Re: Richard Maier's letter on traditional neighborhoods ["Postmarks," Vol. 18, No. 47]: I had no idea that no "traditional neighborhoods" could be found west of the Mississippi. I am so glad to have been set straight as to what a traditional neighborhood is.
But maybe there is more than one kind of traditional neighborhood. Maybe some people like being awakened at 6am by a train/trolley 30 feet from their bedroom window. Personally I prefer the "traditional neighborhood" of my childhood where I would lay in bed late at night and hear the train whistle announce every crossing from Toyah into Pecos, where my bicycle took me the five blocks to school, where you made some lasting friendships and keep track of some still.
I hope there is room for many different kinds of traditional neighborhoods. I think quite a lot of the one I'm in now (Bouldin Creek) and would hate to see it torn down in favor of the sort so dear to Mr. Maier. Perhaps there is room for his density elsewhere in Central Texas.
Gail B. Armstrong
Doing Mitford Proud
I have just read your piece on SCI ["Funeralgate Hits Texas," Vol. 18, No. 45]. I was the researcher for the late great Jessica Mitford on her last book, The American Way of Death Revisited. Robert Bryce did an excellent job. Decca would have been proud. In fact, SCI was the reason Decca came out of retirement to re-write and update the classic American Way of Death. When she learned about the giant corporation swallowing up the local funeral homes without leaving a trail that the consumer could see, she predicted the consumer's would be buried with higher prices. The one thing not mentioned in Mr. Bryce's piece that I think all consumers should know is that besides embalming not being required to view a body, embalming itself is the greatest health hazard in death care. The fact that no real oversight will now take place of facilities that deal with toxic waste and blood-borne pathogens is pretty scary. No other country in the world routinely pickles their dead and puts them on display. Other countries also force SCI to disclose ownership to their paying customers. Only in America would the funeral industry accumulate the kind of wealth that would make them major powerbrokers. Your soul may belong to the company store, but now your bodies belong to Wall Street.
Cremation Over Burial
To the Editor:
Thanks for the recent story on the Bush Funeralgate corruption scam ["Funeralgate Hits Texas," Vol. 18, No. 45]. Hope that your good readers will think about the future generations and all of the money and nice land that is wasted in the process of disposing and storing zillions of stinking old human cadavers ... and make plans to have their bodies cremated upon their demise. All of that land and money could and should be put to much better use.
P.S. It'd be cool to see a little article that tells the people how the costs of cremation compare with the costs of traditional burials.
[Ed. note: We have run such an article. See "Dying on the Cheap," Vol. 16, No. 30, at
I just finished reading your article regarding the programming at KUT ["Media Clips," Vol. 18, No. 47]. I must say that I take exception to your comment about newcomers to the area who would rather hear NPR programming than the excellent KUT programming. First of all, not everything on KUT is excellent. The after-2:00pm music programs on KUT are excellent, but we do not need six painful hours of John Aielli. Perhaps four would be sufficient and KUT could either increase the afternoon jazz programs or schedule Diane Rehm. It is nice that we have local programming and most of it is really good, but NPR also provides excellent programming and more balance would be great. I see no need to air Car Talk and The Prairie Home Companion twice. Although I enjoy both of these programs, I only need to hear them once to get full benefit. Perhaps they could air Weekend Edition a little longer. A local news program would be great, too. I think there are stations that devote their time to programming such as Folkways. Again, I do not suggest completely dispensing with Folkways, just a little less of it. I love SoundSight on Sunday mornings and American Pop on Sunday afternoons. Believe it or not, all of the folks who object to KUT programming are not newcomers nor are we Starbucks regulars. I can't tell you the last time I saw the inside of a Starbucks. I wish Austin was like it was when I attended UT in the late Sixties and early Seventies, but it isn't and it's not going to be again. There must be a way to update KUT with more NPR programming while remaining faithful to local spots.
