Our readers talk back.
First, let me completely invalidate the content of this letter for all "Austin veterans": I've lived in Austin for less than 10 years. There, you may now discount everything that follows.
In Mike Clark-Madison's "Austin at Risk" [May 12], I saw an encapsulation of a current that's run through my nine years here. It goes, "Whine, moan, groan, weep, etc., etc. ... "
No, Austin isn't what it used to be. Yes, it is growing -- probably out of control. No, it's never going to remain the same. Get over it.
If Austin wants to control growth, then quit building more infrastructure. That's all. Just stop. No more roads, the hell with light rail, no more corporate accommodations downtown. Let the Lexus SUV crowd spend some real 'sit time' on MoPac every day (instead of the miniscule wait they have today) and they'll leave. If the Mercedes-drivin' IPO-jockeys can never find a safe place to put their vehicle, pretty soon they'll find another Austin.
However, be prepared to suffer the consequences. Oh, you are. You've had a lot of practice whining already.
John A. Blackley
Greed Is the Poison
Thanks for publicizing the plight of Austin and how we are killing the city that so many of us love ["Austin at Risk," May 12]. I'm not certain if High-Tech is to blame or if it is just greed that it is the true culprit, but something bad is afoot here.
As a poor government employee, I am happy for all of those people who can go out and spend, spend, spend, but truly sad that the old-era Austinites who are being forced out of the community by the high cost of living. I came to Austin years ago, when people didn't want to live "out west" in the hills. I rather enjoyed the quiet solitude. As a government employee, which by the way there are still a great number of us here, I can no long afford to live here.
It was a sad day when I moved from my beloved community. However, I went from a two-bedroom, 1.5-bath apartment, to a four-bedroom, 2.5 bath house on two acres of land. The price -- $60 more a month, and an hour commute. So while we try to save the environment, we force more people out of the city by the high cost, but force them onto the roadways and increase the traffic and smog. At point here is the cost of living here. I recently tried to get a new employee to move into my old apartment community. The cost had risen more than $150 a month for the same place. Granted, they've done some cleaning up, but get real. I can't afford to live here with a family, so I moved them away where we live in a much bigger house, a smaller, cleaner community, but I spend two hours a day on the road. So did we ultimately improve ourselves? I don't know.
So no sir, I'm not certain that it is really the High-Tech boom that is killing good ol' Austin, but more likely the High Tech Greed of the rest of our community.
The Napster Defense
I would like to share my opinion of your recent article concerning Napster ["No Purchase Necessary," May 5]. When the CD was first introduced, the record industry's selling point was: 1. CDs are unscratchable. 2. The initial price of CD will be expensive to recover development costs. Once they become popular the price will "come down to the price of records." Well, as we now know, neither is true, especially the price, which is roughly double that of a record. Perhaps it isn't just Napster that practices "unfair trade practices" and "blatantly steals."
It is with a deep sense of irony I read responses to the article on hunger of two weeks ago. Readers who think that fat equals well-fed are taking a classic classsist attitude towards the difficulties of our low-income/no-income neighbors. Next they will tell us these women had children only to milk our oh-so-generous welfare system. Weight has come to have great symbolic meaning in our society: negative stereotypes of self-indulgence, laziness, and lack of self-control. Applying these stereotypes to food-pantry patrons is a one-dimensional, irresponsible attitude. Malnourishment does not always wear the visible ribs and stick-like limbs of a child from some foreign famine. It's easy and inexpensive to get a full day's supply of calories in America -- two 99¢ liters will supply them. The foods that cost the least are not short of fat-causing calories: They are short of the nutrients we need to be healthy. The low fat, whole grain, fruit and vegetable, fancy protein-supplement bar diet, of the fat-phobic fools who wrote in, on the other hand, is quite expensive. Further, a woman with two children and two low-wage, high-effort jobs does not have the time and energy such readers expend on their leisurely jogs around Town Lake or on their health club's Stairmasters. By focusing on the weight of hungry people, they provide themselves with an easy way out of facing the social and economic realities of our community.
Rosie Q Weaver
You know what? Fuck Gary Floyd. That's what.
He showed his true colors long ago.
Ask SST who cashed the checks.
