Bikes, Beets, and Bastrop.
Godzilla vs. Bastrop
I was surprised by your P.R. puff piece on the dispute between Capital Metro and Don Cheatham's Longhorn Railway ["Shaky Railing," Dec. 10]. If your writer had done much research at all it might have changed the David vs. Goliath tone of the piece. I know nothing of the contractual dispute between Capital Metro and Cheatham, but Longhorn Railway's dealings with the people of my Bastrop have been much more Godzilla-like than Davidian. McDade's rail line was an abandoned crumbling line until Cap Metro showed up, then leased it to Cheatham. Cheatham has played the role of the threatening big city lawyer out here: "You'll get what I give you and nothing more -- " was his famous line from a required public meeting. Title companies out here will not longer guarantee access to homes that have used railroad crossings for generations because of Cap Metro and Cheatham. Your writer apparently feels some strange Romance of the Rails nostalgia for this gravel hauling operation but ignores the fundamental question: What is Capital Metro doing in the business of hauling gravel to Giddings? Cheatham is just another slick lawyer sucking on the government dole teat. If this was a profitable business idea the residents of the area wouldn't have to subsidize it with their tax dollars. Just as with the Alcoa/city of San Antonio strip mine, the residents of Bastrop County are being told they have to endure this asinine public/private venture because our sparsely populated county doesn't have the power to stop it.
Beets: The Band
I just read Greg Beets' article about the Peenbeets ["Full of Schtick!" Dec. 3] and my nostrils are flaring! In an amazing feat of extraordinarily elastic journalistic ethics, Mr. Beets writes an article about his own band! Did he pay for this advertising? Do other bands get to write articles about their own arrested development and the flatulent noises they make in restaurants? Personally, I'd love to read about Texacala Jones' flatulence! How many fries can the band Death of Millions stuff up their cute little noses? Does Hooty McJiggle opt for the short stack or biscuit? I guess we'll never know because they don't write for the Chronicle! Greg Beets is turd soup! That's right! A big steaming bowl of turd soup!
Read the Book!
Marjorie Baumgarten, in the beginning of her last review of the recent movie Mansfield Park [Film, Dec. 31], should have written this sentence that she saves for the last paragraph of her review: "I am not familiar with the novel, so [I] cannot speak to the specific ways Rozema has altered the text, although the seams are quite frequently visible." I will not comment on the last part because I don't understand the meaning, but she had better write this sentence at the beginning of her review. I rarely read movie reviews because they are so often full of crap written by unaware pseudo-qualified film "critics" -- qualified meaning bachelor's degrees in communcations or journalism. I even more rarely feel inspired to actually respond in writing in response to anything a film critic has to say. Despite all of this, Ms. Baumgarten's review of Mansfield Park has inspired me to take pen to dinner napkin and say that not only was her review of the movie uninformed but it was wrong. This should not surprise most fans of the cinematic arts. Even though I never choose a movie and judge its character by what film critics have to say, sometimes "accidental" sightings of bogus opinion create in me an emotional reaction. Baumgarten's review caused an emotional reaction because it was invalid. This reaction was a result of having seen the movie and having realized it was in fact an extremely good portrayal of Austen's novel, the beauty of restraint from social standards of the time, and the superb but subtle acting found in the movie, particularly by O'Connor as the heroic and sensitive Fanny Price. Baumgarten's comments on the text and the fact that this movie incorporates fragments of Austen's correspondence and life into the dialogue are inaccurate and inappropriate. The fact that Austen's characters directly relate to the novelist's own senses and sensibilities as, anyone who has taken a criticism course at a university knows, is irrelevant. I will probably never again read another review from this paper but I simply felt inspired because this review was so obviously naive and inaccurate.
Cars Are a Cancer
The Miata "sports car" owner's irate letter against bicycle and transit activist Amy Babich ["Postmarks," Dec. 24] ironically coincided with the first anniversary of Austin's 58-car pileup last year. He almost writes: How dare you see anything wrong with our car morass and investments in oil dependence through highway construction expenditures, etc.?! We didn't vote for those billion-dollar highway overpasses on both 183 and Ben White, but dammit they're worth it. And so what if auto ownership and oil consumption is a drag on the economy and American competitiveness, not to mention social welfare and education?! What does it matter if Texas produces more air pollution than Germany while it's not at all in the same league economically? The wall in our city dividing east and west still stands and it is called I-35! How dare you think differently?!
