It Gets Better
If I could, I'd like to address a few comments to Andrea Taylor, who recently sent you a letter more soulful and beautifully wrought than a lot of the stuff you pay money for ["Postmarks," Vol. 18, No. 47].
Andrea, a lot of us have been dealing with the same stuff you're talking about for a long time now, and the answer is that there is no answer. But I can tell you two things:
First: Things will get better, I swear. Not only will you find people who have gone through the same thing you're going through, but some of the people that you thought were complete idiots will pull their heads out and turn out to be pretty cool. I encourage you to be big and forgive them their earlier transgressions if this happens, especially since someday you may require the same favor.
Second: No matter how much things improve, you're still going to be dealing with assholes. We all do; there's no way to avoid it. Chuckleheads will prosper; sadists will seduce your friends; philistines will continue to degrade and destroy the world as we know it. It's not fair, but there it is.
So you've got at least two choices. You have every reason to write the world off, which a lot of people do, and decide it's not worth your trouble.
Or you can decide that you're not going to let these assholes turn you into one of them. Instead of wasting your time hating them, you can be figuring out what makes you happy and how to do it (which, incidentally, is the best revenge) and realize that there are a lot of people out here who read your letter and said "Yeah, I remember that. School sucks. I hope she gets out of there okay." I know that doesn't help you any, but for what it's worth, there are a bunch of us pulling for you, and for every other kid who's not popular, or who's different, or who feels like they're stuck someplace they don't belong. You're not the first, and you won't be the last, and that's probably a very good thing, even if it doesn't feel like it right now. Hang in there.
It Gets Better, Pt. 2
Andrea Taylor ["Postmarks," Vol. 18, No. 47] may never win an academic award, but I cannot remember reading a more powerful or honest letter to the editor. Adults are too busy assigning blame for disasters like Columbine High School, restricting access to guns, and attacking the Internet that they pay no attention to the root causes of children's dissociation, rebellion, and violence. School-age children dissociate because they cannot understand why compassionate, instinctive values -- like tolerance, kindness, and respect -- are not reinforced or rewarded. They rebel because they sense that teachers and administrators are, at best, helpless to control the bullying of the in-crowds and, at worst, co-conspirators with the popular children. And some of them resort to violence when they despair of ever living in a world with a value system that gives them a chance. I hope every teacher at Lamar Middle School, and every other school in our district, reads and rereads this letter. There is only so much the faculty at any school can do to dispel the combat-zone atmosphere that pervades the clique caste system in all junior high and high schools, but at a minimum they should be conscious it exists, and that it is reinforced by many of the extracurricular activities, clubs, societies, and even award ceremonies. We shouldn't abandon these accouterments of young school life, but we shouldn't magnify their exclusive effect.
Andrea, hang in there. You have more in common with those clique kids then you know. They're scared of the unknown and desperately afraid of being alone. That's why they form groups that are based on things so inconsequential as good looks or rich parents. When you escape from junior high and high school, it gets a lot better. You'll find friends who have discarded the superficial values that surround you at Lamar. In fact, you'll be stronger for having survived. You'll be surrounded by people who value you for your diversity. And you will flourish. You're already a more talented writer than most college graduates could even understand.
Michael M. Simpson
Smart Growth is described as a "Culture War." In this "war" Joe Lance states to the Austin media, "there were 2,780,000 trips taken on the DART light-rail line in the first quarter of 1999." This battle technique is called "The Zero Effect," and is used to sway lay persons toward building light rail. Actually 2,780,000 trips is a low figure for light rail.
If you were to think like transit professionals, then 365 days divided by four (25%) is 91.25 days for the "quarter" year-1999. 2,780,000 trips divided by 91.25 days = 30,465.753 trips per day. Most people make a trip to a designation then they have a trip back. So divide the 30,465.753 trips by two which = 15,232.876 total round trips. Realistically in the quarter year-1999 that's a daily total of 15,233 round trips on the DART.
Austin's estimated 17-mile start-up Green line light rail weekday trip ridership figure from 1997 is 23,000, divide by two and the round-trip figure is 11,500. Green Line "estimated" cost to build is $612 million.
That's over $50,000 spent for each weekday round trip. And not enough "Texans" on the train to make a measurable reduction in Austin's pollution levels or congestion.
It's amazing how concern for the Eastside soars when some question such as light rail arises. Rick Hall even finds Eastside concerns enough reason not to build a light rail system ["Postmarks," Vol. 18, No. 47].
I do not deny the impact of rail systems on the Eastside, but I feel the impact of displacement can be addressed with rent subsidies and public housing for those affected.
What letter writers such as Hall never point out is the effect our current car culture has on what Hall terms the "lower classes."
