Duke Still Had It
I would like to both applaud and take exception to Jay Trachtenberg's April 30 article on Duke Ellington ["Beginning to See the Light," Vol. 18, No. 35]. Jay and I couldn't agree more regarding the category that Ellington occupies in American music and culture: a category of one. And Jay's four-hour KUT special on Duke displayed ample taste and knowledge on the subject. Which is why I found his recollections of a 1972 Ellington concert he booked (of which he admits "I can recall very little") disappointing.
Considering his qualification that "Ellington's music was totally lost on me" (at that time), such analytical critiques as "somewhat rote ... lacked conviction ... devoid of passion" would seem to reflect Jay's "ignorance" (his term -- again, at that time) more than Ellington's performance. I wasn't there; maybe Jay caught him on an off night. But lest readers derive that Duke had lost a step or two in his twilight years, let me assure you that the Ellington I saw in San Francisco only a year later was anything but passé; he was vibrant, swinging, the epitome of hip. I'm sure he'd introduced "Satin Doll" the same way 10,000 times, but his rap was as classic as the melody: "This is dedicated to the prettiest girl in the house ... because she knows that we know that she knows who she is." He introduced sax great Paul Gonzalves, legendary for his drinking as well as his playing, as "The Paul Gonzalves Trio ... Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, and Johnny Walker." Then, literally propped up against a girl in the front row, Gonzalves played a version of "In a Sentimental Mood" that blew the roof off the joint.
It was a night that I'll never forget.
Location, Location, Location
Thanks for your coverage on the proposed location of Dr. Aeschbach's Addiction and Psychotherapy Services to South Congress Avenue, with its attendant presence of over 200 patients in our community who will require methadone maintenance treatment on a daily basis ["Naked City," Vol. 18, No. 35]. It deserves noting that the main complaint everyone has is the location Dr. Aeschbach chose, directly adjacent to a residential area and across the street from St. Edward's University. There are many locations (for example the area bounded by Ben White, South Congress, I-35 and St. Elmo) having the requisite Commercial Services zoning that are not adjacent to people's residences; we wonder why those sites weren't chosen to have this type of "medical offices" misrepresented to them by the doctor and City Planning Department employees.
The residents of Dawson are not anti-methadone, anti-drug treatment, or anti-helping out someone who's fallen on hard times. However, where you have a methadone clinic, you have former heroin addicts and ongoing heroin addicts, attempting to make the switch in what drug they are addicted to. There is specific language in our Neighborhood Plan that saw a need to reduce drug-related activities in our neighborhood (see page 19 for the relationship between prostitution and drugs, see pages 24-25 for the encouragement of businesses that are compatible with existing businesses) and don't feel that having a methadone clinic in our midst meets those goals.
This is not a question of NIMBY; it's a question of what physical location can best meet the needs of narcotic-addicted people. In many cities methadone clinics are only located in hospitals, and other large public health treatment facilities, because at the same time the methadone is administered (on a daily basis all the addicts show up to get their dosage), the other serious medical and psychological problems these patients have can be addressed. A methadone clinic, standing on its own, separate from a major hospital, will not have these extensive, and much needed, adjunct facilities.
Chronicle Was Fair
I know that it's very rare for a journalist to get any positive feedback, so before I forget and it gets any later, I wanted to commend Jenny Staff for the excellent job she did covering my City Council race. While she never claimed to be unbiased (I realize the Chronicle has no love for my political views), she was always very professional, she never tried to misrepresent my statements, and she never wasted my time with the mindless questions that come from most reporters. It was a real pleasure dealing with Jenny and The Austin Chronicle.
Can't We All Get Along?
As a commuter cyclist, it was with joy and sadness, that I read Mr Gray's reaction ["Postmarks," Vol. 18, No. 36] to my letter ["Postmarks," Vol. 18, No. 35] on the first Ozone Action Day of the year. Joy to know that someone is listening. Sadness, because Mr. Gray sees himself as an oppressor.
How can we change the dynamic so that automobilists stop being so angry and threatened, and cyclists stop being so self-righteous and sanctimonious? I'm not interested in apportioning blame, I just want a city that is friendly to people.
James E. Burnside
Too Much Parking
The chief cause of urban sprawl in Austin is the need to provide large numbers of car parking spaces around every house, apartment, and place of business.