Ellinger Unfairly Silenced
The case against Jim Ellinger down at KOOP is so ludicrous and specious it's embarrassing ["Media Clips," Vol. 18, No. 47]. The selective enforcement of half-baked policy by the KOOP Board of Trustees is so obvious and so crude it begs the question: "What exactly is the hidden agenda?" Clearly, at this point, KOOP is not a cooperative and the board could care less. It's also clear that Jim was guilty of airing dirty laundry. However, for the most part he was reporting on issues that affect the very livelihood of the station, a process that is key to what community radio is all about (at least to some of us). Oddly enough, Jim wasn't even suspended for airing dirty laundry. Maybe that would be too sticky since several board members would have to be suspended as well. No, instead, the board cooks up these ridiculous "violations" so they can get rid of Ellinger -- "indefinite suspension," what exactly does that mean? Frankly, I have more respect for Richard Nixon -- at least he would have dug up some real dirt on Jim. "Failure to read sign-off?" What a joke. If you suspended everyone with FCC violations down at KOOP there would be about 10 people left standing. "Interfering with station business?" Shouldn't the board get the boot for this instead? How else would you describe actions such as giving away grant money when you can't even pay next month's rent? Last, and certainly most egregious, is the violation of "airing incorrect information." Is this actual board policy? What if Thomas Durnin failed to drink his coffee one Saturday morning and stated incorrectly that Duke Ellington wrote "Caravan" when in fact it was Juan Tizol? Whoa! That's a warning, Thomas, two more mistakes like that and you're outta here! This is absurd. And then Hannah Riddering has the audacity and the sheer lack of political savvy to go on record that this incorrect information "personally" offended her. Is this grounds for suspension? To offend a board member? I'm incredulous, I'm sad, and I'm begging the board to find another organization to run into the ground. Just go away, you're ruining one of the best things that's ever happened to this town, and that's saying a lot.
Former KOOP Assistant General Manager,
programmer, volunteer, and Board member
Dear Mr. Black:
I have known Jim Ellinger, founder of KOOP radio, since January 1991. I volunteered to do work to get the station on the air. Little did I know what an odyssey I was beginning. In the next three years Jim and I attended several public radio conferences, both national and international (at our own expense; no KOOP money was used). We spent more hours than I would like at Texas Student Publications board meetings to keep our interests in the 91.7FM frequency known to the University of Texas.
We did mass mailouts with few volunteers. Volunteered services to other organizations to get the word out about the concept of KOOP.
We met with our attorney in Washington, D.C., as well as members of the Federal Communications Commission.
I was so impressed with his passion to get this dream on the air that I volunteered my home to be "the station" from 1992 until 1994. The small board of directors would meet there. Jim and I typed correspondence on a 512K Macintosh computer. Jim spent many hours on the phone talking to many people about the station.
Jim is a great teacher. I learned so much about beginning a small business, nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporations, and community radio in general.
I don't believe the infractions that the board has alleged are valid ["Media Clips," Vol.18, No.47]. Jim was talking about something that is a public record regarding the hearing for summary judgment; nor for infractions of an improper signoff. The night that Jim was not allowed to broadcast, the person in control of the board did not play a proper signoff; nor did they have permission from Hightower Radio to rebroadcast his program.
I am very sad that the station has turned into what it is; not what Jim intended. As a community, I believe we are all poorer in so many ways that people at the station don't have that great spirit of togetherness that we had the first day of broadcasting December 17, 1994.
Austin Airwaves Engineer, 1994-1998
First broadcast engineer, Day One, 12/17/94
Driving Me Crazy
I was disappointed in Capital Metro's transportation workshop on July 17. The event began with a speech by a Capital Metro spokesman who said: "We love our cars. We're not going to stop using our cars." Coming from a representative of a public transit agency, this is a bizarre statement.
One subject which was not discussed at the workshop was the purpose of a good public transportation system. Some people seem to feel that the purpose of a city transportation system is to decongest the highway. I think that this goal is neither worthy nor achievable. Surely the purpose of a good city public transit system is to render widespread car ownership unnecessary.
I moved to Austin in 1976. Since then I have heard people say, time and again, "A car is really a necessity here." We need a public transit system that makes people see private car ownership as a luxury, not a necessity. Then we'll have something.
As long as private car ownership is seen as necessary, we're going to have bad, decrepit cars and incompetent drivers on the roads. As long as people feel that they must drive cars, there will always be too many cars on the road.
If we build a first-rate transit system and safe (i.e., car free) bicycle and pedestrian routes throughout town, there may still be traffic jams on the car-clogged roads. But at least people who aren't in cars will be able to move around. I think that this is a worthy and achievable goal.
