Our readers talk back.
Fri., Jan. 5, 2001
Less Talk, More Action
Thank you for the run-down of the bills to expect in the upcoming Lege session ["Looking for Mr. Goodbill," Dec. 29]. However, I was disappointed by the pessimism of the article. Of course you need to show us what's going on behind the scenes to prevent progressive reform, but please don't throw up your hands in despair with 250,000+ of us watching. Why don't you use your journalistic influence to get some real results?
Tell us what we can do to prevent bills like Rep. King's "character education" bill from making it out of committee. Tell us what we can do to make sure HB 12 gives our teachers decent health insurance. Most of us don't know that you can testify for or against a bill at its committee hearing, that you can track the progress of a bill on the Web, or that when you plop yourself down in a legislator's office for a chat, your legislator takes that very seriously.
We aren't getting that information in our schools and certainly not from the Austin American-Spaceman. So please don't just print this letter and consider this issue dealt with. I'd rather that you print a thorough citizen's guide to making yourself heard in the Texas Legislature. If more of us knew the rules of getting involved, we might not be so reluctant to do so.
Gimme Some Melody
Hey dear folks at the wheel of the ship, visiting songwriter speaks. I found it interesting you printed some lyrics by Jesse Sublett ["Postmarks," Dec. 15, 2000]. He is brave for writing feelings down on paper for the world to read, I applaud him, takes guts! However when you wrote lyrics you are basically calling it a song. Something yours truly knows a lot about. Of course dear Jess knows it's all in fun. Criticism is good. I would (and tried) love to hear the music to the lyric -- you see I compose a lot of songs, when you write a lyric that is unknown to the reader -- especially a difficult lyric as what he (deep) wrote. I think it's more an off-the-wall poem, or a caption maybe in the mind's eye? My point is to illustrate something unknown, the lyric should by nature of the invention, give you (the reader) the music in your ears. I guess what I'm saying is, I read his words over and over and tried everything I could think of musically speaking just could not find the tune. Sorry, I'm sure he has one in mind somewhere? The problem is only minor to the writer, but it leaves your audience with wonder. They wonder what the hell it sounds like. Or wonder if you know what the hell you're talking about. Ha ha ha
Merry Xmas Austin, TX,
Myopic & Mean-Spirited
Now that some time has passed I thought it would be an appropriate time to address some of your recent attacks on Ralph Nader supporters. My initial reaction to references to "angry Green Party" advocates remains -- are there really many angry Greens? The most active member of the Green Party in Austin I know, John Sutterby, an old friend, epitomizes the ideal of Buddha nature. All of my friends who tell me they voted for Nader have in recent weeks reacted as I have to the results of November 7: with boisterous merriment. Sure it sucks that light rail didn't pass, but then again, I found its goals a quarter step at best. And we did get treated to some of the best material for The Daily Show ever.
Though many Green Supporters are Yellow Dog Independents like myself, and would never vote for a Democrat like Al Gore (Doggett and Barrientos are another story, in my case), other Nader supporters understood that Gore had no realistic chance to win Texas. Surely you realize this also.
One wonders what could possibly be your political strategy in attacking Green supporters given the Chronicle's history of supporting local issues much more in line with Nader's actual platforms (as opposed to empty campaign rhetoric). Most likely, I venture, is the sense of entitlement held by supporters of the two major parties. Taking Greens in Travis County to task is a bit like Clinton's reaction (upset by "lack of respect") to a grilling he got in an interview last month by a Pacifica correspondent out of Manhattan's very left-wing (obligatory definition: pro-Castro type of left-wing) radio station WBAI. It is also like alienating African- American leaders by support of Shipman instead of Urdy for Mayor Pro Tem. I doubt I need to detail the effects of the lasting ill will fostered by some articles by Jim Shahin in the late Eighties. I wonder how well the hot sauce competition would come off if Greens boycotted the event. Or how Chronicle advertisers would react to threats of boycotts.
Some have suggested that anyone to your left makes you nervous; for your sake, one would hope that you aren't simply myopically lashing out. If this indicates a shift to a more moderate centrist position, references to Hightower's characterization of the armadillo in the middle of the road might emerge. One also could examine the failed strategies other flip-floppers like Ann Richards, George Herbert Walker Bush, and, of course, Al Gore himself. In contrast, there are moderates who might otherwise puzzle people if their views had not been more consistent over time: take Britain's Tony Blair, for example. Or, say, George Mitchell or Bill Bradley.