For example, an apartment building slated to be built on Congress Avenue just south of the river will provide about 50 dwelling places, and over 170 car parking spaces.
Cars take up more room than any other form of transportation. If we want to limit urban sprawl, impervious cover, and air and water pollution in Austin, and provide places for people to live and work without pushing our geographical boundaries outward, we need to begin reducing the number of cars on the roads, and replacing road and parking space for cars with streetcar lines and other rail lines. This means using our space and money to build streetcar lines rather than parking garages.
Why isn't a streetcar line part of the development plan at Sixth & Lamar? (This area would make a great car-free pedestrian zone served by rapid transit.) Why does the plan for Palmer Auditorium include a huge parking garage but no transit line?
Why are parking lots and parking garages still being built on the Edwards Aquifer? Why aren't streetcar lines, rather than parking garages, mandated in this zone?
The much-touted agreement between developers and so-called environmentalists seems to rest on an agreement that cars and car parking spaces are sacred and necessary to life on Earth. Alas, cars and car parking spaces are the chief sources of urban sprawl and pollution in Austin.
There are too many cars in Austin. It's a big environmental problem, and we need to start solving it now, before it gets worse.
Cycling Fans Rare but Appreciated
I'm an overweight, middle-aged woman who has never been an athlete and until last summer avoided sweat like the plague. Then I got on a recumbent bicycle. I've been commuting to work since last September (nine miles each way) and we no longer have a car. I enjoy the exercise, seeing the faces of my neighbors, and having my life slowed to a more reasonable pace. I've also enjoyed knowing that I am not harming the Earth as I move across it. Last fall, I encountered the first of many calls of "Get the **** off the road." I ride neighborhood streets and only get on busy streets when there are plenty of lanes or when there is absolutely no other choice. I was baffled by the hostility and frankly scared by the irrationality of this person's behavior. Well, I've heard plenty of profanity since then and have become hardened to the calls -- I just ignore it all mostly and keep on pedaling. Well, the other day, I was riding along and crossed a busy intersection. A car stopped to let me go in front of him and the two folks in the car applauded me. Call me stupid and sappy, but I appreciated it. I know everyone can't get out of their cars. I know it's frightening or it takes too long in people's busy lives. I know not everyone agrees that the Earth is dying. I know that people are in a hurry. But thanks for the encouragement anyway. If anyone else wants to applaud, go for it!
Curious About Texas
I am a fifth-grader at Stevens Brook Elementary School in Bridgton, Maine. Our class is writing reports on states that we choose. I chose Texas because I have cousins in Corpus Christi, and I visited them a year ago for Christmas. I loved visiting the state of Texas! And I love the Dallas Cowboys!
I am hoping that some of your readers will take interest in my letter, and would send me some information about your state that would help me learn more than I learned on my short visit to Texas. Souvenirs, products, post cards, perhaps correspondence with anyone who would like to send me information to help me with my report.
I need to know about Texas' history, national parks, produce, economy, any information you and your readers would be willing to provide. Unfortunately, time is of the essence, I have delayed in writing you. Any help would be appreciated! Thank you for your time and kindness.
Mr. Johnson's Class
Steven Brooks Elementary School
Bridgton, Maine 04009
Best of Both Cultures
Right after the emotions started to wane on Mother's Day, she got serious about our eternal argument: Why was I such a loser, already married, no education, what kind of kids was I going to raise if I kept on chasing middle classers and working on menial jobs, my wife working too, for a guy with a foreign accent, and regretting the loss of our culture with my American attitude.
I said I had to play along, and my pride and dignity were intact. I tell no lies, but I can't figure out why thousands of students come here every year filling up new apartments and college ranks with ease, if Mom wanted me to get a degree. Or, if to succeed working hard, all major companies are saturated with outsiders, UT's run with people from New York, Illinois, California, Switzerland, Argentina, etc., APD's got cops from Philadelphia, New York, Washington, etc., sports figures, AISD principals and most politicians have roots out of town. So I assured her that as a couple, we were combining the best of both cultures for our kids, for, in the future, our community will regain its image of hardworking, honest people that she knew.
