Our readers talk back.
I'm writing to correct a misimpression left by your presentation of a "Best of Austin" Critics Award to Cowgirls and Flowers [Sept. 27]. This has nothing to do with the flowers they arranged for Courtney Love, which were lovely, but rather the context of the story told by the Chronicle.
As panels organizer for the South by Southwest Music Conference, I am very proud of the Courtney Love interview by Chuck Philips at SXSW 2002. It was the best-attended panel ever presented by SXSW. Ms. Love made international press with her statements on artists' rights and insights into the shaky state of the current music business.
Recounting your version of the events of this March, in your quotation of an unnamed SXSW staffer (whose identity and motives are unknown to us), you mistakenly convey the impression again that we were unhappy with Ms. Love's contribution to our event. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In the future when I recount the story of inviting Courtney to speak and the attendant hullabaloo, I will focus on the fact that she spoke bluntly on many issues that are churning around in the music industry, and the fact that she held the audience rapt for 80-plus minutes. SXSW would welcome Ms. Love back any time she'd care to attend.
A Pleasant Shock
I was pleasantly shocked to find myself in your "Best of Austin" issue [Sept. 27], but what was even more surprising was the number of people who commented on it to me. Clearly there are a lot of Chronicle loyalists out there!
Minor Regional Hack
Thanks for Your Support
Dear Mr. Black,
On behalf of the volunteers and staff at Reading for the Blind and Dyslexic, we want to thank you for selecting our organization as "Best Use of Your Dulcet Tones" in your Critics Picks -- Media! [Sept. 27] We are delighted with your support to RFB&D.
Join the Velorution!
I'd like to thank the readers of the Chronicle for voting me Best Activist and Best Visionary [Sept. 27]. What I really am, of course, is a velorutionary, an agent of the Velorution. Velorution has not yet made it into the dictionaries, but it means 1) bicycle revolution (from the French vélo, or bicycle) in which human power replaces gasoline power as the main way of moving people around; and 2) speed revolution (from Latin velox, or fast), the deliberate slowing down of human activity in the 21st century, to counteract the frantic acceleration of the 20th.
If there was ever a time for Americans, and Austinites especially, to embrace velorution, it's now. Our government asserts our nation's right to foul the world's air with whatever gases it chooses, no matter what this may do to world climate. It's a national disgrace that the USA won't sign the Kyoto Treaty. It's a national disgrace that foreign and domestic policy in this country are dictated by car and oil corporations. True patriots rebel at this degradation of our country.
The car and oil corporations get their power from their money. To shrink their power, deny them your money. Or at least give them less of your money. If enough people do this, these corporations will feel it. Remember that Exxon's planning to pipe gasoline under South Austin just as soon as it's financially feasible. Let's keep it unfeasible.
On Sunday, Sept. 22, the European Union held a car-free day, an annual event titled In Town Without My Car. I'm wondering whether any Chronicle readers have heard or read anything about this. I saw nothing about it in the newspapers.
I wonder what other major world news is routinely left out of the newspapers.
Join the Velorution! You won't regret it.
Improving Air Quality
In 1987 Denver had some of the worst air in the country. Industrial pollution and car emissions combined to create a seemingly insurmountable problem. Did they ignore the situation? Did they throw up their hands and say "that's progress"?
On the contrary. Denver instituted tough new measures to clean up their air, and they have met with great success. They still have a long way to go, as do all major American cities, but the important thing is that they proved you can improve air quality without causing economic collapse or rioting in the streets. The air quality in L.A. has also been dramatically improved.
Austin has some of the dirtiest, most unhealthy air in the country. Our air is so bad we are in danger of losing our federal highway funding. But there's plenty we can do. We need to make all vehicles in Travis County pass strict yearly emissions inspections. We should also replace our toxic diesel buses with natural gas busses, and make Austin, north and south, more bicycle friendly.
There's been a lot of attention paid over the years to the deteriorating water quality of Barton Springs. Unfortunately, this has put the even more important issue of air pollution on the back burner. If Denver and L.A. can improve their air quality, so can we.