Dear Austin Chronicle,
After reading the movie review of I Dreamed of Africa, I feel compelled to write and tell you that the language that the reviewer used is inappropriate. I don't think that it is ever appropriate for your magazine to use the "F" word in the editorials and reviews because of the broad-based readership your magazine has.
Though I'm sure I would be labeled a "conservative" in some of my opinions, in others I would be labeled a "liberal." Whatever I might be labeled, I enjoy reading the Chronicle to get a different angle on important issues in Austin, including this week's article on the downside to our high-tech boom ["Austin at Risk," May 12].
I also use your magazine to find out what's going on on the weekends and to read your movie reviews. But I was disappointed to have to read the same sort of inconsiderate language in your paper as I heard from other people over the years.
In the future, please try to show more civility and respect for the diversity of your readers.
It's the Thought That Counts
Before my imminent departure from the temple of Mammon that Austin has become, I must take one last opportunity to say that you are a pathetic asshead. What makes you think readers are interested in the details of your life: your trip to the Erwin Center, your domestic movie-watching arrangements, your volleyball team, etc.? What caused your ego to inflate to such gargantuan proportions?
Like most other old hippies (and many of your staff writers), you have not gotten past the self-reflective "New Journalism" of the Sixties and Seventies, so your writing is overloaded with first person pronouns, gross intimacies, and navel-gazing subjective observations. You've turned a technique that was interesting 30 years ago into worthless, soft-headed solipsism.
Your sad attempts at portraying a scholarly film critic also prove your amateurish irrelevance. Your laughable assertion that Chronicle movie reviewers are among the best in the nation is evidence of your ignorance and insularity.
You are a complacent, endlessly boring anachronism. So please, do everyone a favor: retire, write a book on your idol Tarantino (to whom you never tire of genuflecting), and quit sharing your diary entries.
One Well-Rounded Chef
Re: "The Whole Woman" [May 5]
The greatest challenge I've ever faced as a woman who is a chef who happens to be a woman, is riding the waves of my staff. The gist of the menu is the constant. But who's not afraid to try new things?
It never occurred to me some 20 years ago that my chosen field was dominated by men. I've learned as much from Maria who does the dishes as I have from the monks who grow the most beautiful okra you've ever seen, as my bookkeeper, who is ... (ta da) ... me.
There's a graceful passion in any chef of merit -- and that's what keeps our customers coming back for more.
Leave the perfume at home, too.
A chef in Nashville
To the Editor:
In Fact Daily reported that on Thursday the City Council will approve $7.7 million in cash incentives for Intel to move 2,000 new employees downtown. As such, I have provided the:
Top 10 Reasons to Subsidize Intel in Austin
10. Rents aren't high enough downtown yet.
9. Intel needs the $7.7 million more than Austin's sick or homeless.
8. Austin didn't have anything else to spend that money on anyway.
7. Housing prices will increase with 2,000 new Intel-employee home buyers.
6. Intel deserves the money more than Austin-based businesses.
5. What Austin needs is a few more Californians to move here.
4. We can make up the difference by overcharging drainage fees and keeping the money.
3. Their commercials include funk tunes from the Seventies.
2. There's not quite enough sprawl yet in the suburbs ringing Austin.
1. If we only had 2,000 more cars on I-35 at rush hour ...
Just Say No to Subsidizing Fortune 500 Companies.
I have just finished clipping Sarah Hepola's article on high school theatre and the unknown to most phenomenon that is UIL one-act competition. I'm sending it to my kids in NY so that they can relive some of the most telling, exciting, excruciating moments of their lives. It's wonderful to read an article explaining what an incredibly powerful and positive experience it can be for young people to participate in an artistic endeavor to which they give their all.
I, too, was at area at Pflugerville that day, and my heart still pounds and my mouth goes dry, though my kids are long since out of high school. But who they are will always be in part a result of their training under, first, the late great Larry D. Preas and then under Billy Dragoo at Austin High. One slight correction, though: the Best Actor award at District went to Kyle Smith of Austin High. At Area Travis Fowler got an All-Star Cast nod.
Congratulations to all the students I had the opportunity to watch that day for their talent and dedication to a very demanding pursuit -- and thank you, Ms. Hepola for summing it up so well.