Sex Spoils Election
Today I saw the movie Election, a film I am extremely ambivalent about. I thought the satire was dead-on, and the acting, directing and dialogue was all excellent; there were many hilarious moments in the film. My ambivalence lies with the movie's three highly graphic depictions of certain sexual practices which good upbringing on my parents' part prevents me from discussing. These scenes were totally gratuitous -- the movie could have easily been a smart social and political satire as a PG or PG-13. They spoiled the overall movie-going experience for me. Parents should think twice before letting their pre-teens or early teen children see this -- with or without an adult. Children grow up too fast anyway, and we shouldn't hurry the process up -- let nature take its course. And for the parents who I saw today with their children watching it, all I can say is: Y'all are whacked!!!
Tax the Churches
Isn't it about time that churches pay their share of the tax burden? After all, it is the religious establishment that advocates family values. In essence, property taxes pay for the education of our youth. It's time churches pay their fair share. All this discussion about tax relief by the Legislature doesn't do a bit of good and is nothing more than a political lie. There shouldn't be any exceptions to the rule, especially not a cash-rich institution like the church.
While shopping in HEB Round Rock I came across some A&M guy sporting a T-shirt that read: "Since the beginning, No Fags." And on the back it went on to say, "I'm proud to go to a university where men like women and women like men." Well, listen up, bigot, you're wrong on two accounts. Lots of gay guys go to A&M. And since when is pride a factor in who you can or cannot hump? Just another reason to make me glad I chose to be a Longhorn ...
Their Mother the War
How could this happen? Of all places, I thought I lived in a stable environment -- a place where I could raise my children. I thought that if I taught my children to value life and respect others, they would turn out OK. Imagine my horror when I awoke to read that so many people had been needlessly murdered. Like many Americans, I was left with so many questions. What was it that set them off? Were they so unemotional that they could just walk in and start shooting human beings indiscriminately? No questions asked? How could they rationalize the carnage? What was going through their minds? Then I read that they were obsessed with high-tech weapons. They were obsessed with war. Don't they know the difference between fiction and reality?
Of course I knew the answer. Everyone knows the answer. Our country thrives on violence. It's in the media, our sports, our video games, blah, blah, blah. We are programming our children to believe that confrontation is the only way to solve differences of opinion. We are the only country that wages peace and freedom on every continent through the barrel of a gun. So long as we rationalize our presence, our children will understand. Won't they?
So you can imagine my surprise when I picked up the paper a few weeks ago to find that so many people had been needlessly killed in "Colosovo." Of course, our economy benefits from the entire "nonwar" process. Millions of taxpayers finance the defense contracts that go to GE and Westinghouse and the like. They, in turn, "educate" the masses about the need to fight for America's freedom in Korea, Iran, Iraq, Vietnam, Cuba, Granada, Bosnia, Jerusalem, blah, blah, blah. GE owns NBC, Westinghouse owns CBS -- "Tell the story this way or we'll replace you with someone else that will; tug on their heartstrings, blah, blah, blah." What? There is another Hitler? We must destroy Kosovo at any price! In the name of Capitalism (oops) -- I mean freedom! What a great chance to try out those new electro-magnetic pulse generators!
Fuck it! Give me 100 shares of Bell Helicopter! Suit up munchkins! Remember, you're on the good side. Now this is what we call an M16A2. It's a semi-automatic weapon of mass peace. It holds a 20 round magazine, blah, blah, blah.
Oh greed? Oh yes!
Research Lung Disease
I am frustrated and I have to tell someone. I have emphysema. It is a lung disease that is usually (but not always) caused by smoking. There is a genetic factor involved too. If you pinch your nose closed and try to breathe through a pinpoint straw, then try to walk 50 steps out and back, you will know what if feels like as I struggle through the day. This disease is terrible. But no matter what, I keep going, for I dearly love life. Still, I feel almost invisible. So many of you don't look at me, for one reason or another. Some don't want to be reminded that smoking can do this. You would have to think of quitting yourself. Some think those with lung disease got what we deserved (for the sin of having smoked). Some just cannot bear to see me struggling to breathe. I found and joined an organization on the Internet, called EFFORTS. (Emphysema Foundation For Our Right To Survive) It is a nonprofit organization, formed of people who have emphysema and those who support them. EFFORTS is trying to get more research going in the area of emphysema and related lung disease. Since working with this group, I am finding that we, as a group, are invisible too. Our senators ignore us and talk to us about anything except our disease. We are only asking that any tobacco settlement allocates money for research into lung disease. As it is, none is to go to research at all. Our letters back from these elected representatives are empty words that don't even acknowledge our request. I am now asking for support from you, my friends and neighbors, when a new tobacco settlement is proposed. Please encourage our senators to put part of any settlement money into research for lung disease. After all, we are the ones who make a settlement possible at all. Visit our Web site at http://www.emphysema.net/bindex.html
The American public should urge the resignation of almost every Republican for:
1)Treason: One nuclear submarine could destroy any country on earth before the Reagan presidency. Yet the Republicans still spent trillions of the national wealth on defense. They have continued to spend more trillions after the Cold War ended in 1989.
