Our readers talk back.

Treeless Houses


There is no such thing as an ugly tree. But the hideous structures made of them for human dwellings are unforgivable. The poorest nation in Europe, Spain, mandates by code that all houses be built of earth materials, brick, and concrete. The traditional wood beams used for floors and roofs have been replaced with precast concrete beams and planks. Their houses are now 100% fireproof, waterproof, windproof, termite-proof, and do not destroy families and their possesions while they sleep. Since the U.S. has spent the last 100 years ignoring these problems and removing the vital forests to make temporary wood shelters, I have a suggestion for the future bonfires at the leading engineering university, A&M, which should have beat the Spanish to this solution to the shelter problem long ago.

Have the building industry that makes those cheese box houses which litter the highways heading East out of Austin toward College Station donate a few dozen of their products to the bonfire. Lash them together as is done with the 7,000 trees every year. Stack them up as high as the spirit of football requires. They will stack much more safely than logs. Then set them on fire. It would be a multipurpose celebration not only of school spirit but of the wonderful qualities of North American housing. The students could live in the structures for the year prior to bonfire and get another round for the following year's blaze. And let the birds and other animals have their homes and allow the trees to do what they are supposed to do for the atmosphere. If the university can't learn the students nothing, then they should do like Mr. Dell said Mr. Jobs should do with Apple Computers, shut it down and put it out of its misery! (Look at the new product from Dell -- good thing Jobs didn't take his advice just yet!)

Frank Lloyd Wright said, "Ugly buildings make my teeth ache!"

An artist in pain,

Jim Franklin

West Coast Family


Though I never listened to Oar ["The Memory of Music," Dec. 17] I am a longtime Skip Spence fan, dating to his days with the Airplane. "Blues From an Airplane" was a great song, and Signe Anderson was a great singer (as was Marty Balin). Something changed after Grace (not so) Slick joined the band, and at the Airplane concerts I attended, I was there for Jorma and Jack and Marty, the two D.C. guys and the Voice. Signe was a folk singer, while Grace wasn't. But I digress. Moby Grape was one of the biggest ad campaigns the Washington Free Press ever benefited from, but Columbia killed the band with its stupid (for the times) multiple singles release that limited airplay for any one song. (My favorite Airplane song is Balin's "Coming Back to Me," which I must have played 1,000 times more than all others.)

After years of yearning to find anyone who remembered Moby Grape (I was on the East Coast for too long), I found the Vintage double CD and play it all the time. I am also a fan of Bob Mosley's songs ("Bitter Wind," "Come in the Morning," and especially "It's a Beautiful Day Today"), but who can top "Omaha" and "Motorcycle Irene," or the absolute cornball of "Just Like Gene Autry (A Foxtrot)," and of course "Indifference and Seeing."

What I really am writing about is your time in Vermont, because one of my old pals, Ray Mungo, wrote what I still believe is the true history of the movement -- Famous Long Ago: My Life and Hard Times with Liberation News Service -- which tells the true story of how the breakup of the Freak-New Left coalition -- while he was in Vermont at Total Loss Farm. Key question is were you there?

One final bone -- the Airplane were more like the Stones of San Francisco, while the Dead were more like the Beatles -- just play music and teach joy. I presume the best buy is More Oar, though one ought to also have the original. I hardly buy any music these days (two girls in college and all that), but will scrape up to do so -- along with Blaze Foley (I also presume).

Once again, thanks for the report and reminiscence.

Duggan Flanakin

Ineffective Righteousness

Dear Editor,

After reading Amy "ain't got no car" Babich's latest in a seemingly unending series of letters, it occurs to me that she spewed more noxious gas in the actual creation of this mindless drivel than has my Miata in the last six months. Oh, I'm sorry, not my Miata. My "two-ton gas-burning tank."

Ms. Babich, if you expect the city of Austin to change zoning laws in an effort to cater to your insatiable ego, then you are indeed in for a great amount of disappointment in this life. I'm not just talking about the disappointment of not being able to afford a car, but the disappointment of not being capable of achieving desired results because you depend on a bunch of politicians to do the right thing.

My mother taught me that if I want something in this world, I have to ask for it. Ms. Babich seems content to sit behind a desk and write her little letters to the editor, pointing accusational fingers at everyone while secretly vindicating herself. Ms. Babich, if you want car-free zones, do the rest of us heathens a favor and take decisive action. Do you think the city of Austin is going to happen upon your letter and change the laws because you're not happy? I can see the zoning hearings now.

