Our readers talk back.
United We Stand
How strange that at the very moment ANC and SOS were recognized for helping Intel move downtown instead of over Barton Creek, the Chron was musing about a possible "split" between our organizations ["Off the Desk," Feb. 25]. Austin's neighborhood and environmental groups have been deeply allied for more than a decade, forming a powerful political coalition responsible for protecting many of the cornerstones of the Austin community.
The prospect of choosing between viable candidates who strongly support both the environment and neighborhoods need not be divisive. We view it as significant of the growing realization throughout the community that the vigorous efforts made to preserve the quality of neighborhoods and environment have made a strong contribution to our economic health. We foresee a city campaign season that will serve to reinforce this commitment and advance it well into the future.
Today, ANC and SOS are working side by side to address the downside of the current economic boom that threatens our neighborhoods as much as our environment, along with our mobility, schools, cost of living, and quality of life. These threats are regional, extending beyond just Austin, and neighborhood and environmental interests are finding common ground all over Central Texas.
We may disagree occasionally about exactly how to respond to these challenges, but make no mistake, we are unified in our intense desire to keep Austin unique, and not a clone of the Silicon Valley or anywhere else .
We would appreciate your help in motivating readers to fight this fight with us instead of trying to turn minor differences of opinion into a soap opera. While it might make good copy, it will not help preserve the neighborhoods and environment that we all love.
Chair, SOS Alliance
President, Austin Neighborhoods Council
Dear Mr. Black,
In your "Page Two" column of Feb 25, you clearly reveal that you have missed the point about the transsexual community's outrage about your article on Lauryn Paige Fuller.
The article broad-brush-painted transsexuals as prostitutes, strip artists, and drag queens, living in a seamy underground. Although a small, but significant, percentage of us are forced by economic conditions into that milieu, and even fewer prefer it, the overwhelming majority of us are not.
Yes, an article needed to be written, but not the hatchet job that you did on the transsexual community.
Mr. [sic] Smith's article was far from "beautiful"; it was sensationalism at its worst. May I recommend that your paper do another article on the transsexual community, and get it right this time?
PS. I know that Jordan Smith is female and prefers to be called "Ms.," but since she didn't respect Ms. Fuller's wishes in this regard, I'm returning the favor on behalf of Ms. Fuller.
Did you allow Jordan Smith and Jana Birchum to collaborate at all on the Scott Fuller/Drag Underground story ["Mighty Real," Feb. 18]? From the schizophrenic image you present, it seems that you just sent them out on a story and meshed the results at the last minute.
Smith's story was sensitive, insightful, and ultimately sympathetic to Scott Fuller and his/her family and friends, without glossing over the more distressing aspects of Fuller's life. Birchum's photo essay, on the other hand, seems contrived to portray the drag community as sleazy, sex-crazed, drug-addicted whores.
You can't have it both ways. On one hand, you seem to ask for understanding and compassion for our drag sisters, but your lurid red-lit photographs and portrayal of sordid goings-on in the restroom stalls may leave some readers with the impression that maybe the slut deserves what she got. (Just look at Jack the Ripper: It's pretty hard to drum up sympathy for dead whores, but it sure does sell newspapers!!)
So, what are you trying to get across here? Do you want Austin to be more sensitive and caring about our transgendered youth? Do you want us to be outraged that a promising young person was murdered and the mainstream media didn't seem to care much about it? Maybe you were just looking to create a sensation, take a few pot shots at the Forum and call in a night.
As a prominent member of the media community, you should try harder to be conscious of the message you are trying to convey -- apparently a very mixed one in this case.
Walk a Mile in Her Shoes
Dear Mr. Black:
I am writing to say that Lauryn Paige Fuller is indeed a member of the transgender community ["Postmarks," Feb. 25] and to thank you, Jordan Smith, and Jana Birchum for commemorating her in the pages of The Austin Chronicle ["Mighty Real" and "The Lauryn Paige Fuller Story," Feb. 18]. I am a woman of transsexual experience, and a hard-working, tax-paying member of society. I was on the faculty of the University of Texas at Austin (1971-74), and my daughter graduated from Austin High, so I always feel an especial closeness to events in Texas.
Please do not interpret the criticism by trans people of Smith's article and Birchum's photo essay as evidence that the trans community rejects Lauryn Paige. On the contrary, she is commemorated as one of the fallen heroines in our struggle to defend our space in contemporary culture. Her picture has hung in my own house, a collective for trans people, for the past year. I carried a poster with her photo on it in last June's Heritage of Pride parade in New York, and felt a hush from thousands of people along the route as they absorbed the image of her tragedy.