But I know that Amy Babich is not alone in taking issue with "what appears to her as a serious problem," as Young Gray writes derisively. For my part, I also believe -- as Babich has written -- that driving, like smoking, causes negative effects, but in this case the government subsidizes driving and driving itself is a cancer rather instead in our body politic. It isn't that Americans are different from people elsewhere. Even foreigners who never or rarely drive in their own countries begin driving here. In face of the odds against other transportation means, driving is the "reasonable" alternative. Driving is so prevalent that the driver's license itself has become the de facto national I.D. card in a country which used to regard carrying identity papers as something antithetical to democratic life. Yes, driving is even controlling us is ways that Henry Ford couldn't have dreamed.
I'll concede this to Gray and other Babich critics: It's difficult not driving and having what is considered a normal life here. I'll attest to that myself through my travails in attempting to use the bus. But to you, Mr. Gray, I say that erratic bus service and an unresponsive Capital Metro do not make 58-car pileups any more attractive.
Babich for Council
In a recent letter to this publication, Young Gray states that I am a coward, because I just write letters to the newspaper and ride a bicycle on Austin's streets, instead of "taking decisive action" to rein in the cars.
For the benefit of Mr. Gray and others, I'd like to announce that I'm running for Austin City Council, Place 5 (the seat currently held by Bill Spelman) in this spring's election. Anyone who would like to help with the campaign or find out more about it is invited to drop me a line at PO Box 49084, Austin, TX 78765, or call me at Easy Street Recumbents.
I'm running for office because I think that there ought to be a non-motorist on the City Council. I think that facilitating non-motorized transportation (walking, bicycling, wheelchairing) should be a top priority of our city government. There are many, many possible ways to facilitate non-motorized transportation and discourage car use. And most of them don't cost much money. On the other hand, keeping the car system going is not only ecologically unsound but also extremely expensive.
I think that we should be actively and openly working to reduce the number of cars on Austin's streets with a view to getting all or most of them out of the city by 2025. If this sounds extreme, consider the alternative -- twice as many cars as we have now by 2025.
If you would like to help "take decisive action" on Austin's car population problem, vote for me in the upcoming City Council election.
Let me be one of many to voice my disappointment in Austin's much-hyped A2K celebration. All I can say is that however much money the city spent on its preparations for this millennial event was not enough, and the amount that was actually spent turned out to be a big waste. That had to be the biggest letdown of all the hyped millennial celebrations in possibly all the world. I'm so ashamed to be an Austinite. What many residents consider and boast to non-residents about Austin being a party town failed miserably in every way, shape, and form Friday night.
All of the things that are associated with New Year's Eve parties, fireworks, great music, and alcohol, were virtually nonexistent. Instead, how about a "light show" displaying corporate sponsorship? As if the 260,000 people there really wanted to see the Time Warner logo. Furthermore, what was up with the five-second audio clippings of various songs only to be followed by dead air? And Lyle Lovett singing songs of being a soldier of the Lord? On New Year's? Who thought that was a good idea? Finally, the coordinator of this bash, if you want to call it that, obviously has never spent an evening out on New Year's Eve because he or she would know that the party doesn't end at the stroke of midnight. Once it became January 1, it was obvious that A2K didn't have anything else planned, as if the other strokes of genius exhausted its supply of party ideas. It's pathetic when the most entertaining part of the celebration was trying to leave Sixth & Congress while 260,000 people were making their exodus at the same time. Hell, nothing else was going on, so why stay? What a joke. This is the capital of Texas and obviously somebody needs reminding of that.
The dawning of the new millennium has brought forth the vision of a better lifestyle for me, my family, and my nation. A vision free of the four major scourges of humankind: disease, deprivation, devastation, and death. It took some research, but the results are truly awesome.
I found that I can help prevent disease by replacing animal products in my diet with wholesome grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits. Chronic diseases associated with consumption of animal products kill three times as many Americans as those linked to tobacco smoking. Every health advocacy organization recommends the transition.
My diet will help prevent food deprivation. Raising animals for food wastes enormous amounts of foodstuffs, topsoil, water, fertilizer, energy, and other vital food production resources needed for our children and the world's hungry.
My diet will help prevent environmental devastation. Raising animals for food is chiefly responsible for pollution of our water supplies and for destruction of wildlife and their habitats. Even the conservative Sierra Club has joined the battle.
My diet will help prevent death and suffering of innocent, sentient animals. Nearly 10 billion are caged, crowded, deprived, drugged, mutilated, and manhandled each year in U.S. factory farms until the butcher's knife ends their misery.
My resolution for the new millennium is simple, but oh so powerful: a wholesome, nonviolent diet of grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits.
Texans Out of Austin!
