lee Nichols' insulting opinions in the "Naked City" column [Vol.18, No.21]. In his coverage of the MLK holiday march he snidely insulted those in the uniformed services with his anti-military comments referring to the Army band that played at the march's culmination. Though Dr. King's message to the world was very pacifistic and nonviolent, for which he is to be eternally commended, Nichols' assumptions as to how King should be appropriately honored are reckless and forgetful. What he forgets in slighting the military's presence at this celebration is the role that it has played in both the early Civil Rights struggles and in the subsequent desegregation of this nation. In both the Little Rock High School and University of Mississippi desegregation efforts the ultimate peacemakers in these violent clashes were military units. The reason that these institutions were forced to accept blacks was the presence of either National Guard units or the Army's 101st Airborne. These soldiers risked their own safety to end the violence occurring and to ensure desegregation. What Nichols also does not account for is the remarkable role the military has played in making opportunities available to minorities in the years since these incidents. Today the Armed Services are a shining example of the integration and equality that civilian society is still struggling to reach. Nichols should ask Gen. Colin Powell or any of the multitude of blacks in the military if they feel they have the right to appear in uniform at a celebration of Dr. King.
King admirer and proud U.S. Marine
It's Beyond Our Control
Less Standiford, more Spooner.
Save Swimmers and Salamanders
I attended a meeting of winter swimmers at Barton Springs Pool on Sunday, January 31. Some very invasive construction is slated to begin soon at Barton Springs, quite possibly closing the pool for half the summer, and it's unclear to people how to stop it.
The construction is being done in the name of saving the Barton Springs salamander. The most controversial part of the project requires replacing the underwater pebble beach in the western end of the pool with a concrete walkway. Building this walkway requires drilling at least six feet into the bottom of the pool.
As speakers at the meeting pointed out, drilling big holes in the salamander's habitat is likely to be very disruptive to the salamander. No studies have been done to determine whether drilling and paving with concrete might kill or otherwise adversely affect the salamanders.
The swimmers reported that they can't get anyone to take responsibility for the drill-and-pave idea. Fish and Wildlife says that city staff wants it, and city staff says that Fish and Wildlife wants it.
Currently, the salamander habitat in Barton Springs Pool is roped off from swimmers. Since the drilling and paving project has not been studied, and since the ropes are protecting the salamanders at present, why not delay this project at least until the end of summer, and meanwhile leave the ropes in place?
This issue will be discussed before the Parks Board on February 9, the Environmental Board on February 17, the Historical Landmark Commission on February 22, the Planning Commission on February 23, and the City Council on February 25. If you're interested please attend some of these sessions.
In recent years, Barton Springs Pool has been closed repeatedly for political reasons. Just for once, for a change, couldn't we close Barton Creek Mall instead?
I attended a meeting on East Bouldin Creek watershed and drainage improvements on Jan. 14, but hardly recognized it from Rick Hall's review in your "Postmarks" section [Vol.18, No.22]. Contrary to assertions in the letter, city staff and the assembled watershed residents did hear a lot about the drainage tunnel (a boondoggle to match Waller, with no tourism benefit) and a return of East Bouldin Creek to its pristine natural state, most of it in the form of lengthy monologues from Mr. Hall. It is curious Mr. Hall wants to be a voice crying out in the wilderness concerning purchases of a few tracts, yet wants to restore the stream to its natural state, entailing the purchase or condemnation of literally hundreds of homes, at immense cost funded by who knows what source. Ben White runoff is problematic, but two upstream detention ponds, the completed and functioning Canardarie Alpine and the under-construction St Edward's pond should greatly mitigate flood problems. At the Dawson end of the watershed, we merely want purchase of land or easements at three small points along the creek to implement the already-approved Dawson Neighborhood Plan's concept of a north-south hike and bikeway (mostly using already existing interior neighborhood streets and sidewalks,but occasionally crossing the Creek) from Ben White, past the Alpine Retention Pond (and duck residence), by Dawson Elementary, to Gillis Park. We support expenditure of these funds, authorized by voters over a decade ago in the Dawson and Bouldin Creek neighborhoods, generally as outlined by city staff.