"I move to change the zoning laws, I read this letter to the editor in the Chronicle last week, and this girl Babich isn't very happy."

Dream on. Perhaps you would prefer some other hapless fool appear before the City Council with a half-baked proposal entailing car free zones? Again, not likely.

If Ms. Babich is not willing to take action in an all-out effort to reconcile that which appears to her a serious problem, then she is as guilty as she accuses us of being. Of course, if Ms. Babich would prefer to continue cowering behind the printed word, accomplishing nothing with her tiresome complaints, then here's some more advice from my mother: If you don't like it, you're free to leave at any time.

Don't let the door hit you on your way out.


Young Gray

Cars vs. Cows


I was reading the "Postmarks" in the latest Chronicle and I came across a letter that I found most perplexing. In "Veggie Hypocrisy" [Dec. 3] the writer seems to find it odd that people who have "meat is murder" stickers on their cars would violate traffic laws. Furthermore, a person (I assume other than the writer) found this act worthy of being called hypocrisy. So, if I may be so bold as to bore the writer and whoever titled the letter with a few definitions:

1.Vegetarianism -- The practice of or belief in in eating a diet made up chiefly of vegetables, grains, fruits, nuts, seeds, and occasionally, dairy products such as milk and cheese.

Wow! Surprise, surprise, nothing about parking in there. In addition I am also pretty confident that animal right activists don't have a stance on parking, assuming you don't park on an animal. So, why would surprised that vegetarians would park illegally? It doesn't make any sense. Maybe they were Smiths fans, in which case I don't know if they have a stance on traffic violations.(If they do, I respectfully withdraw my comments).

2. Hypocrisy -- the practice of expressing feelings, beliefs, or virtues one does not hold or possess.

Well, I think that now that we know that vegetarianism has nothing to do with driving. It is safe to say there was no hypocrisy involved.

Che Robinson

Late for the Spring


Recently the Save Barton Creek Association celebrated its 20th anniversary. The Board of Trustees regrets that many of the 5,000 members and other supporters did not receive their invitations in a timely manner. We sincerely apologize for this error. The Board of Trustees extends its heartfelt thanks and grateful appreciation for your steadfast support over the years. Barton Springs Eternal!

George Cofer

SBCA Programs Manager

Thanks, Everybody!

Austin Chronicle:

We would like to take this opportunity to thank the many people who gave unselfishly to help us during the [Tary Owens] benefit December 1. Sandy Chernikowski spent untold hours organizing the silent auction as well as the concert itself. We cannot express enough gratitude for the overwhelming love and generosity she brought to the event. Rob Patterson did an absolutely incredible job of organizing and overseeing the concert. I cannot think of anyone who could have done a better job. Stephanie Chernikowski created a magnificent poster as well as other beautiful graphics. Jo Rae Dimennl of Hard Pressed Publicity did an excellent job of promotion. Behind the scenes, Debbie Harris conducted a highly successful garage sale to raise much needed expense money. Connie Clark, Dian Donnel, Jon Foose, Fontaine Maverick, Saira Morgan, Doug Morgan, Rae Nadler, Madeleine Villatoro, Houston White, and Karen Willis all served on the benefit committee and did wonderful, largely thankless work. Space does not permit listing of all the volunteers, musicians, and silent auction donors, but their work is greatly appreciated.

Lucinda Williams and the North Mississippi Allstars drove down from Nashville at their own expense to appear. Ervin Charles drove in from Beaumont. Spot Barnett and Randy Garibay came in from San Antonio.

Joe Nick Patoski and Clifford Antone did magnificent jobs as masters of ceremonies and Austin musicians came in droves to show their support. Most of all we would like to thank the community of Austin for coming out and showing overwhelming love and support we have received. This couldn't have happened anywhere else in the world! It makes us proud to say that we're from Austin and we hope that we can live up to such love and trust.

Tary Owens and Maryann Price

Bike Check


Lost your bike at UT? Check the lost and found! An incredible amount of valuable stuff gets turned in by honest people and not claimed. This includes jewelry, cell phones, sports equipment, cameras, tools, and bikes.

Unclaimed stuff is sold at UT's Surplus Auctions, held three times a year (next one is in January). Last year, at least 500 bikes were sold. Many were nearly new, expensive models, whose owners assumed they were gone for good. (These auctions are a good place to get a cheap bike, too, if you don't mind spending all day doing it.)