For $10,500 each month, from Washington, we're getting an Edward Fuentes as an AISD deputy superintendent, by the grace of his amigo from Stanford days, Mr. Forgione. A triple strike on us from UT: As a dean of fine arts college, Robert Freeman will get here from New York next month. Another New Yorker, Dr. Steven Wartman, from the Jewish Medical Center in Long Island, will be landing in San Antonio as a dean of the Health Science Center in March. A Brandon Johnson, from DFW, will be playing for the Longhorns football team next season. A couple of guys from Odessa and Klein are being considered also. As a bonus for the ever-expanding pendejo syndrome in the area, Ballet Austin is looking for an artistic director in Oregon, New York, and London. Ironically enough, Mr. Stan Knee, the police chief from California, is teaching a community-based crime fighting course at Huston-Tillotson soon. He'll be explaining to those pupils that their uncles and daddys in the force don't have a chance to rank up anywhere as long as there are privileged swingers like him and over half the officers constantly being shuffled in from all over creation; that the students' cousins living in the ghettos better get smarter at whatever they do, because their job opportunities in town are being reduced to servitude positions, and Chief Knee will be happy to take them in, if he gets the chance. And if Mayor Kirk Watson called 911 when his house got burglarized on Dec. 15, that's as far as he can go. No jewelry back. He's gonna get the most incredible excuses from Lt. Joy Moony's air-conditioned office staffers, especially if his case is assigned to detective Conner, who looks for thieves in his computer, refusing to work on the streets, where all these misfits operate. Or maybe his case is just the consequence of the introduction of 100 people a day eating up Austin in the areas of education, information, entertainment, police, banking, technology, politics, sports, and private enterprise, intentionally displacing the local talent. May the Texas heat burn you all to ashes.
Save the Music
To the powers that be:
I am a Canadian that lived in the Austin area only three short years ago. I can't believe the number of venues that are closed and/or being demolished. I have recently read the Dec. 31 issue and am shocked. I guess that, like everywhere else, locals there are too close to the forest to see the trees. Austinites are the most fortunate people in the U.S. You reside in the greatest city imaginable. My friends in Canada are sick of my stories of the music and the incredible venues. Music is a very important resource to Austin and I hope that the people that are "saving the whales," "saving the trees," "saving the parks," or whatever will realize the seriousness of these closures. I hope that the local musicians are not "too close to the forest" to realize that if there are no venues there is no music. This is serious.
And Now, a Message ...
With Fox TV blacking out their local programming in the market served by Cox Cable, I assume that local advertisers will get a reduction in their advertising rates equal to the reduction in market coverage.
Deal With It!
I found "The Year It All Went Wrong" [Dec. 31] one of the whiniest things I have ever seen in print. Yes, it's sad that many clubs closed down. However, Michael Bertin writes as if it were wrong for government agencies to enforce existing laws or landlords to assert their rights. It is foolish not to expect these things.
I find it interesting that the Chronicle editor proposes that the city allow interim use of Robert Mueller Municipal Airport for sound stages ["Page Two," Dec. 10] and then three weeks later this article complains that the city is finally ending its interim lease to Liberty Lunch. If city officials decided to lease to the filmmakers for the interim and later decided some other permanent use would be better, they would then have to deal with the whines of ungrateful journalists. Why would they want this?
Watson, Bush, Jesus, Starbucks
Dear Editors, GW Bush, and parents of college students,
The statement that appeared bears repeating. This was in The Austin Chronicle two weeks ago -- "as landlords jumped for joy at 97% (apartment) occupancy I cried in my coffee. -- Housing Prices Soar!!!" ["A Home Loan of Our Own," Dec. 17]
We in Austin who pay exceptional high rents with no safety or security are really upset about this disaster. It creates an enviroment that is horrible. Our rent explodes and 35% of UT students are never able to graduate. Does Bush or Waston or anyone to whom we are required to pay the rent in the city care?
On Christmas Eve, I spent some time shopping in Barton Creek Square mall and picked up a copy of U.S. News and World Report. I read that two-thirds of college students at the state university just barely north of Dallas never graduate. The Texas governor had four billion in tax surplus. Not 1% went to college grants. Therein, two-thirds of these students and one-third of UT students never are able to graduate.
We invite Gov. Bush -- again -- to discuss this with us at Starbucks Coffee on Congress. When I dropped off a note about this at his office I made the invitation. Well, Mr. Watson or Mr. Bush, do either of you care? (You know it is the Christmas season. Some people actually recall he had no place -- no clean hospital, but a manure-filled barn -- and he spent 10 years as a dusty carpenter and three years discussing these messes at the equivalent of modern coffee shops. He never lived in a mansion or a church office.)
We continue to appeal,