Another theory floating around is your bitching about Nader supporters is an attempt to cast Mayor Watson in a more moderate light in preparation for the upcoming legislative session. Republicans in the House simply aren't going to compromise without more support for Democrats across the state, or unless Austin's media and political leaders are in line with the Perrys, Rylanders and Tom Hicks of the world. Even this theory seems a bit paranoid. Except that you do seem to be increasingly motivated more by fear than love. Wouldn't it be more constructive to use your bully pulpit to urge Watson and others to ... say ... promote and increase low-cost housing in Travis County?
It's Happening Already
President-elect George W. Bush has just announced a 31-member Agriculture Transition Advisory Team that will be responsible for setting up the structure and function of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Nearly all are agribusiness officials or former agribusiness-funded political officials. Not a single advocate for the interests of consumers, hungry people, small farmers, the environment, or 10 billion animals who are tortured and killed for food each year.
That much for Dubya's post-election reconciliation rhetoric. It's back to government of corporate interests, by corporate interests, and for corporate interests.
Even Cow-Boys Get the Blues
You know, folks, I first decided I needed to write to you when I read Jay Hardwig's relentless references to a male bovine as a cow ["A Small Green Cow," Dec. 29]. A male bovine is a bull, Jay. Welcome to Texas. However, I discovered that Jay's agrarian incompetence is the least of my concerns with your publication. Jerry Renshaw's softsoap of David Allan Coe ["Outlaw Blues," Dec. 29] really is a shameful waste of ink. I find bizarre the references to Coe getting his feet wet with one and fronting another "all-black" band. Last time I checked, a band containing a white guy is not all-black. I think it's worth noting, also, that however much the First Amendment may protect Coe's right to spit out racial slurs using whatever excuse he likes, his rationalizations mitigate his bigotry not at all.
Finally, I am well beyond disappointed with the Chronicle's lack of attention to Kwanzaa events in the area. I don't bother with the Statesman generally speaking, but I was dismayed to learn, looking at Statesman issues from last week, that my family had missed at least two public Kwanzaa events in Austin last week. I did not see any references to these events in the Chronicle, and I would like to know why. At least I'll know next year that I really do need to read the Statesman, at least for the week after Christmas, to find events my family will enjoy.
Thank you for playing,
Still Got the Blues
Dear Margaret Moser:
I'm Richard Harvey and I just read your story on Blue Monday at Antone's ["Blue Monday," Dec. 29]. It was great, but in all honesty, it was incomplete. Just the tip of the iceberg.
I have been playing the harmonica in Austin for two decades now, living through the good and the bad times you illustrated so well in your wonderful piece about Antone's. But the real story is the one unfolding at the Sunday and Tuesday night blues jams every week at the 311 club and at Babe's. We get people from all over the world (Asia, Australia, Berlin, Argentina, France, etc.) showing up down here, people that have sold everything they owned, their cars, their businesses, their homes, just to play the blues on Sixth Street.
It's one thing to drop a few names of famous players who have experienced at least a modest amount of success in the music industry -- but now are disappointed because they play for free at Antone's on Monday night. (While most of us would pay for the opportunity?) It's another to see a guy who left his family and his home to come here and play the blues, only to find out Austin has all but abandoned the genre.
I've seen this story a hundred times. Great musicians that come here playing guitars strung with dreams and aspirations only to find karaoke bars and Bob Schneider and the Scabs and Leslie in the public's eye.
I wrote a song called "I Remember Austin" and in it I sing -- "I remember sneekin' into Antone's just to hear James Cotton play/Now I come downtown and look around and I see Austin fade away."
Come with me to a jam sometime, Margaret, get the real story of the local blues scene, before Austin fades away.
Richard "Hurricane" Harvey
I just wished to comment on the recent piece by Margaret Moser, "Blue Monday" [Dec. 29]. As someone who has been writing about the local Austin blues scene for some years now, I think Ms. Moser's piece was accurate but did miss on some fronts.
I was around when the surge of the local bands, blues and otherwise, took off in the late Seventies through the Nineties. While I agree there has been some decline in the blues scene here, it is not for lack of talented people. I think external factors (cost of living and venues being torn down for the Dot Cons has contributed more than anything). Look at the venues: Steamboat, Liberty Lunch, and half of Babe's got caught in the current Austin construction frenzy.
Making a living on music got harder too during this period. A good portion of the acts I see now live on tips and CD sales if they have one. The last "new" blues club, the short-lived Austin Blues, unfortunately overshot their budget and is now a restaurant.
But I agree that the young and some seasoned acts are in places like Joe's Generic Bar and the Saxon Pub. I also see talent like Catherine Denise, Alan Haynes, Uncle John Turner, Appa Perry, Monte Montgomery, and the Keller Brothers to name a few others. (In addition to Gary Clark, Jake Andrews.)
