Our readers talk back.
Van Zandt's Onstage Legacy
This is concerning the "Townes Without Pity" feature article, dated June 14. It was a good article, but I think Townes would have been disappointed that there was no mention of his self-produced albums, which he was most proud of, done independently of record label ownership or influences. All these albums released to date have received international critical acclaim.
As partners, Townes and I own this ongoing live series. We set up this live catalog business together. Townes was the producer, listening to and picking each song for the albums, and I would negotiate and secure label lease deals. (This was to continue on after his death.) Our first release was Live and Obscure in 1987.
It is very important to note that Tomato Records and our business are two separate entities.
Partial media recognition for some of these recordings:
The live albums are not a repeat of songs on each recording. Every album has unreleased versions of the songs. Each album is very unique, with Townes' own style of singing, talking, and telling jokes. They were made for the mainstream buyers, not only the die-hard fans. As Townes would say, "live is the bare bones, nothing contrived here."
Also not listed was the TVZ CD documentary, a recording of Townes in his own words and songs, his music and life, narrated by Larry Monroe.
The highway was Townes' home, and where we conducted our business from, right up to his death.
Harold F. Eggers Jr.
No Whine Shortage
I heard recently that there was a grape shortage around Kerville this year. However, after reading Wali Stopher's repugnant, sour-grapes letter ("An Unhappy Customer," June 14), I can see that there will still be plenty of whine!
Why don't we talk about what really killed film ["Will Video Kill the Celluloid Star?" June 21]? It certainly wasn't HD. For my money, the blame rests with bloated Hollywood budgets, tragedies of celluloid like Not Another Teen Movie, and the ridiculous notion that it is somehow acceptable to pay Tom Cruise $20 million to prance around in a latex mask. Talented writers, directors, and producers go unnoticed and underfinanced simply because they see what Robert Rodriguez sees. Film itself, those silver halide crystals, does not make the medium worthwhile. It is the story that goes onto it that earns my price of admission. No, film won't die completely. It will limp alongside HD, degrading physically and spiritually.
Nadia Di Paola
UT Film Graduate
HD Won't Kill Film
I enjoyed Marc Savlov's feature "Will Video Kill the Celluloid Star?" [June 21]. He quotes Robert Rodriguez saying, "With HD, this is the worst it will ever look." That, truly, hits the nail on the head. I am an actor here in Austin, and I had the privilege of working with Mr. Rodriguez on Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams. His enthusiasm about HD was very much apparent throughout the shoot, and I was able to see some of the scenes as he shot. They were, simply, incredible images with crystal clarity.
I have worked on two other local films this year, Dioskilos, directed by Jason Bounds, and The Perfect Man Contest directed by John McLean. Both films were shot using DV and, again, there were some remarkable images. I think most filmmakers will, eventually, switch to DV or HD. However, I do not think we will ever see the end of film.
I am old enough to remember when MTV came on the air with "Video Killed the Radio Star." It was a neat song, but video never really destroyed radio. They have found a way to coexist, and I think the same will hold true for HD, DV, and film.
Just my two cents.
Watershed for the Springs
There are a few instances in time where pivotal decisions are made with regard to Austin's environmental future. There is a defining moment on Thursday, June 27, at the Austin City Council meeting.
Barton Springs and its watershed are dying a slow death. Stratus Properties is seeking approval from Council to build a million square feet of office space with many stipulations that they say are safeguards for the environment. They are requesting rezoning that will allow them to build at a higher density than currently zoned. Once infrastructures are built, commutes are made, yards are fertilized, pesticides are used; the contamination happens by no one in particular but by everyone at the same time. The destruction timetable will be set. The springs can cleanse itself of its toxic water in a short amount of time since it churns out 26 million gallons a day. However, the very water it uses to cleanse itself comes from the aquifer. The aquifer needs our protection or the water that cleanses and replenishes the springs every day will be just as contaminated as the water that flows through the creek after a rain.
