Stirred up by the arts, sounding off on local TV
Where's the Attribution?
I was out of town last week, and I just got around to reading Amy Smith's article on the Austin Museum of Art in last week's Chronicle ["The Art of Saving AMOA," July 13]. As a person who once worked for Laguna Gloria and who has followed the museum with interest over the years, I share many of the concerns that Ms. Smith's article raised about the institution. However, I was distressed by the way the article throughout presented one unattributed criticism of the museum after another. Had the writer identified her sources and their qualifications, the article would doubtless have had more credibility. As written, the article was reduced to unconstructive innuendo, rumor, and suggestion.
I feel that the Chronicle article was very unfair to the museum and to the people who, whether their decisions have been positive or negative, have worked very hard and with good intentions to make Austin a better place through building a new art museum. I hope that, in future articles on the museum and other civic projects, you will encourage your writers to be more attentive to attributing their sources. It will be more balanced journalism and will raise the level of credibility in your reporting.
Texas Association of Museums
The Not-So-Silent Underground
I was disappointed to find no mention of KVR-TV in your feature on local television ["Raising the Dead," July 6]. For more than six years, this student-run, FCC-licensed commercial television station (VHF channel 9) has been broadcasting 24 hours a day to central and East Austin from a transmitter located atop the UT tower.
With a lineup of shows running from music to sketch comedy to live coverage of UT sports, KVR annually produces more hours of programming than does KLRU. KVR is emulating its big sister, The Daily Texan, by sprinkling alumni throughout the local media scene and winning national honors -- this year, KVR News was named the nation's Best Non-Daily College Newscast by the Society of Professional Journalists.
As one of a handful of viewing options available to the tens of thousands of Austinites unable or unwilling to become cable subscribers, KVR is proud to provide the community with informative and fun locally produced programming.
Frank Serpas III
Former KVR-TV Station Manager
Austin News Blues
Belinda Acosta's article on local television ["Raising the Dead," July 6] was a wonderful piece but I feel it left out the biggest part of the story. The local affiliates claim that they do not have enough money for locally produced entertainment any longer, but in the past year all four stations have revamped their news studios and formats.
News is not only the ultimate form of reality TV, it is also supposed to reflect on the city that creates it. But affiliate news in Austin is painfully repetitive and ultimately a big bore. Sure, maybe one station gets more male demos watching and another gets more senior citizens, but ultimately all the stations are exactly the same. On a single news day one is likely to see the same stories on each station. Even worse, each station pulls stories off CNN and rebroadcasts them. It is nauseating to see a story on shopping in Las Vegas on each of the four stations and then to see news promos about how each station cares so much about Austin. I'd wager that if Austin knew all the news outlets were rerunning year-old fluff pieces from cable news, they would rethink how much they trust their anchormen.
In the past the Chronicle has always bad-mouthed the local news for showing too much sports and too little story. And while this may be a valid complaint, it really distracts from what news is supposed to be. Local news is supposed to convey information, but often, if you pay attention to what is being said and not what is being implied by the visuals, you will see that the reporters are only giving vague descriptions, not really informing viewers about events.
As far as local entertainment goes, the news is the best we are ever going to get. ACAC shows have their pockets and niches of popularity, but they will never branch out to the mainstream affiliates precisely because they are niche-programs. Yes, KNVA broadcasts Behind the Scenes, but in five years, when our WB affiliate is rich enough to produce news, KNVA will suddenly not be able to cough up cash for local shows.
Starved for Attention
I truly appreciated the opening lines of your article on the Austin Arts Commission and then threw the Chronicle down in disgust ["The Forest for the Trees," July 6]. My anger wasn't a result of your writing, it was simply an automated response that has become a standard reaction to just about anything I read on the activities of government and politics. My usual riff is that America is so entrenched in the corporate-industrial-military-bureaucratic-police state that any attempt to become involved in the funding process for new work of any kind can only involve a total duplicity in evil. Harsh words? Not nearly harsh enough. The arts are our most ancient connection to the very foundations of humanity; our connection to the mystery of creation, life, and death. To bring artists into the fold of modern bureaucracies is to strip them of that connection to the natural world and force them into the social machines of the industrial age. The 21st century is merely a construction of our collective imagination, not a signpost of progress. To make artists mere poster children for the success of a militant bureaucracy is the foundation of our disgust (not the same as apathy). The only solution is for artists to make art. Hopefully, we will not die in poverty for trying.
Todd Alan Smith
P.S. Appropriate the button, even.