Adam Stern

Oh, Canada!


Nelson Haldane ["Postmarks," Dec. 17] is right! Or at least, I think so. I did find out, after looking it up, that Nunavut is, in fact, a territory, but a "territory with a land grant" according to their Web site (, what else? Does that mean some territories are more equal than others? This site is cool, too. They even have a news page in Inuktitut). My bad. I think I must have seen a wire story that confused me back in March.

New Brunswick is absolutely kee-rect. I don't know about that Province of Newfoundland and Labrador "error," though. Newfoundland is a standard appellation, even in Canadian press reports. It's kind of a "for short" thing. Technically, Massachusetts, Kentucky and Pennsylvania are commonwealths, not states, but only state employees in Beantown insist on calling Massachusetts "the Commonwealth."

So, this Newfie drives all night to get to T.O. so he can see the Jays at Skydome. He pulls over in front of a bar just as it's opening up, so he's the first customer in there, but before he can even pull his toque off, the bartender says, "I guess you're wonderin' why there's a gorilla sittin' at that table in the corner, eh?" So, the Newfie says --

Henry V. Fitzgerald, Jr.

The Ventura Millennium

Dear Michael,

I wanted to share with you one of the usually unseen, silent, rippling dynamics which emanate from your powerful columns. Your recent column "Y2 Kaos" ["Letters at 3am," Dec. 10] reached me on many levels (especially the observation that "no school of thought that I know of that addresses the individual's deep shame over our collective state"). So, I (being a known agnostic/evolutionist in my family) decided to send the article to a fundamentalist Christian brother of mine in Idaho. He and I have been maintaining a superficial relationship for years, trying to avoid philosophical clashes. I thought your article would be of interest to him, as he and I have talked extensively about shame and guilt, about the damage the Catholic church engrained in us. I didn't see anything in your article which I believed he would find offensive. Hell, you virtually quote the Bible with reference to "the sins of the fathers --"

Well, I was wrong. He found the article "clashed with his world view," and was bewildered why I had sent it. He didn't specify what in the article had offended him, whether it was the reference to no religion being able to solve the dilemma of the Other, or the reference to gays as an example of an evolutionary shift. Whatever, sadly, this little incident has laid bare the vast ideological/philosophical chasm separating my brother and I, who once shared bedrooms and play as children. Ironically, I have been urging him to get e-mail. When he finally did last week, your article happened to be one of the first things I sent him. And so the communication between the machines has blown up in our face. That is, I thought the machine would provide us a place to expand our communication with each other. Instead, it now has caused us to regress into our own worlds. Sadly, I only wanted to reach out and be closer to him, to try and touch on some of the important issues you raise in "Y2 Kaos." Oh well. I obviously misjudged the dynamics.

But I still enjoyed your article. As Gene Wilder states in Young Frankenstein, "such strange goings on."

Now, about that 401k article a while back -- I'm still losing sleep over that one --

Happy Y2K, Michael.

Mike Albrecht

Challenging Cinema


[Read in a deep, Southern, courtroom drawl]

My friend Teddy Vuong ["Postmarks," Dec. 3] was more calm and deliberate when addressing the previous criticisms ["Postmarks," Nov. 19] of the movie review of Being John Malkovich. I cannot do the same. I was smacked by the myopic mouthings of those two movie-going Indignants. Indignants who insisted that decency demands a more drastic recourse, such as boycott. Indignants who seek knee-jerk justice for alleged exploitive and horrific images of violence against women in this great Spike Jonze movie. I ask you, can we not address our grievances with a more open analysis of art, absurdist imagery, and cognitive dissonance? Can we not discuss our conclusions with other moviegoers rather than hollering that something is atrocious and should thus be boycotted in order to stop its insidious and sticky, axle-grease-like transfer from movie image to human minds? No we cannot, bellowed Sam Grimes and Joy Williamson. Can we take a learned look at a movie that blatantly uses absurdist imagery in order to express parallel and deeper meanings? Maybe, says Nancy L. Locklin ["Postmarks," Dec, 10], but only if the film reviewer warned her fully of the nature of the imagery. I shake my head in bewilderment. Did these Indignants see the same movie I did? Does Being John Malkovich make light of or show as humorous the horrors faced by women? I would argue that those who have seen it would say, "No."