That Was Then, This Is Now
My name is Rebecca Beall, and I am an ex-student of the Griffin School. The Chronicle, other papers, and periodicals have printed articles about the Griffin School ["Back 2 Cool," Aug. 2]. The majority of these articles have all been written by or strongly influenced by the administrator, Adam Wilson. I feel the Griffin School is being represented in a way that is not consistent with its current state. I believe it is time the public was given a more realistic view of the Griffin School before they consider sending their children there.
The Griffin School was, in fact, once an awesome school to attend. It was full of diversity; students called their teachers by their first names, and the staff let students be who they really were even when the rest of the world would not. And I will always be grateful to teachers like Jane Lozano, Danielle Austin, and Michael Harris, aka "Thor." Griffin was like its own little community, and it was great.
But Griffin began to change, slowly at first, so that none of the students noticed. It is hard to pinpoint what exactly it was that began to turn the Griffin School away from its own dream of a perfect learning environment. Griffin was by far the closest school to achieving that goal I have ever witnessed. Perhaps that is partially why it was so frustrating for my fellow students and me to see Griffin change into what it has become. Teachers whom I once was so fond of all but turned their backs on their students, who began to feel as though the fairness they were once all shown was fading away. Students felt like they were losing the voice that Griffin once strongly encouraged them to use.
The one school that was supposed to be different has become the same as all the rest. It saddens me that the current students will never know the original Griffin School, and it angers me that those to whom I once gave my respect threw it away with the school.
It is tragic to witness the one school I actually looked forward to in the morning turn into the one I never wish to see again. After all the changes which took place during the last school year (2001-2002), many students -- myself included -- have left the Griffin School knowing the dream that founded it is dead.
Rebecca T. Beall
[Ed. note: The Austin Chronicle article to which Beall refers was written by Kate X Messer and Griffin students, with photography by Todd V. Wolfson.]
Li'l Miss Smarty Pants
Regarding Kira Koonce's letter about the Sexy Scissors ad appearing in the Chron ["Postmarks," Oct. 4], first I'd like to say wow! I was precocious as a kid, but I sure didn't know the word "objectifying" or its concept in relation to human beings when I was in the second grade!
I'm almost certain my parents would not have let me read the Chron when I was 7, nor would I have had much interest in its articles or comics.
While I appreciate Kira's right to endorse her parents' opinions, I do not agree with her statement on sexism. (We're in agreement about the environment!) I am, however, grateful that her letter is so polite; I remember a letter on the same subject several years ago which had something about "waste receptacles" that was most offensive.
My advice to Kira is: When you're 5 or 6 years older and like boys, don't buy any sodas or perfume that feature shirtless male models in their ads. That way, the companies will get the message that they wasted their money exploiting those poor guys!
Head of the Class
It's very nice to see that little Kira Koonce is flourishing in the second-grade Women's Studies program at that home school of hers ["Postmarks," Oct. 4]. However, I was a bit unnerved to see a 7-year-old discussing the objectification of women, in so many words. I suggest that the next time Kira's mother wants to help her out, she should do something a little less obvious, like finishing up a salt map or something.
Serious About Safety
Dear Mr. Black,
Though even I admittedly smiled at the manner in which your reporter Brant Bingamon portrayed University Federal Credit Union's branch video teller installations in his Austin Chronicle September 20 article entitled "'Simone' Premieres -- at the Credit Union," the enclosed USA Today article detailing a very deadly Sept. 26 Nebraska bank robbery presents us with the sobering reality that security at financial institutions for both staff and members/customers is no laughing matter.
Your reporter has the luxury of poking fun at such matters without regard for the implications of his expressed viewpoint. It's safe to assume those of us responsible for protecting staff while remaining sensitive to the needs of our members/customers take this topic considerably more seriously. Perspective is everything.
Tony C. Budet
University Federal Credit Union
Hey Thief, See You in Hell
To the people that broke my window and stole the keyboards from my car Sunday night:
I hope you live a long, long life filled with agony and disappointment. I also hope you get cancer of the stomach and the eyes.
It's hard enough to be a working musician in this town without assholes like you running around breaking people's windows and stealing their equipment. But then, I suppose it's just as hard being a crackhead and trying to unload a beat-up Wurlitzer electric piano and an even more beat-up Farfisa on somebody for 20 bucks so you can buy another rock.