Please help defend the springs on Thursday, June 27 at the Austin City Council meeting (6pm, LCRA Complex, Hancock Building, 3700 Lake Austin Blvd.). There are many issues that need our attention: education, transportation, affordable housing, and jobs. These are confounding social and economic problems that people debate often, but it seems there is seldom a unanimous or swift solution. However, all people are the stewards of God's creations. This is an issue of respecting the environment for what it has for all people who seek its offerings regardless of age, social, cultural, religious and ethnic differences.
This is a pivotal moment in our time and in the time of Barton Springs.
Exploiting Sophia King
Mike Clark-Madison's piece about Sophia King's killing ["Austin@Large," June 21] is characterized as much by liberal arrogance as by lack of factual basis, and shows why the Chronicle has little resonance in Austin's minority communities.
Clark-Madison hasn't the foggiest idea what our lawsuit is about. Obviously, he didn't read it. And he never had the professional integrity to call and ask about it, as did other media -- nor did it matter to him. He just wanted to shroud it in his own agenda, the facts be damned. Our suit is not over the police shooting of Sophia King itself, but over the entire situation that culminated in her wrongful death. The primary defendant is the housing authority. As Ms. King's mother has said publicly and often from the beginning, this case is about making sure this dreadful event does not happen to anyone else.
Nor do we at TCRP believe, as he asserts, "that the cops and city can't police themselves, that APD will always terrorize black people because, well, they're police and that's what police do." That's absurd, and off the wall. To the contrary, our litigation and education programs are premised on just the opposite view, that the system can be reformed and can better serve people with disabilities.
We are not at war with APD. In fact, we turn down any number of cases brought to us each month about alleged excessive force or misconduct by APD. We have avoided political campaigns against APD, and have worked with APD on other issues. Our goal with APD is systemic change in its training and practices with respect to people with disabilities, particularly mental disabilities.
For more than three years, we have been trying to get APD to change its ways of dealing with folks with mental disabilities, providing resources, information, and training expert references to APD and the City Attorney's office. In fact, the Memphis model that APD now is going to study was one we presented three years ago, along with models from Houston, Albuquerque, and the Travis County Sheriff's Department (which has a good program and with which APD broke a mental health cooperative services contract for turf reasons). This issue is a priority with TCRP. We had a federal grant a few years back to work on exactly this issue with law enforcement agencies in Hidalgo County. The question to APD and Chief Stan Knee should be why did they not respond three years ago (or, actually, 10 years ago, as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act), and waited until yet another fatal shooting of a mentally disabled citizen?
I categorically reject Clark-Madison's suggestion that, if the police had not killed Sophia King, she would still have died young and abandoned. That is only true if people in our community do nothing, or simply sit around writing about it in the Chronicle. There are many good and decent people in Austin, and throughout the state and country, dedicated to the principle that one death of Sophia King is too much, and will do all they can to avoid the next. The future is indeed difficult and precarious, but only as impossible as we want it to be.
As far as "quoting myself" in the press release about the lawsuit, that is flat wrong, too, and Clark-Madison knows it. Inserting quotes for attribution is typical of every press release; it is not quoting oneself. If not done, the media will not reprint it. It's for the media's own protection, and facility in presenting a view about a news story.
Clark-Madison's piece was cutely written and cutting, even sprinkled with a little French insult, but without depth. He did the very thing of which he accused others -- exploiting Sophia King for his own agenda.
James C. Harrington
Texas Civil Rights Project
[Ed. note: Jim Harrington is welcome to his opinion of the Chronicle, but for the record, over a third of Chronicle readers are members of Austin's minority communities. A higher percentage of our readers are minorities than the percentage of minorities reading the Statesman, Texas Monthly (in Austin), and The Texas Observer. We have a higher percentage of minority readers than most alternative weeklies. Source: The Media Audit, International Demographics, Inc.]
