Our readers talk back.
Live a Week in My House
This letter is to thank you for having the courage to print the story by Walt Howerton about the poverty-stricken neighborhood of Northridge Acres ["Between Round Rock and a Hard Place," Nov. 15]. It's nice to know that in a world of bad politics and corrupt state officials, there are still some people willing to stand up against an injustice. Chronicle News Editor Michael King and writer Walt Howerton are among a short list of people that care enough to take the time to help the residents of Northridge Acres. The Travis and Williamson county judges and commissioners have yet to help the "colonia on the county line," a term coined by a former article in the Chronicle about Northridge Acres to describe the conditions the residents are forced to endure due to lack of political assistance. If Judge Biscoe of Travis County and Judge Doerfler and all the county commissioners had to live in Northridge Acres for one week and drink contaminated water off a fire hydrant, they could find a solution to the problem very quickly. If they had to live in a home that was flooded with septic waste and they could not use their commodes or even take a shower, they could do what they were elected to do and finally help the residents of Northridge Acres. We wait every day for their hearts to soften and for them to remember what compassion is.
President of the Northridge Acres Homeowners Association
No Handouts for Northridge
Props to Commissioners Heiligenstein and Sonlietner for their positions regarding Northridge Acres ["Between Round Rock and a Hard Place," Nov. 15]. In the 1990s, I too was a state agency bureaucrat (while at TNRCC) who thought we could help the residents resolve their water and wastewater needs. I believe that if not for the continued insistence by Nettie Brown and Kenneth Snyder on a pure, no-strings-attached, 100% welfare handout solution, the residents of North Ridge should long ago have had a safe and adequate water system and would be on a central sewer system. In many small and low-income communities throughout Texas, it has been shown that residents that truly want to solve their water and wastewater problems are willing to expend a little sweat equity or take on a little debt above and beyond the "average cost of utilities." In Northridge Acres, do all the residents only want an improved system if it is given to them on a silver platter? So what if a neighboring developer might benefit, is he not going to help pay off the debt too? Here's hoping that the receiver, Pat King, can succeed where others have failed, but the taxpayers do not owe the residents of Northridge Acres a thing.
Factual Errors Mar Chronicle
Dear Mr. Black:
I read both the Chronicle and the Statesman, and in each one I know the slant to expect from the writers. The Chronicle likes to stick it to any government agency or officeholder who strays from the correct path (as well as to the Statesman). On some occasions the result is contrived or revisionist, but that's OK -- we don't have a Taliban here yet and I can evaluate as I see fit.
It is disheartening, however, to see so many factual mistakes in essentially all periodicals nowadays. I understand the pressures of economics and deadlines, but I think that for some years the quality of journalism has been dropping.
An example is Lauri Apple's bit in the Nov. 15 issue regarding the new UT student-group Web site wherein she states that Conoco, GE, etc., invest in UT's "scandal-ridden $14 billion UTIMCO fund" ["Naked City: Austin Stories"].
She really doesn't understand what UTIMCO is, although the Web site makes it clear that the students are indignant about the UT investments in those companies. There has been a little controversy regarding the open-records practices of some UTIMCO fund managers, but "scandal ridden"? Perhaps she was thinking of the State Board of Education and its handling of the public school fund.
A few dozen students believe that it is improper for UT (or anyone, I guess) to invest in these companies and that gifts to UT from such companies are quid pro quo for UTIMCO investments. (I am retired from the Engineering faculty and I know from experience how difficult it is to collect this "quid.") Ms. Apple misunderstands and labels UT with a scandal of her own creation. I know it's said we shouldn't believe everything we read, but it's getting harder and harder to separate the wheat from the chaff.
The Chronicle gives me useful information that I cannot find elsewhere; I wish I could have more faith in its accuracy.
Poster Artists Should Go to School
Concept, concept, concept! I see that these "artists" don't pay much heed to the first rule of poster design -- concept is king ["The Smell of Success," Nov. 22]. Have any of these guys gone to school or are they relying on cheap Mexican drugs for their brainstorming? I suggest that they take more graphic design classes and fewer (or better) drugs.
Vote Your Conscience
Dear Louis Black:
Re: Your "Page Two" on 11/01.
"Myopia" is in the eye of the beholder. I believe the Democratic party has failed us and will not change until the people make them understand by voting their conscience. My conscience says vote "no" to the likes of Tony Sanchez. This is the only way to elicit a decent future, even though some of the interim consequences are extremely painful.
Just a note in response to Mike Clark-Madison's otherwise helpful post-election piece, in which he calls Marty Akins a "fool" ["A Place for Democrats," Nov. 15]. Ironically, Democratic Party insiders made the characterization easy by getting Akins to "take one for the team" to protect Tony Sanchez and then leaving his comptroller campaign to rot on the vine. Perhaps this was "foolish" of Akins, given the Democratic Party's treatment of Victor Morales.