I don't come to where you work and steal the glass stem and Brillo pad from you, do I? Why me? I don't have any money. I can't replace those instruments. And now, what little work I was getting as a keyboard player has totally dried up because I don't have a keyboard at all any more because you took them from me!!!! So, thanks a lot, and I hope you enjoyed that 20 rock, it sure ruined my month.
See you in hell,
Last week, I was visiting my daughter in Manor, when we came across a 3-to-4-foot rattlesnake. It was just a couple of feet from her house, and I didn't want her or any of her cats or dogs to get hurt, so I caught it and placed it (very carefully!) in a large garbage can until I could figure out what to do with it. I did not want to hurt it, and now it didn't seem like much of a threat. In my excitement, I called the Manor Fire Department, because there was no answer at the police department. Within minutes, a fireman and a police officer showed up. There were amazed at its size and age, which they estimated at 12 years. They informed me that they would have to destroy the snake, even though I protested. They argued over who would be getting the rattle right in front of my daughter, who, like myself, is an animal lover. I took her in the house because neither of us could watch, and they brutally killed the snake with a shovel. When I placed the call to them, it was in hopes of having the snake relocated. Had I known that they would kill it, I never would have called them. I am sick over it, and so is my daughter.
A Happy PAPA
Dear Mr. Black:
The Political Asylum Project of Austin (P.A.P.A.) is so honored to have been named "Critic's Choice for Best Legal Services" in the Chronicle's "Best of Austin" 2002 issue [Sept. 27]. Thank you for recognizing the value of P.A.P.A.'s work on behalf of our community's most vulnerable population. By using U.S. laws specifically written to offer protections to immigrants, P.A.P.A. secures asylum for survivors of torture, war, and persecution; domestic violence; and natural disaster. P.A.P.A. also educates immigrants on their legal rights and responsibilities as residents of the U.S.
Again, thank you for this honor and for bringing the plight of refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants to the attention of the community. I hope your readers will learn more about P.A.P.A. at www.main.org/papa.
Nidia Salamanca, Executive Director
A very vocal minority has ruled the debate and media coverage surrounding efforts by Austin's Park Police to enforce leash laws in our parks. Allowing dogs to run uncontrolled in our parks is both irresponsible and dangerous. It limits the ability of families to enjoy the public parks and sets the stage for tragedy.
Last Sunday, I took my wife and three year old daughter to a local park to go fishing. The park is a "leash-free" zone. In a remote area of the park we were rushed by three large dogs (two pit bull terriers and a retriever). Armed with a fishing rod and a smile to defend my family, I prayed that these were "nice" doggies. If not, I was in for the fight of my life.
The owner appeared and I asked her twice if she would please call her dogs (now circling my wife and jumping at my daughter). The owner replied to both of my requests with an emphatic "No!" and denied that the dogs were hers. The supposed non-owner then went into a tirade about how this was a "dog park" and that she did not "tell us what to do with our child" so we should not tell her what to do with her dogs. Twenty minutes later we were again confronted by the dogs, in my daughter's face, tangled in her fishing line and knocking the rod from her hand (she is now scared of dogs ... thanks).
Dog owners, there are no "dog parks." As a taxpayer, your dogs are my invited guests. Be polite enough to keep them from bothering or endangering others. You are required by law to have your dogs under your direct control at all times. I'll see you in the council chambers. And officers ... sic em!
'ACL' Misrepresents Austin
Austin City Limits has hosted countless fine concerts, and as an Austinite of over 20 years, I've enjoyed many. But geez guys, it's a new century. Austin has grown immensely in 20 years and so has the music scene. ACL's allegiance to the boomer crowd shows that they're either indifferent to or just ignorant of most of what is happening within Austin's real city limits. They consistently perpetuate a myth nationally that Austin is a musical back porch full of erstwhile cosmic cowboys pining for the days of the 'Dillo and Soap Creek. Their emphasis on country, hippie-jam, and so-called "roots" music over anything remotely cutting edge is getting pretty stale. Too bad, because it mischaracterizes the spirit and timbre of what the Austin music scene has grown into since the Seventies.