We're Outta Here
I came to Austin in 1962, finished UT degrees, married, had three children, bought houses in Central Austin, worked at a state job, and overall have loved life in Austin. Sadly, my husband and I are now having to leave Austin because of the polluted and allergen-filled air. We believe that life in Austin has been negatively impacted by growth and development -- dirty air and water, traffic, noise, yuppie atmosphere, and outrageous prices and property taxes. Our city council, including the current council, has encouraged technology companies to come to Austin, which consequently has paralleled the decline in our quality of life. Anyone who lived here in the 1960s and 1970s knows what a better place to live Austin was in those years. We are sad to leave Austin and have felt sad witnessing the deterioration of this wonderful town. We are retiring and moving to Hawaii for clean air, clean water, a healthy and relaxed atmosphere, and a gentle lifestyle that Austin once had but lost. Adios and Aloha.
Austin at a Crossroads
Austin is at a crossroads. Do we retain those things that made Austin what it has been (i.e. diverse, tolerant, forward thinking and appreciative of the arts), or do we continue what some city "leaders" and businessmen have done and keep whoring Austin to the point where it's indistinguishable from Dallas, San Antonio, or Houston? While I can't offer a perfect remedy, I do suggest the following:
1) If Stevie Ray Vaughan can have a statue on Town Lake, why not Bill Hicks? I cannot think of a time where Mr. Hicks' teachings (esp. his thoughts on marketing, ignorant laws against marijuana, etc.) were more appropriate than they are now.
2) The Intel Carcass: Imagine the people of Austin buying and having a say in that property. Imagine all or part of the first and second floors being the "new" Liberty Lunch (or other venue) and the rest of the building would be a rehearsal facility for bands. Granted, there are "leaders" who might object to this, but given that they never cared about what the people of Austin thought about whoring our city to Intel, I'm having difficulty caring about what their opinion is.
Austin has a choice to make. Do we embrace the "Starbucking" of Austin (i.e. gentrification) and do we continue to place image above substance? Do we support politicians who make us subservient to corporations who never cared about Austin or its culture? Do we learn to grow in a way that preserves what once made Austin so unique? Do we stand up to corporations by telling them that if they want to come here, fine? If not, that's fine too.
I wonder what Mr. Hicks would have to say about all this.
Doing my part to keep it weird,
Not surprisingly, the rhetoric of the letters ["'Chron' Pride Coverage Myopic" and "Self-Control and Maturity," "Postmarks," June 21] is 100% in line with Chad Ballard's recent "misquote" in the Austin American-Statesman regarding PRIDE. Who knew this faction would actually put it in writing that they're (a) happily ignoring the protesters' point about the danger and folly of marginalizing any segment of the queer community, "misfits" included, and, (b) absolutely as heteronormative as Ballard's quote has suggested all along?
Not to mention sexist, wow -- even a Freud reference! What year is it again? Have we forgotten about the Daughters of Bilitis, the Mattachine Society, and the 1950s homophile movement in general, devotees of which advocated the censure of non-straight-acting queers? That was then. But obviously, some of our gay brethren haven't learned from this history.
Why don't Ballard and his homies just admit that they actually believe the things the AA-S quoted Ballard as saying? (I mean, come on, sex toys makes one a "misfit"?! These dudes are pilgrims!) It's sooo obvious ... and frankly, I'd rather deal with the Bible-beaters who hate us than with self-hating fags like these -- at least the former unabashedly admit to their hatred.
Pedestrians' Right to Exist
Thanks for the level-headed report on the so-called Seaholm Master Plan ["You Call This a Plan?" June 14].
The northwest arm of the Pfluger Bridge does not dump pedestrians onto traffic-heavy Lamar. It is supposed to take pedestrians and cyclists to the existing sidewalk on the hill above Lamar, just below the railroad tracks, where we can continue to make our own way to essentially car-free Third Street (the existing street that passes over Lamar), which allows us to avoid Lamar by going west toward the existing Amtrak Station and West Sixth or east toward existing downtown destinations, or we can take the existing protected access street straight north to the existing sidewalks in the 500 block of Lamar (an existing commercial area that is being marketed to tourists and conventioneers as hip and pedestrian-friendly).