President, Dawson Neighborhood Association
Menchu Is a Fraud
In her glowing write-up on Rigoberta Menchu ["Calendar," Vol.18, No.22], Lisa Tozzi reluctantly acknowledges that a few critics "question the veracity of some of the events documented in her book." This is, to put it mildly, a copout. Ms. Menchu won a Nobel Prize largely on the basis of her "autobiography" (her authorship has long been in doubt), I, Rigoberta Menchu, a book that is now required reading at politically correct colleges everywhere. This book is filled with stories that cannot be documented, and fictional characters presented as real. She described herself as an illiterate peasant girl from an impoverished family, though her family was comfortably middle-class, and she attended private schools. She also described in detail how the Guatemalan government murdered her brothers — brothers who never existed!
"Questioning the veracity of some of her accounts?" What kind of weasel words are these? If Rigoberta Menchu really wrote her autobiography, she's a pathological liar! At best, she's an opportunist, who knows that white radicals around the world are eager to embrace a noble, Third World revolutionary heroine, and plays the role to the hilt.
The Guatemalan government is brutal and oppressive, and deserves to be overthrown. I salute those Guatemalans who fight for real justice and democracy. Rigoberta Menchu is not one of those people. She's either a contemptible fraud or a bad joke. She deserves neither her Nobel Prize nor a moment of our attention.
Shout It Out
Dear J. Spike Gillespie,
I admire your expressiveness in writing about your depression ["Broken Mirrors," Vol.18, No.20], but I think you overlook the essential element of suppressed anger. You mention wishing to scream and, later, fighting not to scream, although you imply screaming at someone is something you wouldn't really do.
You also say you let the tears out "in measured drops" while in the car with your dog as the only audience. From my experience with depression and from what I've read about it, those measured drops won't do. I don't presume to know what you need, but "climactic vocal expression" is what helped me get out of my depression.
That was 10 years ago, when my one and only full-length Austin Chronicle article was published. Yes, depressed people can write, and write well, but the temporary thrill of publication is no cure for depression.
On the same day my article came out (Thursday, January 12) a letter from Dr. Nolan Saltzman was printed in the New York Times. In his letter, Saltzman recommends getting out suppressed anger by what he calls climactic vocal expression. He also says "Anger is a healthy communication that shows readiness to defend one's vital interests" and when anger is "properly elicited and responded to in psychotherapy, the benefits include riddance of psychosomatic symptoms, hostility, and the depression caused by anger suppressed or turned against the self."
Climactic vocal expression is the body speaking directly. When your body is speaking the language of supressed anger, the sound and the words are not pretty. Some people can't handle such a raw display of emotion. I had to move back to Arkansas for a few months and live with members of my family who could "fight" with me before I started getting out of my depression. If you don't have that resource, being in a car by yourself is a good place to let go with shouting or sobbing that can start clearing up the emotional fog. I wouldn't recommend bringing the dog along for the ride, though.
Q&A at 3AM
Dear Mr. Ventura:
You ask, "But how long can I, can you, can any of us, expect to keep our liberties in a world where three out of four people can't read, one out of five is unemployed, almost one out of five is hungry, and whole continents are ravaged by disease and chaos ["Letters at 3AM," Vol.18, No.21]?"
You mention, "Iran is buying germ warfare technology from Russia, and god knows what else. India and Pakistan, who are now nuclear powers, have an active border shooting war in which several hundred on each side died last year."
Well, I reply, a $100 billion increase in defense spending seems like a good start to me. The sovereignty of a nation demands its defense. I'm not ashamed to be a citizen of a nation as rich as ours, and neither am I ashamed of my desire to see it, and my way of life, defended in the face of rising threats from abroad.