There is no "Austin sound," contrary to what most local boosters (and a few hipster-snobs that haunt Antone's, Cactus, the Saxon Pub) would have us believe. In 2002, it's 1,300 bands across so wide a spectrum of styles and proficiency levels that one can no longer keep score. ACL promotes this mischaracterization of Austin by presenting their show under the auspices of the Austin music scene. Now that ACL has become attached to a huge annual festival that will introduce Austin to thousands of new strangers, it's time to be honest about their unfair portrayal of our music scene.
If ACL thinks they're cool because they haven't grown with Austin, then they should rename the show "Austin Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction," or "Kerrville City Limits," cuz' it no longer fairly represents the Austin many of us locals have come to know and love.
That's 'Nadarite' to You
This petulant Democrat act is getting old. Zeph McKee asks "Greenies" if they can tell the difference between Republicans and Democrats yet; maybe he should try asking this question in a state that doesn't have Tony Sanchez running for governor as a Democrat.
Sanchez (who the Chronicle will no doubt endorse in the upcoming elections) is a multibajillionaire who was ass-deep in the Bush family's wholesale destruction of the savings and loan industry, which we're still paying for -- thanks so much, Tony. He was on the UT Board of Regents, surely one of the most un-Democratic (and undemocratic) groups in the state, where he helped hand over UT-owned patents on anti-cancer drugs potentially worth billions to a company he and the other Regents own controlling interest in. And let's not forget that Sanchez was, and is, one of Dubya's biggest supporters. What the hell is he doing on the Democrat ticket? If you want to vote for a Republican, at least vote for one with the honesty to run as a Republican.
Please, McKee, leave the vitriolic Green-bashing to Our Fearless Editor. "Naderite" is a much more literate juvenile pejorative than "Greenie."
King Is an Excellent Editor
Thanks to all the people who voted me "Best Photographer." Most of the people and causes I work for can pay little or nothing, so the recognition of the community means a lot to me. I was the Rag photographer for seven years, until it decided to close. I worked with the Austin Sun and then the Chronicle. My first photograph appeared in The Texas Observer in 1972. I have been working with The Texas Observer ever since. Which leads me to say that anyone who claims that Michael King was "cashiered" from the Observer ["Postmarks," Sept. 20] either is not very well informed or is simply searching for an insult. Michael King is one of the best editors The Texas Observer ever had. Everyone who has anything to do with The Texas Observer thinks very highly of him for his hard work and his political analysis. The Chronicle is blessed with his presence.
Also, a correction: My Web site is www.documentaryphotographs.com (not
www.documentaryphotography.com, which is a real site but not mine).
Texas Center for Documentary Photography
Iraqi War Is a Smoke Screen
Though millions might die, the U.S. attack on Iraq is a cynical canard. On the most basic level, this conflict pits Bush administration advocates of U.S. world domination versus potential international rivals for power. The foremost rival is the UN itself, and secondarily the dissidents in the European Union (represented on the Security Council by France), the ex-Communists, Russia and China, and the Arabs. The Bush administration chose Iraq as the issue on which to bring to heel challengers to American hegemony. Achieving control over Iraqi oil, though important, is secondary to the empire. The timing is intended to keep Bush and his friends' corporate scandals off the front page until after the November elections.
If the U.S. is able to impose its will on the five permanent members of the Security Council by coercing a declaration of war against Iraq, the UN will be seen by most of the world as merely an instrument of American foreign policy and, thus, will lose all integrity. But if one of them has the temerity to veto Bush's ambitions, he will find the UN "irrelevant" and declare imperial prerogatives without further pretense.
The Bush warmonger cult is powerfully influenced by "neo-conservative guru" Charles Krauthammer, who espouses the Unites States' forceful imposition of a "uniquely benign imperium," a condition where no nation or multinational organization would be allowed to challenge U.S. authority. This worldview is clearly reflected in the recently published revisions of American "defense" strategy.
Stand Up & Say No to Borders
When the new Borders opens up at Sixth and Lamar, the only way you'll see my car in their parking lot is if the ones at Waterloo and BookPeople are full and I need a convenient place to leave it when I'm shopping elsewhere.
Actually, I think it would be funny to see an entire parking lot full of cars and a completely empty store.