The Cost of Big Business Incentives
Neighborhood associations have nothing to apologize for in their attempts to maintain the integrity of their own neighborhoods. If Patrick Goetz wishes to place blame for the city's lack of affordable housing ["Postmarks: Neighborhood Group to Blame," July 3], he might better direct his efforts against the Chamber of Commerce and other local interests who continue to offer huge financial incentives to big business in an attempt to lure even more corporate expansion here. The new AMD chip plant (and the thousands of new tech workers it would attract) is the latest example. This megaproject would contribute more to sprawl, traffic, and lack of affordable housing than the efforts of a small central city neighborhood trying to preserve its quality of life.
In fact, more residents -- renters and homeowners alike -- need to take a closer look at their surroundings and decide what needs to be saved and what needs to be changed, and neighborhood associations can be a key tool that is useful in accomplishing their goals. Since I am not a resident of either Rosedale or Alta Vista, I had been unaware of previous proposals to redevelop the Lamar and 45th St. area, but it is vital that developers work with surrounding neighbors to reach mutually compatible goals.
Get Your Guitars Straight
I just picked up the new issue, specifically drawn by the "Reissues!" headline, and found Christopher Gray's review of "Demons and Angels" by Gary Davis ("Reissues," July 13).
Though most of his points are valid (the enclosed book is, in my opinion, something of a disaster), Gray did make one factual error, which is to refer to "his preferred National guitar." Gary Davis fans know that the Rev's preferred guitar was always the Gibson J-200 Jumbo six-string, which he called "Miss Gibson." He also, in later life, played a Bozo 12-string. He was never known to use a National metal-body guitar after moving to New York City in 1940. It sounds as if he used one on his 1935 recording session, but even that is not 100% certain.
Oh, and if you're thinking "What Gary Davis fans?", I just spent a week with several hundred of them at the Port Townsend Country Blues Workshop in Washington state.
Adventures of a Name-Dropping Actor
Congratulations to Marco Perella on the publication of his wonderful book, Adventures of a No Name Actor. However, I disagree with his position against actors accepting "extra" work in feature films. Having grown up in both Texas and New York, I worked in commercials, theatre, and film (S.A.G. and AEA). In NYC, actors routinely made the "rounds" of casting directors and agents, as this was the way to be "seen" and get work. Since there wasn't a separate union for extras, all actors were open to the work. It was important, however, to qualify the "type" of extra work. Cast as a no-name, in large crowd scenes with non-actors, was not an acceptable way to go for the serious actor. You wanted a "name," a real "character"; as this allowed you the opportunity to "upgrade" your role. Upgrades to featured extra in scenes with the star, bit parts, one line or day player with several lines, was the main and obtainable goal. I have spent days, even weeks on set, working closely with many great actors/directors. Robert DeNiro, Sly Stallone, Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Sidney Pollack, and Sidney Lumet, to name a few. Upgraded often, I was asked to improvise scenes, fill in dialogue, and play scenes with other actors or the star. My on-set playing time grew, as did my experience and confidence. I started standing in for the "star," and getting calls from casting people for more and better work. All of these "extra" jobs provided me with invaluable acting experience, contacts, many memorable on set experiences, and a paycheck. The idea that it somehow "stigmatizes" an actor regarding future roles simply was not my personal experience.
Hopefully, this letter will encourage Mr. Perella to re-think his position, and that student actors will continue to reap the benefits of this type of film work.
Linda White Loyd
Is Coach Slipping?
The July 13 "Coach's Corner" column seems a little strange. In paragraph two, Coach Cotton denigrates the "prehistoric white guys" who want to return to wooden drivers (in golf).
In paragraph five he seems to have forgotten his support for modern materials: "one-trick ponies ... with graphite/Kryptonite enhanced" tennis rackets.
A minor point, admittedly, in view of the article's overall themes of political correctness, low-key boorishness, and the greatness of golf as a spectator sport. But still it leaves me wondering how much coherence to expect from future episodes of the "Coach's Corner."
In Defense of Film Critics
I felt compelled to respond to Henry Melton's malicious and uncalled-for attack on the Austin Chronicle movie reviewers ["Postmarks: Thumbs Down: Reviews," July 6]. The role of a film critic is not to rubber-stamp movies to an overzealous public, but to analyze and elicit further discussion. While perhaps not as insightful or thought-provoking as Pulitzer Prize-winning Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert's captivating reviews, the AC movie critics consistently provide reviews that are engaging to read and, more often than not, on the mark. Perhaps Mr. Melton should stick to reading the David Mannings of the world, but many of us enjoy reading reviews that aren't afraid to challenge the average moviegoer.