Just the same, thanks for the thoughtful article. We're in agreement on many of your other points.
The Feds' Repressive Laws
In her letter ["Postmarks," Vol.18, No.22] Ms. Donna Flores refers to the "inane" plea to free Clifford Antone. While I could not find such a plea in Vol.18, No.21 of the "Dancing About Architecture" column, I am nevertheless moved to question Ms. Flores' argument that what really sent the impresario up the river was the "federal racketeering/money laundering charges" and not the "emotion[al]" drug trafficking charges per se. Really, Ms. Flores, only the finest-aged sophistry can separate the two. How can anyone who traffics large amounts of an illegal substance avoid both the RICO Act or laundering? There are folks — especially of color — who are spending 10, 20, 40 years, even life for RICO convictions without any tangible proof they had used or trafficked in any drugs. All that was needed was a snitch to complete the government's daisy chain. And the only way to avoid laundering is to file a 1040 saying: "Hi, I'm paying my fair taxes on my illegal drug profits." In short, Ms. Flores, there is virtually no way one can avoid the rackety laundry when moving even small amounts. In fact, you can get tagged for no amount. When I read or witness these cases, Ms. Flores, I get emotional. You should, too.
Finally, Ms. Flores, your attitude about not "over-publicizing" Antone's plight is anything but "arrogant" as I understand the term. Over-reaching claims of authority or power do not readily flow from those squeamish about publicity. I only hope you will review all those political parables about the consequences of remaining silent in the face of repression that we all heard in high school. Maybe then we can put our priorities straight: While keeping Antone's open is important, we need to spend more energy on the war on drugs. Otherwise, we'll get more of the same from the federal police — and more tedious apologia for their actions.
Stephen W. McGuire
Thanks for your continued great reporting on the Austin music scene. I was born and raised in Austin and love reading the Chronicle. Although it has been many years since I lived there, worked for Willie, haunted the joints where the music began, I still love hearing the scoop. I am getting the feeling the "scene" is waning, and this is sad news. Getting the Chronicle a week to 10 days after publishing, I still get to sit and dream of being in all those places that used to be so great, the New Orleans Club on Red River, the Jade Room, long gone, Charlie's Playhouse, the IL Club on 11th. The Vulcan Gas Company, with light show ... what a time that was. Looking back on those times, they don't seem so long ago, and wow, were they fun. Too bad about Antone! Many of his friends consider that it was a public service he was involved in and the amount discussed could have been for his own consumption and friends. Give the guy a break!
Gone but not forgotten
Government Addicted to Drugs
In her letter, "Seeking Answers to Drug Problem" ["Postmarks," Vol.18, No.21], Peggy Kelley voices sentiments of bewilderment, anger, and helplessness as she ponders the results of our drug policies. Here's a point to consider; the international market for illegal drugs is now worth more than the international market in automobiles (as per the U.N.'s own report) and this figure does not account for the plethora of legal players which have come to rely on the drug war as an institution (politicians, prisons, drug-testing companies, the media, the military, police, DEA, FBI, BATF, NIDA, CASA, etc.). It's important for those with a vested interest in the war on drugs to make sure that the American public continues to feel bewilderment, anger and, most importantly, helplessness. Why? Because it's going to be business as usual until the people of this country feel empowered to stand up and demand that we develop a drug policy which serves the majority of Americans rather than the minority of powerful special interests which are making a killing (most literally) on the drug war.
Libertarians Against Drug War
Regarding letters in recent weeks lamenting the continuing horrors of the drug war: On one hand I am heartened that other folks in the community share my feelings. On the other I marvel at the political naïveté evident in these anguished missives.
One writer thinks the problem has something to do with conservative politicians. Another wonders where the politicians who support the drug war come from. The truth is, except for representative Ron Paul, a libertarian Republican, every other elected politician of any consequence in Travis county is a card-carrying soldier in the drug war. Maxey, Naishtat, Dukes, Doggett, Biscoe, Greenburg, Barrientos, the judges, prosecutors and city councilmembers — they all support prohibition punishable by incarceration.