Dear editor people:
I'll get to the point. The review you wrote of Vera Takes the Cake (the new release from the Ginger & Sarah Band) didn't do it justice ["Texas Platters," May 5]. It didn't even seem like the reviewer actually listened to the album. So in this light, I offer a second opinion -- mine.
Vera Takes the Cake is a good sophomore effort by the G&S band. Their first album (Do What You Will) was also reviewed in the Chronicle and received good comments and an entire three stars. What then, you are wondering, is the cause for the new album to be docked an entire star and left swinging with only two to its name? I haven't the slightest idea. The album is tighter, fuller, and shows a band that has definitely matured. The album is without a doubt stronger than their first (but their first wasn't anything lightweight either. It deserved those stars). The reviewer (whose name I won't mention) alleged that only devotees of Phish and the Dave Matthews band would benefit from having Vera among their collection of discs. I disagree. This band has a broad appeal -- its style is inclusive of so many others out there that yes, it is definitely difficult to label. But that shouldn't be a bad thing -- it shouldn't be discouraging to anyone out there who actually has an interest in hearing good music. This is good music. There's something familiar about the sound, something comfortable -- and yet there's something ... more.
This is admittedly the opinion of one person -- I won't overexaggerate. But what I suggest is getting your hands on a copy and checking it out for yourself (and there are other options ... Mp3s, their Web site (www.gingerandsarah.com) has samples, Roxygen has them up as contest finalists at www.oxygen.com/roxygen, and then there's always live ... we are after all the live music capital of the world or something, right?). So go make up your own mind ... and while you're checking it out, you might as well start making room for a copy of Vera of your very own.
And as far as the stars go -- we're talking from three to three and a half ... there's room for improvement (or at least that's my ploy to see if they'll get working on another album all the sooner). Give it a go.
I still don't get why you won't put the Web sites for the Ralph Nader (votenader.com), Pat Buchanan, John Hagelin, Harry Browne, and Howard Phillips in your "Presidential Race 2000" section of your Web site. You even have a non-candidate on there, Bill Bradley, and he's been out of the race since mid-March. What kind of crap is this contributing to the mainstream media's blackout of third-party candidates? Does the Chronicle not believe in democracy by fully informing the public of all candidates who have a statistical chance at winning the election? At least give us the Web sites so we can inform ourselves. And if you can't find their web sites, send me an e-mail and I will e-mail them back to you.
On Auto Dependency
(The following is an excerpt from 1975 Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Caro's The Power Broker about Robert Moses of New York City. Apparently in Austin, 60-plus years after Moses, we still believe we can build our way out of traffic problems with more roads. I would note that none of Moses' roads and bridges made provision for mass transit, and opened up large areas of Long Island for Conventional Suburban Development. They suffer the consequences today of auto dependency. Sounds exactly like what we're doing in Central Texas at a much later date. We ought to know better.)
"The Wantagh State Parkway Extension was opened on December 17, 1938, three months ahead of schedule. Reminiscing in the brochure distributed at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Moses noted that in the nearly fifteen years since he had planned a metropolitan-area transportation system, 110 miles of parkway, including 191 grade-eliminating bridges, had been completed in New York City and on Long Island, and so had the Henry Hudson, Triborough, and Marine Parkway bridges. The 'arterial system' he had created, he said, was 'unparalleled' -- and it had had to be, for so was the metropolitan area's traffic problem. And, he said, his program had been successful. 'Today,' he said, 'we are well on our way toward a sensible solution of this problem in the metropolitan area.'
"The Wantagh State Parkway Extension did not receive its first real test of traffic-easing capacity until the first warm weekend morning of 1939. On that morning, it was jammed bumper to bumper for more than three miles. Traffic experts could not understand where those cars had come from. The other Long Island parkways, after all, were just as jammed as ever."
There are many other similar examples in the book, with statistical data provided on the induced demand on roadways and bridges created by auto-dependent development patterns on Long Island.
In my view, we will never solve our regional transportation problems until we return to mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods (which support transit as a mobility option) as the DNA of our growth. Not as an option, but as the standard.
A Walk in the Park
Rolling in at 8:30 in the morning, I still had a solid half-hour before the Austin Regional Clinic opened its doors to all of us who are prone to bad decision-making in the venue of sex and self-gratification. I had to kill some time, and so took a stroll down to nearby Festival Beach Park in hopes of calming my nerves. The results were still iffy at best, and the two-week wait had done miraculous things to the acids sloshing around in my stomach.