On another related issue, the nature of blues music means that the artists take some time to go through the system. Also, the older blues legends are aging, so it is hard for some of them to tour heavily. I have found that the bigger ticket blues acts either go into showcase blues fests like the recent Antones's (Austin) and B.B. King Blues Fest (San Antonio). It seems national blues acts have also been appearing at La Zona Rosa (indigenous Chris Duarte, Tab Benoit). Also at Stubb's and the Continental Club.
My best wishes to all for the new year!
More Blues in 2001!
Roger 'Catfish ' Barb
A Picture's Worth --
Can you explain why you would choose to print a professionally posed quarter-page "publicity" photograph of someone suspected of doing such horrendous deeds? I thought I was going to read an article about a "let's-save-the-world" politician when I started Robert Bryce's article ["Thicker than Waters," Dec. 29].
On How to Write a Review
Would you please put a nonbiased account of what the movie is about within the first inch of the review? Then place your opinion on whether the movie is worth seeing or not. And please leave the part of who is sleeping with whom on the set for last.
Don't Tell Me What Happens!
Poring over the Chronicle is a weekly ritual that I thoroughly enjoy. Given the previews and review of the movie Cast Away, I was planning on seeing it, but the cover story on Bill Broyles ["Lost at Sea and Back Again," Dec. 29] gave away far too much of the story for me to pay $7 to see it. There is little left to the imagination. In the future, please wait at least a month before giving a film away.
Wyoming Wants to Know
I am a fifth-grade student at Pershing Elementary in Rawlins, Wyoming. I am writing about the state of Texas.
I'm gathering information about your state and I am asking if the readers of your newspaper would like to help me by sending information to me. I would like to receive maps, postcards, and pictures of historical places. I would also like to have information on the symbol of your state.
Please send anything you feel would be helpful to me at the school address c/o Mr. Mann, Pershing Elementary School, Pershing & Davis Streets, Rawlings, Wyoming, 82301. Thank you for your time and help.
Music for the Masses
KGSR's Jody Denberg thinks it's "karmically sad" that copies of the latest Broadcasts CD are going for $75 on eBay ["Dancing About Architecture," Dec. 29]? How about a free copy, courtesy of the CD-R drive on my uncle's computer? How fast do you think my uncle could get rid of these for, say, $7 or $8 a pop (just enough to cover the cost of the blank CDs, soft plastic cases, homemade labels, and a bit of his time)? Don't worry -- he's not doing this yet. He merely burned me a copy while I was in Austin for the holidays. But Denberg's comment seems to reaffirm the ongoing attitude the music industry has toward emerging technologies, such as home CD-R drives, mp3 files, and the like ... which is to bury their collective head in the sand and hope it all goes away.
It is now truly a new millennium, baby! One way or another, people will get the music they want, when they want it. The music industry can either work with their artists to make music plentiful and affordable, or they can sit back and suffer at the hands of increasingly affordable, and user-friendly, consumer technology.
Next, Dinosaurs Return!
I want to thank Amy Babich for responding to my letter ["Postmarks," Dec. 29], and she made some excellent points I would like to address. One of which was the "Global Warming" myth. Is the world getting warmer? Perhaps. Amy might not be old enough to recall that in the mid-1970s those same scientists were telling us all about the impending Ice Age; in fact, it was the "Environmental Horror Story" du jour for a while. I wonder if they "fixed" the environment and "saved" us from the Ice Age so well that the earth is warming up? Several factors contribute to normal, natural fluctuations in the Earth's temperature; man has very little impact on those events. Things like solar activity, which, duh, contributes to the temp here on Earth. The sun periodically grows hotter or cooler; so does Earth. The list of contributing factors, all natural, goes on. I am at a loss to find any negative aspects of global warming at all, other than rich people having to put their beach houses up on pilings. Increased sea levels would flood coastal areas, creating new estuarine systems which would be home and nursery to thousands of presently endangered species. More land would be suitable for farming, feeding more people, the "coral belt" would extend north and south of the equatorial regions, creating more reefs. One thing many people apparently don't realize is that there is a fixed amount of carbon on Earth, in fact in the entire universe. It is either solid (bound carbon) or gaseous, which some claim will kill us all. Corals bind carbon, keeping it out of the atmosphere. There would be more plankton, binding even more carbon. There would be more species of larger plants binding and converting even more carbon, more fresh water released from polar ice caps ... so what's the complaint? Less dependence on oil to heat homes in the winter? More food? More fresh water? What? The main reason so many are so hysterical is simple. They fear change, they cling to the status quo. Heaven forbid something might actually change in their lives.