Victor Morales made a strong statement by leaving the Democratic Party to become an independent, and he is no fool. We can only hope Akins will do the same. Independents currently represent a plurality of American voters (35%, compared to 32% Republican and 31% Democrat). If you consider the majority of people who currently do not vote, Independents potentially hold a super-majority. The question now is how to better leverage our popular support to overhaul our system to increase participation, improve voters' choices at the ballot box, and reduce the role of special interests.
These are the goals Independent Texans are working to achieve. We are not a party and can support any candidate (as we did Akins, as we didn't Sanchez) from any party who supports democracy reform. Call us a bunch of "fools" if you like. I suppose that's what the British called George Washington and the early American patriots who foolishly thought they could win against the most powerful army in the world. But they did!
By the way, our members, not party insiders, decide who and what we support, by a democratic vote by mail and the Internet.
Poster Art Addenda
Marc Savlov's article on the resurrection of the Austin poster scene was, in general, a good overview of the current crop of music poster art ["The Smell of Success," Nov. 22]. However, as the "poster dude" who has made a full-time living putting up posters for the last 12 years, I have a few, shall I say, addenda.
Marc says, "These days the only places you'll see new posters outside of the venue itself is places like Waterloo Records, Thirty Three Degrees, and tacked onto the fence surrounding Stubbs."
Marc, dude, have you been locked to your workstation or what? This is, I believe, far from the case; I think the average Austin bohemian would agree with me as well. Places "like" Waterloo would be the other record stores like MusicMania, Cheapo, Donkey, Tower, etc. How about Tekgnar, 503 Coffee Bar, the Blue Theater, Glassy Knoll, Planet K, Amy's, Thundercloud, Oat Willies, Vulcan, Las Manitas, Omeletry, I Luv Video, Texadelphia, Kerbey Lane, Room Service, Jo's Coffee, Magnolia (my list includes over 150 locations)? I can go on for quite a while, but all these places offer huge "pallattes" for poster art. I believe that one big reason poster art has survived in Austin is because of the support of these businesses.
I said Marc's article was a good overview of music posters, but it completely passed over the explosion of theatre/dance posters and designers. Vortex, Rude Mechanicals, Salvage Vanguard, Tapestry, Pollyanna, U.T.P.A.C., dirigo, Mainline, Bedlam Faction, Zach Scott, A.M.T., A.L.O., and other companies too numerous to mention have continued to raise the bar on fine, full-color poster art.
Perhaps I am just miffed at not being quoted in this article, as I was in his last, but I do believe there is more to the "picture" than he mentioned.
Motorblade Postering Service
P.S. A few more artists worth mentioning: Jason Huerta, Billy Perkins, Chonny Designs, Chris Mormann, Mr. Twitch, Richard Luckett, Terri Lord, and others.
Marc, You Missed One
I can't believe you didn't include Rob "Robzar" Gasper in your recent article about Austin's poster art scene ["The Smell of Success," Nov. 22]. He won "Poster of the Year" in the Austin Music Awards this year! He's been creating all of the Continental Club's posters for several years. Rob hosts a nomadic art show series showcasing the work of community artists including Billy Bishop and Guy Juke among others (www.guerrillart.com). Check him out.
P.S. Check out Rob's breakout cinematic performance as the crazed Mexican in Rock Opera!
I am responding to Chris Krager's letter printed in the Nov. 8 ["Postmarks"] issue regarding the rezoning application of residential property on 51st Street. First, I need to clarify that the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association voted to oppose the rezoning. Bruce Nadik, a co-president, did not act unilaterally as was suggested.
Second, traffic on 51st Street between Duval and Guadalupe is dangerous. The posted speed limit -- 30mph -- is seldom observed. Many pedestrians, including my husband, must cross 51st Street every day. Accidents are commonplace, and I fear that only a death, especially of a child, will move the government to calm traffic here. The traffic impact numbers cited by Mr. Krager are much lower than those given even by the developer in this case, yet they are still too high. Who wants 200 extra cars speeding down their street every day?
Given Austin's problem of traffic congestion and air quality, why not protect the residential property in the heart of Austin? Mr. Krager is naïve to believe that a restaurant in our neighborhood will reduce traffic, presuming the patrons will leave their cars behind. I urge Mr. Krager to investigate the parking situation at Flightpath Coffeehouse or even the "confluence" at 43rd and Duval. Both are at a bus stop and on a bike route, yet the number of vehicles outside nearly equals the number of people inside. People, it seems, prefer to drive a car even if it is less convenient.
Mr. Krager, I am interested in a neighborhood where we can safely walk or ride a bike. As I see it, the additional traffic only makes that less likely. If you "need to get into a vehicle to travel 10 blocks to the nearest restaurant," why not make it a bus?