There is no mistake about the fact that the culture of drag clubs, prostitution, drugs, and bootleg hormones are a part of trans culture around the world. You will find the same scene in New York, Sao Paulo, Bangkok, Manila, Paris, and many other cities that you depicted in Austin. You must ask why this is so, and not merely imply the answer to be "what do you expect from these marginalized freaks?" You must look into the attitudes of our dominant culture for an answer as to why we simply waste so many beautiful spirits.
Smith's article and Birchum's photos lacked perspective and depth. They did (perhaps inadvertently) dishonor to Lauryn Paige in many respects. The most obvious example is that Lauryn was not always referred to as "she," but rather those who were afflicting her were allowed to bash her even in death through their words and attitudes. Perhaps less obviously, the article did not ask why the so-called counseling programs in Austin did not seem to be aware of the large amount of information on gender issues in print and on the Web.
As many of the letters to the editor have pointed out, Austin has many transgender support groups. Why was Lauryn not put in touch with these groups (and why do these groups remain so insular that they do not reach out to young people such as Lauryn)?
Lauryn is a poster child for the throwaway youth of the transgender community. Many in the trans community are now organizing to try to address the needs of these young people, abandoned by their families without education or financial support. For example, the recently constituted Transgender Roundtable of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force includes a youth issues subcommittee as part of its work.
Our collective of trans people living in Brooklyn is overwhelmed by the needs of the young trans people in New York. (http://www.Transyhouse.org) They are abandoned by their families, abused in the homeless shelters, driven out of school, discriminated against by employers, and too often die in the street. With limited resources we can only watch with tears in our hearts, and a sense of white-hot rage.
Thanks to The Austin Chronicle for this powerful piece on our fallen sister. Please, next time, go the extra mile to get the whole story.
Rusty Mae Moore, Ph.D.
Member, National Transgender Advocacy Coalition
It's Fun, Stupid!
I wanna send out a 150-decibel "Hell, yeah!" to Greg Beets and Kevin Fullerton for their ["Live Shots," Feb.25] entertaining and insightful review of WWF SmackDown! It was by far the best show I've ever seen at the Erwin Center! Bowie, ZZ Top, the Who? Nowhere close! AC/DC, Barnum & Bailey, Prince? Fuck 'em! The WWF does metal and arena rock better than everyone and it's funny! It's exciting, fun, "dangerous," and real, real stupid! Perfect entertainment!
The "moral resonance," as discussed, is there in the WWF shows; but unmentioned was the life lesson to be learned from the fact that "good" or "bad" ("babyface" or "heel"), any one of us could be on the receiving end of the "tombstone piledriver" of life (or love) at any moment!
Raw and Smackdown are the funniest shows on TV and the live show kicked ass!
Layeth the Smacketh down!
Subject: Barton Creek, Bridgepoint amazing makeovers
You know, the Barton Springs greenbelt, and the area at Bridgepoint where the 360 spans Lake Austin, are such beautiful, scenic, rustic, and fabulous spots, so why on earth are there so many people trying to make them look like downtown Austin?
OK, so there I am perusing the letters to the Editor in the Feb. 18 issue hoping against hope that there is another letter from Amy Babich, but instead I had to settle for the one from Michael Bakunin. After reading it three or four times, I thought, Jesus, this guy needs to lighten up a little. Can you imagine my surprise (and delight), when I look over at the next page and by God there is the very ad that Mr. Bakunin so vehemently opposes? Why you naughty boys, someone ought to spank you.
Samuel E. Sims
Dear Austin Chronicle,
I am an avid patron of Mojo's, and I could care less that some kid with a cookie-cutter job at a McDonaldland coffee shop dislikes the initiative that Wade Beesley has taken to combat the usurpation of our fair city's awesome small businesses by giant, unfeeling corporations ["Postmarks," Feb. 25].
Austin used to be rolling in really cool small businesses which are quickly dying out due to corporations driving up the cost of space. Mojo's Daily Grind gives its patrons a funky, homey place to hang out and study, and good coffee which isn't always exactly the same (thank goodness). It gives its employees a place to work where they don't have to sell their souls and suck up to impolite yuppies who can't distinguish a macchiato from a mocha or who are honestly too stupid to know that a "frappucino" is only served at Starbucks.
As to Mr. Villere's objections to the ad itself and the Chronicle's running of it, I have just one thing to say. Mojo's (and many other people's) attitude toward the Starbucks invasion will have as much effect on Starbucks and its patrons as they allow it to. Unfortunately, Mr. Villere, all of the sheep will return to the pasture; fear not. The rest of us people will continue to patronize Austin's small businesses and boycott Starbucks in hopes that this city will retain its personality and never become another land of strip malls.
More Coffee Talk
Regarding the Mojo's ad in the Vol.19, No. 25 issue, all I can say is it made me laugh (a lot). And then I read Jean-Paul Villere's letter of complaint in the following issue, and -- I had to laugh again! Upon further review, however, something really disturbed me about it.