Light Rail Now
I moved to Austin just over two years ago from Dallas. A couple of years before moving, Dallas opened its light-rail system. The public response was amazing! During the rush hour, every train was packed to capacity -- removing many cars from the crowded freeways. The trains were quick and on-time to their destinations -- fewer people driving like maniacs to get to work on time. On the weekends, many people ride the trains to the West End district to go to restaurants and night clubs.
Capital Metro needs to seriously consider bringing light rail to the city and its surroundings soon and stop worrying about the money or who they are going to make angry with their decisions. The city of Dallas used existing railways that were no longer being used. We have enough of those throughout Austin and if these are used we will not need to evict anyone from their current dwellings. When Dallas was planning its rail lines, the people living in the lower-income areas of South Dallas and Oak Cliff complained about the rail coming through their neighborhoods yet from day one they had no problem lining up to use it.
Our roads cannot handle the growth rate that the city is experiencing. There is no room to expand I-35 or MoPac beyond their current boundaries. Getting to the new airport on a weekday is a true driving nightmare. We can have a rail in place long before the highways can be expanded. Austin is known as a very "environmentally friendly" city, and light rail offers a low- to no-pollution solution to our transportation problem. I hope Capital Metro and the people of Austin will work to find a solution to bring light rail to Austin. Otherwise, we can get used to sitting in the world's biggest parking lot everyday.
If you build it they will come.
Broaden Your Mind
Carl Noble's whining about being horrified at inadvertently stumbling into a movie with a gay theme (Relax ... It's Just Sex) is typical of homophobic bigots ["Postmarks," Vol. 18, No. 47]. God forbid a heterosexual should be exposed to an unfamiliar culture! I have seen hundreds of movies in my 40-some-odd-years, 99% of which had heterosexual themes. I enjoy all types of films, especially foreign ones that depict human beings of different cultures. Exposure to a variety of viewpoints has helped shape my worldview. And I am convinced that all humans, whatever their culture, are related. Love is the same no matter how expressed. Perhaps Mr. Noble prefers films of men shooting each other or torturing women. We could all get along better if we relaxed and opened our minds, period.
Your accidental reader, Mr. Carl Noble ["Postmarks," Vol. 18, No. 47], provided an amusing yet sad caricature of the old adage that "ignorance is bliss." And, I find it amazing that the most ignorant always rush to claim entitlement to direction from some outside source. You should have "warned" him of the realities and scope of human life. Furthermore, you should have helped him preserve his perfect little world and you failed. No doubt you are draped in shame.
Thanks to Mr. Noble for reminding us, at his expense, that sometimes the pathetic can be profound.
Dr. John Garcia
Millions of Fans Can Be Wrong
As a die hard soccer fan, I was upset by John A. Blackley's tirade against Coach Cotton. If he had bothered to contact Coach, as I did, he would know that Coach attended and enjoyed several World Cup games in 1994, and that Coach understands how the game is played. Although I didn't like the tone of Coach's column about the Women's World Cup Final [Vol. 18, No. 46], he was right on several key points. First, the game was boring, except for the shootout. Second, the media and corporate sponsors were only excited about the game for its money-making potential. Third, although millions of people enjoyed the other games of the tournament, the American public won't support a women's soccer league if the quality and entertainment value is no better than what we saw in the final game.
I would love to convince every cynic in this country to respect and understand soccer, and hopefully enjoy the game as well. Unfortunately, Mr. Blackley's angry, childish diatribe will only alienate people who are already biased against soccer.
Police Chief Effective
Paul Avina, in his letter "Local Police Chief Needed" [Vol. 18, No. 47], complains that Chief Knee isn't from Austin. Who cares where he comes from? When you go to see your doctor because you've broken your arm, do you just ask him whether he was born here in Austin before you let him fix it for you? All I know is the crime rate has fallen 15% during the time Chief Knee has been here and everybody is happy about that.
Mr. Avina, I'm truly sorry you've been robbed of $1,400 worth of work tools in the past two weeks. Maybe you should quit your job as a carpenter and join the police force.
Naked Jesus No Sin
Dear Mr. Heyburn, Chronicle:
In regards to your recent letter ["Postmarks," Vol. 18, No. 46], only through Western morals do we find Jesus swaddled in a loin cloth -- nakedness was an essential part of crucifixion. There is nothing inherently demeaning about grinning or playing tennis, thus assuming this defilement you mentioned came by way of nudity. Or do you simply consider any portrayal of Jesus that isn't reverent or in any religious context to be offensive? If this is the case, and the Chronicle is to pursue such a policy of religious nonoffensiveness, then shouldn't all the Chronicle's barbecue reviews come complete with a disclaimer so as to not offend any of their Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu readers? "Defilement" is a concept that can't exist without a complementary belief in supernatural holiness, and it is therefore the business of clergymen/women, not newspapers, to see that it is avoided.