*Low income earners either spend an inordinate percentage of their income on maintaining a car or they lose mobility and access to patronize the best shops, work at the best jobs, further their education, and recreational opportunities.
*They are most likely to live near highly traveled streets and freeways and are thus subject to vehicular noise and air pollution.
*Since they have few other play areas, their children play in the streets and suffer a disproportionate share of vehicle-inflicted injuries and deaths.
Could you make room for some other people to have a shot at saving this city? Does Amy Babich pay you guys? Why doesn't she just get her own column and leave room for some other readers to have a voice? No one is listening to her anymore, anyway! Lately, whenever I see, "Yours truly, Amy Babich" I don't even read the piece. If you need space filled though, it works brilliantly. But I know plenty of other people are writing letters to you. And although Amy has made some great points in the past, her ongoing and seemingly guaranteed contributions are at the expense of other submissions, week after week. Nothing personal Amy, but some people are being denied a chance to get their message heard while you try in vain to get redneck asshole yuppie lawyers onto bicycles.
Hold Off on Eviction
As Austinites, we pride ourselves on enlightened and progressive social policies. The time to act on these sentiments is now, as dozens of families are about to be kicked out in the street. The Statesman reported that Royce Gourley, the new owner of the apartment complex on 1616 W. Sixth Street, has extended his tenants 10 more days to his one-month notice of eviction. Yet much was left unreported as he barred reporters from the meeting. When asked to provide information about which tenants are to be evicted, clarifying if these evictions are racially motivated, he claimed ignorance. In addition, as these tenants seek housing elsewhere, his office claims to have no tenant history for them. Without this reference, these families have little chance to find an apartment, especially now, as college students are snatching up everything in sight. The city of Austin has discussed housing problems in the abstract for years, but for these families the clock is ticking: They have until August 10, and school starts on the 11. Is it too much to ask for a few more months?
Armando Rodriguez Jr.
Reviewing the Reviewer
In the field of journalism there is a maxim among reporters to double-check their sources before filing their writing with their publisher. With that precept in mind, I can not believe The Austin Chronicle would allow such a careless review of Bruce Robison's Long Way Home From Anywhere by Raoul Hernandez ["Texas Platters," Vol. 18, No. 48] to be printed. Three of the four songs in which Raoul lambastes Bruce's writing were not even written by Bruce. "Trouble" was written by Yusuf Islam (better known as Cat Stevens), "The Good Life" by Joe Dickens, and "Emotionally Gone" by local Waterloo Records fave Damon Bramblett. All of this information is in the CD's booklet. Who is reviewing Mr. Hernandez's shoddy journalistic work? It is too late to prevent the damage that has been done by such poor reporting on Mr. Hernandez's part. The review has been read by many potential purchasers who now have it in their minds that this album may not even be worth checking out, and my letter, if printed at all, will be buried in the "letters to the editor" section, far away from the "record review" section where it might expose Mr. Hernandez's carelessness. May I suggest The Austin Chronicle "Do the Right Thing" and print my letter in the record review section along with a new review by another Chronicle staff member who will be a bit more fastidious in their research. You might also have Mr. Hernandez look up the meaning of fastidious in his dictionary and write the definition 100 times after work one day as penance. As for Mr. Hernandez's opinion of the "musical quality" of the album, of which he said little other than to state Bruce has limited vocal range and sounds like James Taylor, that is his opinion and he has the right to voice it, but for myself, a fan of Bruce, I find the album to be familiar Bruce Robisonville, strong songwriting on his part, a decent choice of covers, a filler song or two, and the musical mix of country & pop I have come to expect from Bruce.
[Raoul Hernandez replies: Because the label provided no copies of the finished album to the Chronicle, I reviewed Long Way Home From Anywhere from an album advance which had no credits. I regret the error -- fastidiously.]
Son of a Bush
Dear Editor and Bush Supporter,
It is interesting that Dallas Morning News noted this last week what Bush's contributors gained, who invested in his companies oil wells ... big losses. He went back to the people, whom he partied with in college, and scammed them out of money ... and while the company was sinking Bush walked out with millions.
He did this again in Dallas, by talking them into giving him $132 million in prime real estate, for a baseball stadium. Now if you gave me $132 million, in real estate, I would build affordable apartments and rent them out ... making $300 million. George W. Bush instead, barely cleared $15 million, after the city spent $132 million. All the rich people and executives should recall the Republican presidents -- Bush and Reagan -- ran us into a recession. And they are hot to spend $270 billion, which only exists in theory.
Most of this is so rich people can transfer inheritance to their children, without paying taxes ... while they only drop the IRS takes 1% on anyone making under $80,000. Not one cent of these goes to college grants.