2)Bribery: Republicans have received billions in explicit or implicit bribes from defense contractors, tobacco companies, billionaires, and polluters.
3)Other High Crimes and Misdemeanors: Republicans made the U.S. the largest debtor nation in world history, consistently oppose raising the minimum wage, and regularly oppose funds for education, the environment, and health care.
Armed People Not Always Polite
Rep. Suzanna Hupp, in response to the Colorado school shooting, proposes that teachers, aides, and other school officials carry guns to prevent such tragedies. This is not an especially good idea. It isn't at all clear that armed teachers would have prevented this or any other school shooting. There was in fact a trained law enforcement officer on the premises in Littleton, and the killers were not deterred by that fact, or stopped by an exchange of gunfire with him.
Rep. Hupp generally favors legislation making it as easy as possible for as many people as possible to carry guns. She points to Israeli society as an example of how this can work. Unfortunately, the more widespread gun access and gun-toting is, the more likely it is that disturbed people will have guns at hand when they decide to commit some crime like shooting classmates in a school, or -- if we take Rep. Hupp's favorite example of an armed society, Israel -- to open fire on worshippers in a mosque, as actually happened a few years ago.
Many of Rep. Hupp's statewide following of gun extremists are fond of the slogan "an armed society is a polite society."
It is worth pointing out that an armed society is not necessarily a polite society at all. Drug dealers and youth gang members frequently carry weapons, and are not noted for politeness, nor are they deterred from shooting one another by the the fact that those they shoot at might shoot back.
More guns, in the hands of more people, is not the answer to school shootings.
On a Streetcar to Hell
In 1962, I was a student at the University of Madrid. The campus then was at the north edge of the city, supposedly because the dictator Franco wanted the students out there in case of trouble. To get there, you went to the end of the subway line, then onto a rickety streetcar that ran out to the campus. The streetcar rails ran perfectly straight for a long way, there was a relatively sudden curve, and then straight again to the end.
One day the car was packed with rowdy students, standing and sitting, and they started some sort of chant and began rocking the streetcar by shifting their weight from side to side. Despite the driver looking over his shoulder and yelling, they kept it up, more and more, until the car was leaning far over to each side.
Suddenly, the car arrived at the curve, swinging left just as the car tilted to the right. It leaned far over for a terrible moment, riding on its outer wheels. Then, hitting the next straightaway, slammed back down hard onto the left-side wheels.
The chanting had stopped; everyone was frozen, the silence broken only by the stream of profanities from the terrified driver. We finished the trip quietly and everyone got off the car and went their way. It was a near thing, that day.
Reading the news these days, I find myself repeatedly thinking of that Madrid streetcar, almost ready to tip over. Have we finally swung as far as we can go?
City of Foreigners
At the beginning of April, AISD hired Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates of Glenview, Illinois, "To help identify characteristics the new Superintendent should have." It sounds like a stupid waste of money to me. Also, the Pflugerville school district hired Elizabeth Gardner, from Conroe, as a superintendent. The two runner-ups were a guy from Oklahoma, and another lady from Navasota. So, what's wrong with us? UT has people from Argentina, Switzerland, New York, and California. The APD's full of cops from all over the U.S. The American-Statesman look somewhere else when it needs well-paid editors. Look at Capital Metro's general manager. Dell doesn't look here for prospects. And Motorola, Sematech, and IBM hire locals to work 12 hours changing shifts. Thousands of college students move here every year. This is a city full of pendejos! Remember Camille Barnett, Elizabeth Watson, and Ricky Williams? Where are the natives heading to, if most properties on 183 North and along the river are in the hands of Europeans?