First of all, to declare a case of "penis envy" on the part of Mojo's for Starbucks, is kind of laughable in itself. Aside from the fact that both establishments sell coffees, we're talking about two pretty different critters here. Mojo's is a small, privately owned business that feels to most of its regular denizens like a hip, cozy, extended living room, full of familiar faces and a genuinely friendly atmosphere. Starbucks, on the other hand, is yet another in a long line of generic, corporately owned giants who are very efficiently squeezing the personality out of most of America. It's kind of like comparing dinner at Mom's to Taco Bell.
But what truly bugs me is Mr. Villere's feeling that Starbucks needs to be defended in the first place. That implies that we're talking about a conflict of equals here. Don't worry about your employers, Jean-Paul. I'm sure their lawyers are already on this like flies on you-know-what.
I'm not worried about the Chronicle's integrity at all. I applaud your having run the ad in the first place, and hope that you continue in any way possible to support the little guys in the face of our seemingly inevitable Third Mall From the Sun destiny.
Corporate Coffee STILL Sucks,
Grindin' It Out
What I find amazing and extremely hypocritical about Mr. Villere's letter to the editor (Feb. 25) is the fact that he criticizes the Chronicle for "being neither wholly original in execution of content nor style" as "every major city has a version of you," yet he writes a letter of support for the McDonald's of all coffeehouses.
Is it just me or is advertising space just that -- space for sale? It is not the opinion of the publication that prints it. My suggestion for anyone who doesn't like the kind of truth that Mojo's is printing: "Enjoy the quality coffee (or rather lack thereof) at Starbucks. Pay exorbitant prices and receive atrocious service." Me ... I'd rather sit back with an Iced Mojo in a friendly, unique atmosphere. Because I know the truth -- corporate coffee sucks!
Jean-Paul Villere's letter "Bad Mojo" (Feb. 25) was truly lame. In his letter, Jean-Paul whines that a local "mom-and-pop coffee shop" runs an ad that is less than kind to Starbucks (his employer) and then rags on The Austin Chronicle for running it. So what! Who really cares if Mojo's slammed on the aggressive corporate giant Starbucks. Good for them! Heaven forbid anyone local own their own business. What sterile, flavorless Southern California strip mall did you crawl from under? Please return.
Christopher W. Ringstaff
I agree with Jean-Paul Villere's view that The Austin Chronicle is whoring itself to advertisers ["Postmarks," Feb. 25]. In last week's issue, I noticed that the Chronicle ran an advertisement for the Red Eyed Fly's --Trail of Dead show on the night of February 25 while also advertising the Coffee Sergeants at the Hole in the Wall and Handful at Gaby & Mo's. Clearly a case of "conflicting interests." Cancel my subscription!!!
Walk the Talk
Austin's new city hall will cost the taxpayers $90 million. Half this sum, or $45 million, is for parking 1,500 cars underground.
Every year the city of Austin budget includes $5 million for pedestrian facilities (usually sidewalks). But year after year much of this money is "diverted," and spent on something else.
What if we spent $45 million on sidewalks and bikeways? Austin's streets could be transformed. Unfortunately, $45 million doesn't buy very much when it's spent on facilities for cars.
Our City Council claims to want to get people out of their cars. If we really want to do this, we should spend at least as much on sidewalks and car-free bikeways as we're spending to park private cars downtown.
Let's remind the City Council of this, come budget time.
AISD Flunks on Spending
AISD is a waste of money! They have never managed to utilize their money wisely and, based on past experience, will not. It is ridiculous to assume that AISD will appropriate any raise in property taxes toward a better education. Administration costs are not only too costly but do not facilitate or enhance the education process. Obviously the Legislature and our "Compassionate Conservative or Reformer With Results" Governor failed to address the issue on a statewide level, since they mandated teacher pay raises but did not appropriate sufficient funds. Now the school district intends to burden its citizenry by increasing property taxes by an additional six cents to fill the administrative coffers. Come on, wake up! This is just another factor making Austin an unaffordable place to live. The existing property tax system fails to consider individuals who do not have kids. As it is, most kids today can't read, write, or do arithmetic.
Try the Decaf
To Whom it May Concern,
This musing is in response to Jean-Paul Villere's letter concerning the Chronicle's perceived conflict of interest in running advertisements from competing establishments (namely Mojo's Daily Grind and Starbucks' generic coffee drinks for the masses) in the same paper ["Postmarks," Feb. 25].
Hopefully sir, the next time you choose to drop the gloves, you actually know what the heck you're talking about so that you never look this silly again. In this instance, the paper's integrity is beyond reproach. Any newspaper has a right to print anyone's advertisement, provided that the advertiser pays the appropriate rate. That's how newspapers (particularly free ones) survive.