I would argue that this absurdist movie attempts to shatter conventional viewing, create dissonance, and coerce reconciliation. I am aware that it is uncomfortable to have to analyze something without the crutch of convention. I am aware that discomfort often leads to emotional discharge, in the form of anger, like that of the Indignants. I'm also aware that in others the same discharge comes in the form of laughter, and yet others grief. Finally, my good friend Genevieve Van Cleve says that she was simply disappointed that the movie's screenwriter, first-timer Charlie Kaufman, couldn't write a woman's role well, so, rather than artfully developing his character, he confines her to a cage until he can wrap the story up. I agree with that assessment. In the future I'd ask that we all, including the two Indignants, bolster our psychic defenses before going to see a movie, appreciate any artistic intent, reviewed or not, and wash our hands thoroughly when done.

Nick Alvarado

Atlanta, Ga.

Longhorn Imports


R&SA uno: Hey, what's new?

R&SA dos: Did you hear that a Scott Heard from San Diego is coming here, to play for UT's baseball team?

R&SA uno: How come?

R&SA dos: Because, according to the coach, you're too pendejo to play.

R&SA uno: No, I'm not, he's never asked me.

R&SA dos: You have to be enrolled at UT first.

R&SA uno: Damn!

R&SA dos: Where'd you get that roach?

R&SA uno: At the corner store. Here, man.

R&SA dos: They're looking for a chancellor too. I bet you won't be called up.

R&SA uno: I doubt it.

R&SA dos: You know what? My sisters are getting pissed off because the softball coach is getting girls from California, Virginia, and Tomball, Texas to play next year.

R&SA uno: They've got to get enrolled at UT first, right?

R&SA: Raised and Schooled Austinite.

Paul Aviña

Hot Tip

Dear Austin Chronicle,

If it weren't for you guys I would have missed the concert event of the year, the Bill Frisell show (there were two but I only saw the first one) at the Continental Club. Thanks very much; the show was incredible. I got to hear my favorite song ("Keep Your Eyes Open") live, and that was but one of many highlights.

Mr. Frisell if you see this, please hurry back to Austin!

Rob Turk


Thank you for maintaining the searchable archives of Chronicle back issues. This is a valuable community resource that has helped me a great deal at work.


Elizabeth R. Bain


Cap Met Curiosity


How come Capital Metro is now claiming 47,000 riders per day on light rail when as recently as July it was claiming around 30,000? What has happened in the last few months that would cause the estimates to jump 50%?

The 47,000 seems especially ridiculous when you compare that to the 30,000 DART light rail passengers per day In 1998.

How can Capital Metro claim its light rail will attract 47,000 riders when Dallas, with four times the population and a third longer rail system (20 miles versus 15) attracts only 30,000? Isn't anyone besides me curious?

Ron Riley

Go All the Way

Dear Editor,

A Japanese friend of mine was very surprised when she tried to get to the Village Shopping Center on Anderson Lane by Capital Metro bus. What surprised her is that the bus does not take passengers across Anderson Lane into the shopping center. Instead, it leaves them at a bus stop, consisting of signs, benches, and a sidewalk, about 1é4 mile south of Anderson Lane. Many disabled people ride Austin's buses. If they want to see a movie at the Village Shopping Center, they must walk or wheelchair that 1é4 mile and busy street as best they can.

If you decide to go to Barton Springs by bus (perhaps accompanied by your children and your grandmother), you may be surprised to learn that the bus does not take you to your destination. Instead, it drops you on Barton Springs Road, about 1é4 mile from where you are going.

If Capital Metro ever provides first-class bus service, buses will take people all the way into major destinations, such as shopping malls and Barton Springs. And buses to recreational destinations (such as shopping malls and Barton Springs) will run more frequently on weekends than on weekdays, not less frequently.

If you agree with this, write to Capital Metro and tell them so. If you can, give them details about the destinations you want to reach.

Yours truly,

Amy Babich

Post P-Funk


Well, it's 1:07am and I just got home from the P-Funk concert. All I can really feel right now is an incessant ringing in my ears, my aching head, and an overwhelming sense of horror. Yes, it's almost Halloween, but does Austin really have to turn evil? Didn't anyone notice that you were chanting "Down with the P-Funk" along with a George Clinton who was disappointedly pulling you along? Did anyone hear him talk about how dope can rip you apart if you're not careful (trying to get something through)? Nobody was listening to the criticism, but they were all soaking up what sounded good, not what was good. George did all but moo to show what mindless cows the crowd was full of.