City staff's proposal is to dump us at an intersection east of Lamar to cross, what is it now?, six lanes of traffic on Fifth, with no traffic light, no crosswalk, and no sidewalks, and unless the abandoned construction site is your destination, you have to cross Sixth Street under the same brutal conditions.
Similar ground-truthing of the Lumbermen's plan in relation to the YMCA, the hike and bike trails, future prospects for passenger rail, downtown and South Austin traffic patterns, the Seaholm building itself, and especially cost estimates turns up a complete disconnect from reality. Scrap the plan now, before staff wastes anymore money on it.
APD and the Eastside
"Victim No.1" is not so ["Austin at Large," June 21]. A couple of years back, another sick black was killed, brandishing a twig against an Austin cop, in the same neighborhood. And I can give you a list of acts of cowardice from APD officers against blacks, women, and immigrants, but I'd drift from the subject. It's the breakup of the family structure that some fools (blacks and Latinos) are practicing now, catching up with modern times. It's the lack of opportunities for everyone in East Austin, created, in part, by the constant influx of the "best and brightest" into the APD, by people with a rank, including their chief, from California. It's the NSA. It's the events in Europe. It's not John Coffey, but his command[ing] officer. Neither Linder, nor Bledsoe will get anywhere, and LULAC is rather passive. Nation of Islam can't move at this point, and the blacks in the media don't want to lose their little assignments. I'm thinking of the Rurales of Mexico, 100 years ago!
The Flaw in the Seaholm Plan
A basic principle of transportation planning is that first you find out where people are going before you build facilities to accommodate them (the reason for origin/destination studies). This is the flaw in the Seaholm Master Plan as proposed ["You Call This a Plan?" June 14]. While the Pfluger Bridge does accommodate recreational runners, it ignores the pedestrian and bike traffic that needs to cross the lake to get to their destination.
Lamar Boulevard is a major transportation corridor, and that also includes people not in cars. On any given day one can observe dozens of people taking the Pfluger Bridge and following an unnecessary, circuitous route across busy streets, railroad tracks, and against a one-way street to get across the lake to the other side of Lamar. Forget it if you are in a wheelchair or if the train is parked across the tracks.
A northwest arm is sorely needed to correct this oversight. There are merits to the Bowie Street underpass proposal, but it should not exclude a direct connection to Lamar Boulevard.
Austin Energy's GreenChoice
The June 21 article "Clean Energy: Austin's Next Boom?" is generally a fair depiction of the renewable energy industry and its economic development opportunities. However, the statement that "Austin Energy's GreenChoice reflects consumer preferences that do not correspond to available energy sources" is incorrect. In fact, the 76 MW King Mountain Wind Project, which began full-scale operation last September, was developed exclusively for Austin's GreenChoice program. Its output, which is real, not virtual, accounts for most of the 250 million kWh per year referred to in the article. Other sources are the Small Hydro of Texas project currently in operation, and the Tessman Road Landfill Methane project (expected to be in operation mid-July). As our GreenChoice customers grow in number, we periodically add new renewable resources, which are built exclusively for Austin.
Green Energy a Real Choice
Thank you for running the article, "Clean Energy: Austin's Next Boom?" [June 21]. Once again, the Chronicle has demonstrated vision and insight and positioned itself as far more than an entertainment weekly.
We at the Austin Clean Energy Initiative have been working since last fall to develop and deliver the message that the clean energy industry offers Austin an opportunity to diversify the regional economy, create jobs (especially so-called blue collar jobs), and make a real contribution toward cleaning the environment. We are presently working on a comprehensive report documenting this opportunity.
I noted one item that needs correction. The article states that, "[Austin Energy's] green power remains essentially virtual." In fact, the GreenChoice program sells energy exclusively generated from renewable resources.