As to the issue of whether Starbucks is good coffee, that a matter of opinion, and mine is that it's crappy coffee for conformist yuppie pricks who think that when they move to an environment that it should be altered specifically for their benefit. Screw whoever was there before their candy-asses arrived.
Case in point: The 24th Street Starbucks takes up the space previously held by one of the most magical cafes this side of New Orleans, Les Amis. The place had been there since the mid-Seventies and was the only cafe in the campus area that provided pleasant sidewalk dining and was also open past midnight (they closed at 4am). Their landlord forced them out so that he could "upgrade" the building to allow for the ever-original Starbucks Austin location No. 8,000 and its wholesome monument to mediocrity.
Tread lightly, friend, and remember -- the next time you decide to volunteer a self-absorbed diatribe, get your facts straight first.
In Sept., a Riverbend church youth volunteer pleads guilty to molesting eight teens. One month later Great Hills Baptist Church youth minister convicted on nine counts of molesting a teen. In January, six middle school boys report being fondled by San Marcos Baptist Academy youth director. This month, two teens at Church of Glad Tidings were charged with sexual assault and an Orthodox Christian monk was convicted of sexually assaulting a teen. Numerous cases of Catholic priests sexually assaulting teens. The list goes on and on. Family values??? No thanks!!! Religion back in the schools?? No way!!!
As a long time Perot/UWSA/Reform Party volunteer I am outraged by the conduct of the Reform Party Executive Committee and the "beer hall push" they staged recently in Nashville.
This past July in Dearborn, the Reform Party National Convention overwhelmingly demanded and achieved new leadership when we rejected the hand-picked candidate of Ross Perot and we elected Jack Gargan as National Chairman. The media was thereby forced to report that the Reform Party had evolved into a party of the people.
The Nashville power grab initiated by a small number of Dallas infighters is an attempt to steal the Reform Party from the grassroots volunteers who built it.
The Nashville disgrace is an embarrassment and an insult to all Reformers because it undermines the open, ethical, and democratic principles to which we have dedicated countless sums of time, money, and effort.
Thusly, I will join with my fellow grassroots Reformers in Las Vegas, March 17 through 19, to assure that the Reform Party remains a party of the people.
Grand Old Problem
This year's presidential election just keeps getting curiouser and curiouser. The GOP is determined (read: will stop at nothing short of political genocide) to back Geo. Bush, who is in a virtual dead heat with Al Gore nationally. The Dems, on the other hand, are crossing over in the primaries to vote for McCain, who leads Al Gore nationally by 20 or more points, depending on what poll you read.
Why would Dems risk crossing over in the primaries and vote for a candidate who leads their front-runner in all national polls by such a huge gap? There is only one conclusion to be reached, and it may surprise you that it hasn't a thing to do with the strong charging John McCain or the new-and-improved Al Gore.
George Bush is that bad.
He's certainly bad for the GOP, considering the amount of money and endorsements they've wasted on his campaign, not to mention the crow they are eating in the national media right now. But if we are to use the polling data for the very reason polling data exist (objective analysis!), all indicators point to this most disturbing message -- George W. Bush is bad for the country.
The Grand Old Party that suffered huge political losses by trying to remove a sitting president with a series of frivolous lawsuits is now caught once again with its own pants dragging from the ankles. And if the GOP has to back McCain in the fall, they won't have any clothes to speak of.
U.S. Alienating India
Some Democratic Senators have urged President Clinton to include Pakistan in his South Asia trip in March. They want him to maintain a balance between India and Pakistan.
In February 1999 the Indian Prime Minister visited his Pakistani counterpart in Lahore Pakistan. Both leaders signed a declaration pledging to work out all their problems peacefully. But in the summer of 1999, Pakistani soldiers and Islamic terrorists infiltrated India and captured territory. They were kicked by the Indian Army. Pakistan denied it controlled them, but under U.S. pressure finally made them return to Pakistan, proving that it was in charge of the armed aggression against India.
Pakistan stabbed the Indian leadership in the back just three months after signing the peace deal.
In this light it is amusing to hear Democratic Senators talk about a balance. How can you treat a mugger and his victim as equals?
The USA will not gain anything by thinking of India and Pakistan as equals. India is a stable democracy with a booming economy. Pakistan is fast degenerating into Islamic theocracy and drug trafficking and has turned into a rapid-action force for international Islamic terrorism.
The USA cannot talk about democracy on one hand and treat the world's largest democracy at par with a military terrorist dictatorship on the other. Using Pakistan to balance India or put pressure on India will not work any longer.
Why alienate a friendly democracy in favor of America's sworn enemies?