I really don't know what to think about having been in that crowd. It did comfort me a little when I saw the few other people that noticed how disgusting the audience was standing with a look of resistance on their faces. Overall, though, I'm very tired and feel let down by a city that used to be the "Live Music Capital of the World.

Robby Maxwell

Andy All Over

Dear Editor,

Someone or some people have peppered the city with purple and gold posters of Andy Kaufman and Andy's alter ego Tony Clifton. To whoever is doing this, I have only one word to say: Right on!

Thank you very much,

Patrick Zepeda

Mitsubishi vs. the Whales

Dear Chronicle:

When I was eight years old my family went on a cruise down the Baja peninsula. On this trip, we had the privilege of visiting Laguna San Ignacio and seeing the Pacific Gray Whales. They were incredibly friendly and trusting. It was an unforgettable experience that I will treasure all of my life.

Now I'm reading that Mitsubishi wants to build a salt factory in the Pacific Gray Whale nursery of San Ignacio. This lagoon is the only place the whales have left to give birth to their young. Mitsubishi claims that this enormous industrial project can be built right on top of this last refuge without disturbing the whales. What's interesting (and predictable) is that it's only the scientists in the employ of Mitsubishi who make such claims. All others with knowledge of the area and the proposed project have stated in no uncertain terms that the building of this salt plant would have catastrophic consequences on the Gray Whale population. This salt plant could hurt the Gray Whales even more than a full resumption of legal whale hunting on the open seas, because this project would attack the whales when they are most vulnerable, in their infancy.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reports that Mitsubishi plans to go ahead with this salt plant despite over one million letters of opposition from people all over the world. Regrettably, it seems that the only way to get Mitsubishi's attention is with a boycott of their products: Don't buy Mitsubishi cars! For more information on this outrageous project call 1-877-88WHALE or visit


Chris Jones, Austin

Follow Vermont

Dear Sir:

Congratulations to Vermont for passing Act 60 -- Vermont Equal Educational Opportunity Act. The Vermont Supreme Court has ruled that the wide range of funding per K-12 pupil from $5,400 to nearly $12,000 is unconstitutional.

This story could be repeated in almost every state in the Union. Why doesn't our country take steps immediately to equalize funding for K-12 per pupil education to $12,000 per year? Doesn't it make more sense to invest in the education of our children instead of building more prisons at a cost of $30,000 per cell?

Why don't we change our priorities in defense of our country and use the $20 billion we now spend on maintaining our 45,000 atomic bombs which we no longer need and invest in the lifetime learning of all our citizens?

Sincerely yours,

Lillian M. Snyder, DSW

Professor Emeritus

Western Illinois University

Bush Still Stupid


The biggest winner coming off the first round of GOP debates was clearly Bush.


Because contrasted against the other five candidates, Bush looked terrible -- and yet he got high marks from all the talking heads hosting the political news shows.

Bush was clearly out of his element, ill-prepared, uninterested and absolutely dazed and confused, like a bug annoyed by a bright light, giving his best "how the hell do I know" Will Rogers wannabe smokescreen answers.

And yet, and this is where I need to take a pill, the entire media elite, from Brit Hume on FOXnews (who seemed determined to piss off John McCain with back-to-back "nobody likes you in Washington because of your temper" questions) lobbing softball "What do you read?" questions to Bush in the first debate in New Hampshire, to Chris Matthews on CNBC, who shrugged it off saying "Bush didn't once look at his watch so no one knocked him out."

Bush didn't look at his watch during the debates so he should be our next president?

He didn't look at his watch because he can't tell time.

Richard Harvey

Booth & Bill


Having just sat through yet another tribute to Bill Hicks featuring local Zero Kevin Booth, I'm less saddened by the truth that Bill has been dead six years, than I am that after all this time Kevin Booth is still profiting off jewelry stolen from his corpse.

Further, I can't believe that Larry Monroe devoted yet another show to this "I knew Bill Hicks" Richie Rich loser who punctuates his sentences with dot com. I'm sure Bill is writhing in his grave as Kevin continues to releases outakes like he's Yoko Ono, all the while fighting Bill's estate for the right to do so. Bill is bigger than that, he's better than that, and he deserves more respect than that. Kevin, rent a life!

Pat Brown

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