Thank you again,
Austin Clean Energy Initiative
The Bus Is the Answer
It's clear we need a mass transit solution to save Austin. We need an approach that is affordable and low-risk. We need a system that is flexible but extremely reliable. And we recognize that the longer we wait, the more our community will suffer under the burgeoning weight of traffic congestion.
Buses are the solution to this problem. Not adding more vehicles or routes to Capitol Metro's flailing efforts, but building an intelligent system to manage Austin's movement needs.
This means advanced signaling (radio messages that change upcoming traffic lights) so buses never get stuck at intersections. Congested areas need dedicated bus lanes so existing traffic doesn't slow bus traffic. Larger buses with wider doors (why can't the whole side of a bus be a door?) for faster boarding and alighting.
But most importantly, we've got to get the yuppies on the bus. What will it take? Starbucks-compliant cupholders? Wireless Internet inside every bus? We can even hide the wheels so the buses appear as sleek as trains, if that will draw them in.
What's the big deal with trains anyhow? Every last mile planned for the original Light Rail proposal ran alongside -- or on top of -- existing roadways. Let's start by pre-selecting a few test commuters and running one bus along this route. Then, if it works, we add more buses.
Death Penalty Retraction
Dear Chronicle Readers:
A few years ago, a letter was printed in "Postmarks" from me that advocated the death penalty, and defended then-Governor George W. Bush for not granting clemency to the born-again pickaxe murderer who was about to be executed ["Postmarks: The Facts of Death," Feb. 20, 1998, austinchronicle.com/issues/ vol17/issue24/cols.postmarks.html].
On June 20, 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled as unconstitutional the death penalty for mentally retarded murderers. Several compelling reasons were issued by the court for doing so: that while persons with very low IQs may know right from wrong, they are less likely to realize the full weight of their actions; they are more likely to act compulsively (without premeditation); and they are less capable of understanding their trials and assisting their attorneys; moreover, they are more likely to confess to a murder they did not commit.
I had begun altering my position on capital punishment some time ago, when DNA testing was exonerating some persons on death row; and have been in favor of a moratorium on all executions.
As a zealous opponent of torture, I also am coming to view that the elimination of this tactic in interrogation of suspects of civil or war crimes will not come until the death penalty itself is deemed outmoded and universally abolished. This argument may be posited by Amnesty International, but I heard it from a psychologist.
In that letter to the Chron defending George W. Bush, I made the statement that he supported the death penalty because of the deep value he placed on the lives of the general citizenry. I have come to oppose that proclamation, although space and protocol prevent me from listing why.
Ups and Downs
With the latest FBI crime statistics out, I just thought it was time to send out a thank you to the U.S. Supreme Court and the antiquated electoral system that gave us another Republican administration. Like previous GOP leaders, this one has presented us with a tale of ups and downs.
I'd also like to note an odd Bush family resemblance: George the Elder has a Saddam shadow; George the Younger has a bin Laden shadow.
So thank you to those wise Justices for these happy times (well, happy days for corporations and the rich).
Don't Dis on Greenpeace
Hi. Do you have a second for Greenpeace?
Well, whadda ya got?
We're working for clean energy.
Contrary to the opinion submitted this month by one pretty disgruntled (Get a grip, dude!) canvasser ["Beware of Greenpeace Solicitors," June 14], I actually believe in protecting the environment. I actually think Greenpeace (not to mention Earth First!, Clean Water Action, inter alios, on most issues, most of the time) does a pretty good job. Stuff someone like moi (who still actually has a credit card and, on occasion, look out y'all, will use it) can support.
So, you know, look around everybody. Look who's working for you. Respect Mother Earth. B-r-e-a-t-h-e in the air (of course if you've got congestive problems and/or it's an Ozone Action Day, you might want to do your thing indoors.) And keep on rocking ("in the free world") Greenpeace. Don't let one bummed-out employee (dude) get you down. I mean even if it's 100 degrees outside and there's hardly anybody to talk to, just think about what you're doing: You're standing up to "the man," to big industrial polluters, to the Bush Administration (i.e., now they want to roll back 30 years of protections established under the Clean Air Act) and you won't, no you won't -- I've got a moment for Greenpeace 'cause they're rocking! -- back down.