Despite the fetid islands of refuse adrift a few inches from the shoreline and the roar of traffic from nearby I-35 nearly subduing the chirruping of birds, the scene was a pleasant one. The gray masses huddling overhead broke on occasion to reveal the patient lights and shimmers, a sight inspiring enough for me to nearly overlook the time. 8:35. Time to wander back. And so I did.
I was nearly halfway to the clinic when I turned to look at the river a final time, and noticed a sight which is becoming more and more apparent throughout Central Austin: a brace of police officers approaching a homeless man sleeping on a park bench. Another satisfied customer to be billed for occupying public space with his eyes closed. Its not as if this gentleman has enough problems, seeing as how his residence is a slab of four-inch-thick concrete. Now he has to worry about the city's compassionate No Camping Ban: our wonderfully constructed legislation that removes all signs of decay and guilt from our "I-don't-want-to-see-it-if-it-can't-be-cured-with-two-Valium-and-a-bath-for-the-Beamer" society. Kudos to self-gratification and guilt-free living. After all, in a system constructed to leave at least a few of the weaker ones on the bottom, surely he can find a job, get a house, pay his bills, buy a Beamer, and stop hurting my vision with his presence, because we only like our trash in our water, and that's what Darwin was really saying after all.
License to Speed
Today I spotted yet another police car speeding in my neighborhood. It's roughly twice a week that I witness this happening, especially on Springdale Road, but the bastard that holds the record was this cop speeding through two school zones some time ago. Started off by the ghettos on Springdale, drove past the Airport intersection and disappeared in the distance, toward Seventh Street, dodging through traffic. He was easily doing 45, no sirens, no lights. Among other things, it's common for these guys not to stop at two-ways, not to use their turn-light signals, and speed, speed, speed. It really went out of control while James Fealy was in charge of this neighborhood station and still persists. I remember seeing young guys being searched on the streets during his tenure, the response to 911 calls over two hours late, and many of us being hit by burglars once a week, in addition to harassment calls and thieves being released on the spot, something like neighborhood terrorism. But that's another story. Have called both headquarters and the substation, and nothing has been done. Can I ticket these guys myself?
Ah, the Good Ol' Days
That's right folks, not only were there "backstage" passes at Eeyore's Birthday this year, with fully laminated IDs hanging from snappy, professional laniards straight out of Rooster Andrews, but a full complement of Hitler Youth who guarded the sentiments of these badges with vigor and inspiration. Not even the friends of the laminate people were allowed beyond the orange plastic chicken wire. And guess what? They volunteered for this duty! Were these young Praetorians willing to go to the mat with me to protect the picnic tables behind the shade tents behind the ticket booths?
Anyone remember a time not so very long ago when even the beer at Eeyore's was free?
I think the U.S. government's resort to force, violence, and the threat of violence as well as the hundreds of arrests and abuse of people in the communities of Little Havana on Saturday, April 22, is undoubtedly what many people expected would happen, yet the same people were praying and hoping that it would not.
The scenario presented to us by the media, if accurate and truthful, certainly shows that the nightmare came true: Elián was taken at gunpoint from his extended family in Florida by armed agents of the U.S. government's INS bureau, other members of the house where Elián was living were also held at gunpoint and feared for their lives, and members of the community surrounding Elián's residence were tear-gassed and beaten and otherwise abused by the same federal agents.
During this terrifying event, which supposedly lasted three minutes, Elián was captured and removed from his residence in tears, if the photos are truthful.
The New York Times of April 24 reported that all this activity took place while Janet Reno was on the phone with negotiators in Florida, even in the house itself, and that, in effect, Janet Reno betrayed the negotiators, apparently intentionally using the distraction of the false phone negotiations to set a stage for the surprise raid by the INS agents.
I don't believe that the U.S. government had legal authority to carry out this raid and capture of Elián. I think that Janet Reno, the director of the INS, and perhaps President Clinton will be held legally liable for this travesty and tragic act. President Clinton may again be impeached and this time indicted along with Janet Reno and the director of the INS.
I hope that this incident is not whitewashed by the media, nor covered up by any other means.