And to you, Mr. Burns: As people who do have jobs and bathe on a regular basis, we still feel safe in saying that your recent letter ["Postmarks," Vol. 18, No. 46] is probably the most juvenile and least productive of the ongoing bikes-versus-cars debate. Calling people "hippies" purely because one commutes via bicycle is about as accurate as calling someone a "pinko" who has his hair past his shoulders. Furthermore, the idea that biking isn't a viable means of transportation due to the fact that it would cause an increase in body odor is laughable, considering the much more powerful and toxic (both to the lungs of the individual and to the ever-dwindling atmosphere) fumes produced by cars. We realize that you were probably not serious about all your points, but true wit generally consists of salient observations presented in an amusing manner -- not just sophomoric name-calling and references to bodily functions/secretions.
Nakedly and sweatily yours,
Lara Lee Tucker
Joshua K. Ropke
I was an exchange student at UT in the fall of 1994. That fall was a great experience in many ways, The Austin Chronicle being the source for all the fun and interesting stuff taking place. Imagine my delight when I found your Web pages.
Your excellent Web site not only brings back old memories, but keeps me in touch with what is going on over there.
Thank you and keep up the good work.
Romancing the Car
I enjoyed the recent "Postmarks" letter about the book The Distance to the Moon ["Postmarks," Vol. 18, No. 47]. I have not read the book, but the argument that the typical American male's driving the distance to the moon every 17 years implies a deep, romantic feeling for our automobiles is interesting, to say the least.
What still troubles me is that again someone is writing in rebutting a point different from the one originally raised. The point of the continuing transportation debate in "Postmarks" is not "do we love our cars?" It is "how will we solve the transportation problems caused by the cars?" We can love things that lead us into awful messes (listen to blues music if you need examples). The question for rational people is: "How do we get out of this mess?"
The letter's writer seemed like a literate and intelligent person, and I'd like to hear their views on this question.
The Right of Way Radio Show
KOOP 91.7 FM
Bikes Make Life Better
I guess I am expected to respond to such a cartoonishly proportionate attack against my character, but I feel that most of Mr. Burns' assertions are either too bizarre or too irrational to refute. I can only respond by reemphasizing and revamping my previous messages. If everybody that was physically able -- that means most of you folks -- rode bikes, I believe that we would all be a lot happier.
We would be healthier both physically and mentally. The United States is the fattest country on the face of this planet, and I don't think that this affects just our physical health. We would be able to communicate with more than just fingers from the bellies of our four-wheeled beasts. Without walls to shield us we would be forced to come up with more effective forms of communication strangers than road rage. I believe that better communication between everyone, not just friends, is the first step to building a better community. And third, we wouldn't have to pave over our entire country just to accommodate the use of private automobiles. Sprawl is a malignant cancer that has been spawned by our absolute dependence on automobiles. We have to break our dependence before this cancer kills us all, both literally and figuratively.
An advantage of bikes that I have mentioned before, but not in this letter, is that biking is fun. If you (the reader) don't believe this you should show up to the Weekly Bike Cruise. It meets every Friday night at 11:59pm at Ozone Bikes. Ozone Bikes is at the corner of 32nd and Guadalupe. I don't care how you get there as long as you bring the bike so you can enjoy the ride. I believe that if more people discovered that biking was fun, it would be a lot easier for them to break their absolute dependence on cars. I am trying to help create a bike culture that is capable of challenging our car-dominant culture so we can live in a safer, cleaner, and happier future.
Web worms invading
the neighborhood pecan trees.
Cut them down! Burn them!
Stop Spiraling Rent
Dear Editor and Apt. Renter,
Is this really "Smart Growth?" The July 16, 1999, front page headline reads ..." AUSTIN RENTS RIP THROUGH THE ROOF." The article states, average rent for one bedroom has jumped from $500 to $880 a month. The article further states, and I quote, "More than 97% of all the area's ... units are full ..." According to logical projection, on the graph, in a few years the apartment costs will double again. Of course, a lawyer who running against Bruce Todd stated in The Daily Texan he would have affordable apartments built. (He was Mr. Watson, now Mayor Watson due to that promise.) But the opposite has happened, and rent on average doubled? Of course, Slusher stated before this last election, in the Statesman, he would have affordable apartments built, but instead they doubled in price.