Clean Energy Finance
I enjoyed Courtney Barry's article on the possibility of the clean energy technology industry playing an important role in economic growth in Austin ["Clean Energy: Austin's Next Boom?" June 21]. The article did an admirable job of balancing optimism with realistic caution.
The article quoted a local investment consultant as saying that there is "one specific" investment fund in the world dedicated primarily to clean energy. I am happy to inform interested Chronicle readers that there are at least two others. First, the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Fund (which has $65 million in capital) provides financing for projects in emerging markets (globally). Second, the Solar Development Group, capitalized with $50 million, has both a business development arm that has grant and loan funds and an investment arm for normal financing, aimed at solar and other renewable energy applications in rural areas of developing countries.
Both these funds are managed by partnerships that include the Environmental Enterprises Assistance Fund (EEAF), located in Arlington, Virginia. EEAF also has its own investment capital that it focuses on investments in a variety of environmental projects, including clean energy.
Keep up the good coverage of these interesting topics.
A sarcastic remark by Casey Dobson, the city's outside legal counsel, was not directed at two city staffers, as was incorrectly reported in last week's "Zap for Stratus" in "Naked City." "It was very much Bill Bunch's credibility that I was attacking," Dobson said. Bunch is executive director of the Save Our Springs Alliance. The Chronicle regrets the error.
Clean Energy the Future
Thanks for the article about clean energy ["Clean Energy: Austin's Next Boom?" June 21]. Experts are increasingly agreeing that world oil production will peak soon, if it has not peaked already, and will then decline. (See www.oilcrisis.com, or do a search on Google.) When that starts to happen, petroleum-based energy will become more and more expensive. Austin has a chance to get in on the ground floor of a huge new industry in clean and renewable energy production and distribution. That would be good for the economy and the environment. Maybe this is an area where business leaders and environmentalists can work together.
Clean as a Whistle
Courtney Barry's article on Clean Energy in your June 21 issue was terrific ["Clean Energy: Austin's Next Boom?"]. The opening sentence -- Will "clean energy" become a new industry for Austin -- pulled the reader in, and she solidly built from there. It was interesting to learn about the local clean-energy incubator. But the story properly and informatively placed the Austin-Boom angle in state (SB 7's encouragement of clean energy), national (renewable energy production tax credit), and international (Swiss mutual fund) contexts. I was especially impressed with the thorough, yet tightly written, exploration of the technological, financial, climatological, and political issues. Your use of vivid everyday examples ("One megawatt ... is enough to power about 300 homes for a year" and "underlying each megawatt produced by wind power is the equivalent of 4.8 full time employees") kept the story very accessible to the reader. There is a lot more to explore here. I look forward to a follow-up story.
I found the recent article by Courtney Barry on the facets of the Clean Energy industry in Austin to be really interesting ["Clean Energy: Austin's Next Boom?" June 21]. I always appreciate the Chronicle each week, but especially when you've got such a great mix of stories as you did this past week. Great issue and an especially great
BRIAN OR CHRIS: THE FOLLOWING LETTER IS FOR ONLINE ONLY. -LEE
It was with a smile that I read about the troubles of Debbie Rombach in trying to hold onto the Hole in the Wall. As a former Austin resident and musician who played her club and socialized there, I can recall many stories of her callous and rude behavior when dealing with bands and musicians. And now she expects them to bail her out? Please! This is one of Austin's dirty little secrets -- club owners acting like Roman emperors and just plain creeps, screwing bands and musicians over time and time again. Yes, the Hole is and was a cool club -- but that does not excuse bad behavior to musicians in a town that professes to be the music capital of the world. Quatropaw should keep their tips and let Miss Rombach get on with her life ... maybe as a greeter at a Wal-Mart!!!!
aka The Grim Reaper