For our leaders, the moderate position is involuntary commitment to a psychiatric hospital and mandatory Prozac or worse. Sure, you may hear a liberal utterance in private conversation, but not one of them will put it in writing. If you desire a more enlightened drug policy, you can have it. Try voting Libertarian.
Vincent J. May
The Grumpy Agenda
The Grumpy Old Party rules Washington, so we have an impeachment whose mantra is, "The law must be upheld," like a bad rewrite of Les Miserables. The Grumpy Old Party rules Texas, so we have the most capital punishment in our prisons and (along with Florida) the most corporal punishment in our schools.
Yet we recently had a parade in Austin (better turnout than the governor's inauguration) which honored a wholesome young black man who wants to become a teacher; a superb athlete who (because of his ethnicity) could not have attended UT when I was in college. We do have progress in spite of the Grumpy Old Party.
Kurt Knows Jesus
Lord have mercy, when John Rabon ["Postmarks," Vol.18, No.22] puts his foot in his mouth he goes knee-deep. Rabon writes: "It's pretty presumptuous for anyone to think they know who Jesus is." Just because you don't know beans about Jesus doesn't mean everyone (or anyone) is as lost as you are, John. Further, I am not "confused by the views of others about Jesus" and I do not "base my interpretation of Jesus strictly from the Bible." (Don't give up your day job for a career in mind-reading or rhetorical speculation.) Rabon really gags on his foot when he writes, "Ventura obviously looked into actual history," as if the Bible is not a history book. Rabon continues his aphasic screed by asking, "Do you realize the only people in the gospels to cry 'heretic' were the religious leaders who killed Jesus?" Rabon needs to learn to read before he tries to write, and he needs to read the Bible for himself and stop trying to fabricate it to fit his sexually oriented social agenda.
P.S. How fitting that Kate X Messer would attempt to use the work of Elizabeth Küblen-Ross to defend a perverted, sexually oriented social agenda ["Public Notice," Vol.18, No.22]. The book is called On Death and Dying. If a person knows The Truth, then denial, anger, bargaining, and depression are all moot. Messer writes that "acceptance" should be changed to "change." Well Kate, you're on the right track, if not for your false premise of who and what should change.
Book Burning Is Cool!
Let us hope that this message will reach all of the peoples of the world so that they may be forewarned. The first of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse has been riding for the last two decades "as a conqueror bent on conquest" (Rev. 6:2). A much-acclaimed spiritual leader is busily trying to form a one-world religion under his leadership. Once this leader ends or completes his mission, the next three horsemen will ride out in painfully swift sequence and the effect of their missions will leave fifteen hundred million people dead or dying. Neither our religious nor civil leaders are warning our people of these upcoming tragedies of world war, world famine, and world pestilence, so that they will not be caught by total surprise. The scripture reveals that 25% of the earth's population will be killed and this would mean that over fifty million Americans will be killed or die of starvation and disease. The war between the nations is not the only war that is looming in the near future, for when this spiritual leader completes his mission of a one-world religion, under his leadership, he will bring those who oppose his doctrines under persecution just as the case during the dark and middle ages. He will also be powerful enough to exercise a high level of control over the one-world government already existing — the United Nations. Since the final countdown for our Lord's return is obviously beginning, I pray that those who are following any leadership other than Christ, the Scriptures, and the Holy Spirit will burn the billions of books, magazines, and newspapers that keep them in bondage to the "Synagogue of Satan" (Rev. 2:9 and 3:9) and the churches of those who are of the spirit of the antichrist (1 Jn. 2:18, 2:22, 4:3, and 2 Jn. 1:7). Please contact the editor of your paper who has printed this article and thank him or her, for they have become one of the workers of the final harvest (Mat. 9:38).
Bro. Raymont Senn
Pleasant Grove, Ala.