In Defense of Chomsky
In Nov. 8's "Postmarks" there are two letters criticizing Noam Chomsky. The first is titled "Chomsky Lacks Substance." It's nothing but a string of rhetorical questions (yes, he has been to the Middle East, including the occupied territories), irrelevancies, and vulgar ad hominem attacks ("[Chomsky is] Ann Coulter with leftist views and a dick."). The author irrelevantly notes that Chomsky is an expert in linguistics, ignoring the possibility (and actuality in this case) that one may be a linguist and an author on geopolitics. Chomsky has been researching, lecturing, and writing about these topics for 40 years. He has demonstrated and gone to jail for his views. A competing linguist could just as (un)reasonably contend that Chomsky is an author on geopolitics and therefore his views on linguistics are irrelevant. His arguments in either field should be evaluated on their own merits. Having failed to do so, it is this author and his impertinent criticisms which in fact "lack substance."
The second letter is not even a joke. The man has clearly never read anything by Chomsky (he thinks Chomksy is a Clinton supporter!) and even admits to having not seen his talk in Austin, the very occasion which prompted his letter. Despite his acknowledged ignorance, he acutely perceives that Chomsky is in a "fantasy world where evil people and their evil deeds do not exist." And based on this nugget of insight, is "confident that [he] didn't miss much" at the talk. I think he missed his medication.
I would like to issue a challenge: for either of these two authors, or anyone else, to make one substantive (and important) criticism, and back it up. It's certainly possible, but it would require that one first read what he has to say.
Drag Ball a Success
In regards to David Richardson's letter printed in the last Chronicle [Nov. 22], we at Elysium would like to extend our deepest apologies. We are and always have been open to diversity and welcome patrons from all walks of life into our club.
In the future, we hope that any patrons experiencing negative incidents based on bigotry and intolerance feel free to contact our management staff. We would also like to express our enjoyment and thanks to The Austin Chronicle, and Kate Messer in particular, for hosting the Drag Ball. Everyone was in good spirits, and we would welcome the opportunity to host any such event again.
Same Old Song
Oh my. We keep running into the same customers. Those fellas from Britain just keep rolling into the White House, taking over the English throne and plopping it down right here in America. I suppose it's been going on since well before the Civil War, when those Tories in waiting began plotting to use good ol' English skull and bones capital to industrialize the East Coast and prepare the factory floors for low wage workers from the South ... after the Civil War ... then marched into the western lands to convert the Mexicans and Indians and freed slaves and sodbusters into wage slaves, free to come and go, creating poverty at the rate of whatever buffalo could be killed off ... more bank financing for big Texas ranchers who eventually came around to crown George Sr. and his royal sons to pave the way for Rick Perry ... a man who can't even keep rhythm with the Austin Symphony Orchestra. And lets not forget the vast accumulation of mineral wealth in Texas and points south and west, getting off the gold standard, printing paper money backed by ... well ... military power ... South African diamonds ... marriages of convenience ... a parking garage.
Oh yeah, a minority of Americans are still in charge of law and politics. They would even have you believe that they are the choicest candidates for the job. Of course, they aren't very good plumbers, but they manufacture very ... er ... functional voting machines. Yeah, I'll save my curses for private meetings, fiction, etc. ... but don't cross me on the soapbox, Rick ... George ... Dick ... I have friends in high places.
Todd Alan Smith
Once again, this city has lost something that made it special. The best tattoo studio in Austin, Alliance Body Art, closed its doors late last month, due in part to a lack of patronage. This studio had a unique character with its elaborate handmade signs and menagerie of original art and horror film artifacts, but, more significantly, it stood alone in its integrity and talent pool. Both artists Joe Kennett and Jonzig created body art that was unparalleled in this city. Their techniques and artistry stand up proudly the world over (I say this from personal experience, my arm sleeves have garnered admiration all the way to eastern Europe and South America) yet they still were unable to gain enough local support for their business. While Alliance is gone and nothing will resurrect it, I felt its passing was indicative of the larger problem in Austin and the U.S. in general. More and more we tend to respond to what is in front of us, and we are too willing to exchange quality for convenience. Alliance wasn't on Sixth Street or the Drag, and it wasn't the type of studio where one would go to get a flash tattoo of the Red Dog logo or the Tazmanian Devil. There are no rewards for quality and talent in America anymore; wanting to offer more than the lowest common denominator is effectively a recipe for financial ruin these days. All I can say is that it figures and it's one more reason to give up on this McSociety for good. In the meantime, if anyone is interested in getting some truly exquisite tattoos, Jonzig is taking appointments at Aces High in South Austin (sadly, I don't know where to direct people for Mr. Kennett's services at the time of this writing). Also, visit www.jonzig.com to find out more information. These guys still deserve support, studio or no studio, so I ask that readers actually make some effort and find out what they are missing.