How long will the apartment renters in Austin, this to occur? Sit down, and in five minutes you can list five logical means, of stopping this ... or your rent will double ... again ... soon.
The Education of George
Dear Editor and voters:
Let's face it: Governor Bush is having a lot of trouble with geography and the English language. Perhaps there is truth in the contention that his years of higher education were filled with alcohol, illicit drugs, and fornication. Whatever the case, he wasn't focusing much on academics.
Iraq's Gonna Rise Again?
Soon after the war, crippling economic and military sanctions were imposed upon this country and her handful of allies. It took the combined firepower, financing and political will of dozens of countries to defeat this rogue nation and her supporters around the world. This sovereign state was controlled and ruled by a combination of popular support and brutal oppression by one man's personal ideology. Military inspections by the international community were forcibly imposed upon this country and its civilian population was barred from traveling to other states for many years after the war. The victorious allies illegally occupied sections of this country and traveling through these areas was restricted for citizens of that state. Forced by the terms of the surrender treaty, this country had to pay reparations and war damages to the allies and several other countries affected by the war.
Are we talking about Iraq, again? No, this is post-World War I Germany, but we might as well be talking about Saddam's rogue nation. Iraq is in the same situation today that the Kaiser's Germany was in 1918, if not worse. After the humiliation of defeat, the German people weathered many years of stigma and suffering to rise up and rebuild their nation into something much stronger and more fearful. As resilient as the Iraqi people are, the bitterness of nine years of deadly sanctions imposed upon them will not be easily forgotten. Only time will tell if history will repeat itself.
Zafar S. Choudhury
We Can't All Get Along
There's a war going on, a civil war, right here in Texas. It's a quiet war; most don't even know it's happening. Tanks are now Land Cruisers (or any other big-ass SUV -- oh, by the way, SUV really stands for Single, Un-cool, Virgin). Missiles have been replaced by concrete buildings, and occupying another man's land is not called building a mini-mall.
Let's make a bumper sticker -- SAVE THE PLANET, KILL A YUPPIE -- because we're not fighting back. I know you care, Austinites, punk kids, hippies, slackers, Gen. X, whatever they're calling us this week. "But what can I do?" you say. Revolt! Don't buy coffee at Starbucks. Don't buy an SUV. Every sad-bastard already has one. Shop at local places like Little City, Blue Velvet, Half-Price Books. Maybe then these cool little places you like so much, that are actually part of the reason you moved here, will stay in business. Kill the yuppie in you.
... Ahh, the open road, just you and your bike. Hah! They see you and think "Nuisance! I'll have to slow down cuz my big-ass SUV doesn't fit in the lane now." So they push you off the road and what do you do? Write a letter to the Chronicle and complain about it. Instead, when you hear some yuppie moaning about the sound at the Dobie, turn around and tell 'em to shut up. I do. Or when you hear them at a restaurant saying "the food is much better in L.A.," tell them to go back there.
Now you're thinking, "but then I'm just as bad as them." Time to face facts. We can't peacefully co-exist! It's us against them.They don't care -- hacking the s**t out of our greenbelt, SUVs turning the "Clean Air City" into a smog capital. Yuppies don't give a shit about you. They're not going to start riding bikes and they don't like the homeless people on the drag. They don't give a f**k about you, Amy Babich, they laugh at you. You offer no threat to their dominant lifestyle.
I, like some, know how special Austin is. Well, it's soon to be a "was." Now is the time, people. There isn't long left. Take a stand! You first, Chronicle -- print this letter -- I know how much you care about Austin, you're part of us. And if you were yuppies you'd now be charging us a dollar to read this.
P.S. Steve Burns, you yuppie weasel, I have a job, you'd be proud of me. Oh and by the way, I wear Old Spice. High Endurance, too. Especially on the bike so I don't smell for you. Tosser.
Origin of Species
Dear Mr. Black:
If men are from Mars and women from Venus; lesbians hail from Saturn, gay men, Uranus.
Not so sincerely,