I can understand why the city gave them a tax break. After all, it is my tax money. And after such winning projects as the Intel building, how could I not possibly be thrilled that they are now inviting an internationally successful corporation with two other stores in Austin to make an even bigger traffic jam of what is Sixth and Lamar.
It's boneheaded to see that it's not predatory. More bookstores won't create more readers to purchase books. The initial slew of minimum wage jobs doesn't mean that the other stores won't end up having to lay off their own employees due to slow business. And obviously, the huge tax break doesn't mean that any of our institutions such as our schools would benefit from yet another expansion.
I say that in these times when everyone is getting Enron'ed and WorldCom'ed that we stand up and say no to this garbage and make them pony up the money that they deserve to put into our community if they want to build yet another store.
Making People Think
Thought you might like this:
If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you. But if you really make them think, they'll hate you.
I can't believe you're axing "Coach" and keeping "After a Fashion." WTF?
Ban Visual Spam
So how many of us will forever boycott Roger Beasley car dealership(s), Wan Fu restaurant, Ticketcity.com, and every other vendor who hired the low-flying, noisy, distracting planes to drag their streaming advertisements, unwanted, into Austin's sacred first fall outdoor music? (Unless perhaps, they each buy a really expensive, deluxe corporate sponsorship next year to attempt to make up for this cardinal civic sin.)
How many of us will actively support city legislation to ban such low-hanging rotten fruit, such aural and visual spam, with a steep financial penalty for violation of the no-fly zone, if at all possible?
Henry W. Jones, III
I was walking my dogs when I noticed seven police officers surrounding the deaf black guy who's been wandering Hyde Park for years and who may or may not be homeless and who may or may not have some mental health issues. He was handcuffed.
I approached to see what the trouble was. Even though I recently had a cop perform bad mime on me, it seemed like none of the two motorcycle, three car, and one SUV cops knew sign language. And if an officer of the peace reads you your Miranda rights and you can't hear, does the officer make a sound? So I thought I'd point out that the guy is deaf and maybe I could help communicate since we wave hi almost every day and receive mail at the same post office (I figured the mail guys would know his name).
The cops asked me (euphemistically speaking) if this guy ever shows me his penis because, one said, he was whipping it out "whenever a girl walks by." I said that had never happened to me in the six years I've known the guy. And I noted this was a pretty excellent cop turnout for an alleged flashing, particularly in light of the fact I couldn't get one cop's help recently when I asked for it (note to self: Next time remove pants first).
Seven cops! No wonder there's no time to ticket rich UT kids speeding their SUVs through the neighborhood. A humorless motorcycle cop (pig on a hog anybody?) responded such steps were necessary "in light of recent incidents." Aha! Now I get it. They were worried this guy had weapons of mass destruction in his underpants. Thank God and APD we are so protected from madmen!
Dear Mr. Black,
Regarding "Pipe Dreams" [Oct. 4], I wonder why not once in the entire piece, nor did you think to ask about, the Clinton/Gore administration's connection to Enron, and more importantly Arthur Andersen, was mentioned. Is it not considered worth mentioning that Enron execs stayed in the Lincoln Bedroom 11 times under the previous administration, isn't it worth mentioning that it was Connecticut Democrat Christopher Dodd that ramrodded legislation through the Senate that allowed Arthur Andersen to act as "consultants" to Enron?
When you present a biased, partisan story concerning something as important as Enron, you do everyone a disservice. If direct intervention from anyone in government directly aided Enron, it should not matter which party they belong to, and if you are going to build your case entirely on guilt by association, you need to put the same negative spin on the Clinton/Enron ties. Dare you do it? I doubt it, you would rather choke than to present an unbiased, factually informative piece on something. It's pretty sad really to see people like yourself so desperate to declare themselves better than someone else just because you hate them. You don't seem capable of imagining that honest, decent people can have solutions and opinions other than your own, you seem to have the need to demonize everyone you don't agree with. Nobody has an honest difference of opinion, to you they are evil. It's getting old. Perhaps you need to be a little more tolerant of people who are different than you are, you seem to be a little short on tolerance most weeks. Not to question, but I thought most liberals considered themselves to be the most tolerant people around?
Carl T. Swanson
[Ed. note: "Pipe Dreams" was a reprint of a chapter from Robert Bryce's book of the same name, not an article unique to the Chronicle.]