Not another Bush Recession,
Meet the Newgrass
The Chronicle has been talking about bluegrass quite a bit lately (for the Chronicle), both in your recent article on the subject ["Hill Country Breakdown," Vol. 18, No. 40], and in your piece about the Meat Purveyors ["Driving and Cranking," Vol. 18, No. 48]. I have been playing bluegrass for 23 years, 18 of them in Austin, and I have a few observations. First, musical categories are useful for descriptive purposes. If someone tells me that a jazz band is playing somewhere, I don't expect to find a group with a Chuck Berry-style guitarist, playing "Maybelline." That's not jazz, and we all know it. It's not a musical value judgment -- I like Chuck Berry. The case is similar with bluegrass. People have certain expectations about what the term means. If the term is no longer adequate to describe all the music associated with it, perhaps it needs to be modified -- how does "alt bluegrass" sound? (By the way, there's nothing new under the sun -- remember "newgrass"?)
Second, I feel that a straw man has been floating through some of the comments made in the aforementioned articles -- the dreaded "bluegrass Nazi," who is intolerant of all music not first recorded by Bill Monroe or the Stanley Brothers. While I have met my share of people like that, I don't know any in Austin. Some people simply like to play traditional bluegrass, and don't much care to play anything else. In this they are no different from traditional blues musicians, conjunto musicians, or classical musicians. Austin is full of people who only like whatever pop music KLBJ happens to be playing this week. Why are these people not vilified as narrow-minded "pop fascists?"
This is in response to last week's letter regarding KUT and the dissing of John Aielli ["Postmarks," Vol 18, No. 48]:
First of all, listening to John is not painful. Quite the opposite, in fact -- it's soothing!
Secondly, Eklectikos is a refreshing change from the redundancy of the music scene in Austin: the same clubs (and radio stations) which constantly have the same acts playing the same songs over and over and over again.
Third, we could only wish that we knew as much music -- and as much about music -- as John Aielli. Yet, far from being a snob about it, he has a joy that he wishes to share with us all. Boy, are we lucky!
Now, I don't like every song or groove that John gets into, but that's just taste. Do what I do at that point: If you don't like the show, turn it off! That's the beauty of radio. (Wish I could do the same thing with my neighbors!) But don't ruin it for the rest of us who are greatful for this wonderful man.
Caryl P. Weiss
Why No Veggie Reviews?
Since I moved to Austin a year and a half ago, I have enjoyed eating out at a large number of wonderful restaurants. In other cities, my vegan diet restricted my choices to one or two menu items at one or two restaurants. But not so in Austin: Here even the BBQ places take pride in offering vegetarian and vegan options.
I found most of the places I frequent in the Chronicle, although not in your food reviews. In fact, rarely if ever do your reviews even mention a vegetarian entree. Because I find this strange, I have gathered the following statistics: In a recent issue of the Chron, 20 restaurants advertised in the Cuisines/Food-o-File/Automat section. Of these 20, fully one quarter specifically mentioned vegetarian offerings. Another six ads represented cuisines which generally include a large number of vegetarian offerings (pizza places, Chinese, Japanese, and Indian restaurants ...). In an informal survey of the remaining 10 restaurants, I found they all offer vegetarian entrees.
I conclude from these facts that at least half, if not all, of your food advertisers are interested in informing and attracting members of Austin's sizable vegetarian population. How is it, then, that Chron food reviews continue to ignore this constituency? When we veggies give up reading the Cuisines section in disgust, the money your restaurant advertisers spend to reach us will have been wasted.
Rosie Q. Weaver
Respect Your Millennium
Dear Editor: 1999 is not the last year of this century or this millennium. It is the ninth, 99th, etc. The entire world is caught up in millennium fever, when actually we are 17 months away from the new millennium. There was no Year Zero. Common sense indicates that we began marking time in our present system with Year One.
For advertisers to capitalize on this common error is fine. When reporters at The Daily Texan do it, I think, "They're just kids getting their feet wet in journalism; I'll cut them a break." When reporters at the Statesman do it, I think "They're just big kids getting their feet wet in journalism; I'll cut them a break."
But when Michael Ventura, a writer I respect, is allowed to buy into this millennium frenzy ["Letters at 3AM," Vol. 18, No. 47], I can't keep quiet. The final straw has been added to the back of my camel named Media Pet Peeve. Only Newsweek, who quickly changed their term from "millennium bug" to "Y2K bug" in the interest of accuracy, has fought the good fight on this point of order.
You can argue that this isn't really a big deal. My answer would be that the passing of the millennium is a very big deal -- and a very easy concept to grasp numerically. That we as a society are in such a rush to move into the future at the expense of common sense and elementary math is pretty pathetic.
Stand up for your millennium-recognizing rights! Get the word out! When you hear someone who is millennium-impaired, gently correct them -- you'll be doing us all a favor.
Web worms invading
the neighborhood pecan trees.
Cut them down! Burn them!