No Room at the Inn
Dear Austin residents:
The headline in The Austin Chronicle read "Lost at Sea and Back Again" [Dec. 29]. I think most of our experiences in Austin might really make an excellent book or movie called "Lost in Austin and Back Again."
I walked into Northcross Mall before Christmas, and noticed someone with a masters from UT, who had left the city and came back to visit near Christmas. What was he doing? He was working for Salvation Army ringing a bell. He will do this for two weeks, and by this time he has certainly left the city to return to a normal job, and a normal city that does not continually suffer from a 99% apartment occupancy rate.
To most of the residents of the city, who seem to be moving outward toward Round Rock, this 99% apartment occupancy rate is bonkers.
Frank D. Bartlett
Story About a Man Named Jeb
Ballad of Jeb Bush
by Steve Netardus
Sung to the tune of the theme song to
'The Beverly Hillbillies'
Come and listen to my story about a man named Jeb,
Poor southern Guv, barely kept his party led.
Then one day, when shove came to push,
He had to win his state for his brother George Bush.
"Dubya," that is.
Well, the first thing you know Jeb's boys ain't playing fair.
Kinfolk said "Jeb, don't count the votes down there!!"
Said "Tallahassee is where you oughtta stall 'em!"
So they rejected hand counts after screwin' West Pahl-um,
Beach, that is
And now it's time to say "good luck" to Jeb's elected kin.
They'd all like to thank the courts for finally giving in
... back in four years for the same old bag of tricks
And have heapin' helpin' of Florida politics!!
(Ya'll come back, now. Hear?)
Overrun by Outsiders
I noticed Robert Bryce's attempt to look into the Chamber of Commerce economic review of 2000 in your "Naked City" section [Dec. 29], regarding economic imbalances in the Austin-San Marcos corridor, from a peachy perspective on the middle class, but what about the blacks (that Bledsoe ignores) in the ghettos, the immigrants, the poor, the elderly (so abused by the cops). We all work, make, and spend money here anyway, and we are actually a majority, despite the tens of thousands of newcomers, attracted by those positioned in high fly jobs, at UT, or AISD for example, that has proved so devastating for the natives. He peppers his article with the Texas Workforce Commission support on the Chamber assertion on the increase of a labor market in transportation, communications, utilities, and manufacturing, in addition to science and engineering. All these areas are managed or owned by outsiders! The locals are digging or cleaning, and just a few are placed as front-desk Dobermans. It's pure extermination, señor Black. One of two events will likely turn things around for Austin: Total peace in Jerusalem or a volcano emerging in Amarillo.
On the Offensive
Louis Black writes in "Page Two" (Dec. 22) "The most offensive of the anti-Gore tirades appeared late in the game" referring to an e-mail titled "How Come?" From what I read the only offensive factor is that nobody in the media who plays those hypocritical word games has answered any of the questions asked in "How Come?" Or are you implying that those questions asked were not based in facts and truth. What Black found offensive was having the liberal ruse mocked and the hypocrisy exposed. Showing anger when your bullshit has been uncovered is a sign of mental illness. The U.S. is like a large, divided asylum, and you liberals are not the charge nurse or the directors. You are the inmates, and your insidious hatred of anything related to Christianity is the premise of your illness.
P.S. Bush got more votes in 2000 than Clinton got in either of his two victories, so Bush is more of an elected president than Bill.
Do the Math
Correspondent Jimmy Castro ["Postmarks," Dec. 29] should study his numbers again. If commuter rail from Austin to San Antonio costs $475 million to build and it carries 8,000-11,000 "riders" per day, the capital cost is approximately $100,000 per person using the service. (Two riders equal one person.) The real subsidy will be much more than that when operating losses are added to the equation.
We know that taxpayers, rich and poor alike, will pay these enormous subsidies that will benefit less than one quarter of one percent of our regional populations, but who will this elite be? Typically commuter rail users are above-average-income suburbanites who live too far out to drive into a city every day and that is exactly what the TXDOT study found. Very few patrons will actually commute between Austin and San Antonio.
Think of it this way: If you had $475 million to give away, would you give it to 4,750 suburban yuppies or would you buy brand new homes for 4,750 homeless families?
Big Thanks to Big Hearts
Thanks once again to Debbie Rorback, Jeff Smith, and the staff at the Hole in the Wall for helping Mike McCoy sponsor a benefit for the Half Pint Library/Brackenridge Hospital. About $400 was raised to provide books for children in the hospital. A big thanks also to the bands who donated their time and talent: Born to Lose, Verb, Stickpony, Golden Apples, Violet Crown, Peglegasus, Cher U.K. and the American People. Finally, of course, thanks to everyone who came out to listen and support the project.
Everybody get out and support the clubs that support the bands who support the community. Now. Please.