Our readers talk back.
Thanks to King
I would like to convey my appreciation to Michael King for the very nice words he wrote in the Chronicle about my husband, George Christian ["Naked City," Dec. 6].
George would have appreciated it also, and he, too, would have appreciated its literacy as I do.
Jo Anne Christian
What About Local Artists?
The article about Austin Art in Public Places ["Transforming a Neighborhood Near You," Dec. 20] states that AIPP's 2% budget increase would pave the way for "more professional development among local artists." Yet, I was disappointed to read that two of the projects mentioned as "coming soon" were actually awarded by AIPP to well-established architectural firms instead of upcoming local artists. Martha Peters talks about how she aims for an artful context that stays away from what she calls "plop art," striving instead for art that is "instructive or beautiful, but also integrated with its surroundings." As an example of this, she mentions the darling sculpture of the Austin Tourist Bureau, the Stevie Ray Vaughan statue. I am disappointed that Ms. Peters failed to mention the work of Austin-born-and-raised artist William Larson. Mr. Larson has an AIPP piece on display at the Lorraine Camacho Youth Center in East Austin, a beautiful wall sculpture which included the participation of children from the nearby Zavala Elementary (the school that the artist actually attended). Larson is currently working on an outdoor sculpture for the new Daniel E. Ruiz library, also in East Austin, a project for which he met with Mr. Ruiz's family to try to incorporate their suggestions into his work. His piece was not mentioned at all as "coming soon," even though it should be in place by next March. I believe that part of Ms. Peters' mission should be promoting lesser-known AIPP artists and their work. If the work of an Austin native artist who actually tries to involve the community for which he makes art is not worth mentioning in the Chronicle, then AIPP may be dropping the ball in their mission to aid the professional development of local artists.
[Ed. Note: Alarcón is a frequent freelance contributor to the Chronicle.]
The Sisters Do It Right
Dear Mr. Hernandez,
I normally wouldn't waste my time or yours writing a review of a review, but try as I might, I have been unable to make much sense of Belinda Acosta's review of Sisters Morales' new CD, Para Gloria, that appeared in the "Phases and Stages" column of Nov. 1. It's clear enough that she didn't like it very much, and that's certainly OK. What offended me is that the tone of the review seemed so mean-spirited. Maybe she didn't intend for it to come off that way, and you should feel free to forward this to Belinda, but here's what I heard.
To start, let me admit to being a fan of homegrown Texas music, including Sisters Morales, but I'm an Anglo who grew up in the Midwest. I've lived in Texas for 13 years, and I'll never leave. Still, with my background, I obviously can't claim to know anything about what constitutes great Mexican music. So I asked some of my Mexican friends from Texas what they thought, and they all said they absolutely loved it. But the best review was from my friend Lucio Ortiz. He said he loved it because it took him right back to when he was little kid growing up in Guadalajara.
I have heard Sisters Morales sing some Mexican songs mixed in with their live performances, and I've always liked that a lot. Their shows are pretty eclectic. But I also know they are extremely proud of their heritage without pushing it in your face. I know this because when they announce that they're about to sing one of those traditional songs that they learned as children, they always ask the audience "Would you like to hear a Mexican song?" or "Would you like to hear one in Mexican?" Not Spanish ... not Latin ... Mexican! Good for them, and good for those of us who would otherwise never know of this beautiful part of that culture. Of course the audience always responds with an overwhelming yes. In view of that, what the heck was the meaning of the remark about them being too thin for the Mexican look? I hope it wasn't a slam at Latin women in general, because that's real close to offensive, if you ask me. I'll assume Belinda was trying to compliment their looks and let it go at that.
Belinda speaks of their "reported" charisma, and that finally was the clue ... Belinda's obviously never seen them live. If she had, she'd see that the charisma is anything but "reported"; it is genuine, and it's sincere. They connect to their audience, and it's so obvious they want to please the audience every bit as much as the audience wants to let them do it. They're classy, real people who are a pleasure to watch -- something that's getting all too rare among performers today.
If Belinda was disappointed that they did songs that have all been done before, what's the point? This was supposed to be a traditional collection. Ask Lucio. As for me, I've also heard most of them one time or another, but never like this. Elevator music it ain't, nor is it pedestrian or mediocre.
Belinda maybe should save the acid for reviews of attitude laced rap music or the commercially packaged butts and bellybutton tripe that drips out of MTV, CMTV, Univision, whatever. This is the real thing, from people who bring our cultures together in a way no one else has.
Belinda was right about one thing ... the Sisters do look good in fringe.
Cheney Looks Out for No. 1
Only God knows where the shrapnel's gonna go. I'm sure Cheney is doing all he can to make sure it isn't his bunker. We never could trust those Nixon/Ford people.
Peace, love, or anarchy,
Todd Alan Smith
Tighten the Belt
Thank God, Mayor Gus Garcia is stepping down from the political scene here in Austin. Now, if he can only get the City Council to follow him, we'd be a lot better off.
Personally, I think the Chronicle is on the wrong side of the debate when it comes to the City Spending Society ... I mean the City Council ... and the "workers" here in Austin. I would think the ideals of the staff at the Chron would be against a government that spends taxpayer money on stupid shit like a new City Hall and changing street directions and building a bridge that's falling apart and doesn't do shit to relieve the problem it was built to address. While the working class is struggling through slow economic times, the city spends money on junk and pays for it by taxing workers and property owners. This is bullshit, but the Chronicle is all behind it.
Maybe it's time to elect a mayor who realizes the role of government is to serve all the taxpayers, not just the ones west of I-35. Maybe it's time to elect a mayor who won't constantly endorse new spending on idiotic projects that end up costing struggling workers hundreds of millions of dollars. Perhaps, dare I dream, elect a mayor who reduces city spending and tightens government belts just like the workers are tightening their own belts to get through these slow economic times. Jesus, under Gus, the city manager was gifted a salary that is almost 10 times the average income in the city: with bennies included, almost $200,000 a year. What clearer indication of the contempt of the government could there be than that? Holy shit, the president doesn't make a hell of a lot more than she does. This city doesn't need another mayor who acts like someone rich being taken out to eat by a poor relative and then orders all the most expensive things on the menu, telling the waiter, "Give my cousin the dishwasher the bill!" Government's role is to serve the citizens, not lord over them and confiscate their money for bullshit like changing street directions ($16 million), "renovation" of Second Street that amounts to planting trees ($2 million), and a new City Hall so that the bureaucrats can lord over us in luxury ($55 million). Three items, $73 million taken out of the pockets of the struggling working class here in Austin. Where, oh where are the liberals? Supporting the bureaucrats and abandoning the workers.
Carl T. Swanson
A recent letter by Carl T. Swanson ["Postmarks," Dec. 20] to these pages seems to perpetuate the notion that insurance premiums are on the rise due to large jury awards.
This commonly held belief appears to be incorrect. A recent report (I heard about it on NPR's Morning Edition, Dec. 18) demonstrates that fluctuations in insurance premiums are tied to the interest rates on the bond market in which insurance companies invest and have nothing to do with large jury awards.
Industry-sponsored public relations campaigns have led many to believe as Swanson does, leading to the idea that tort laws need to be reformed. Understandably, corporations support this idea. It makes their cost-benefit analyses more accurate when they know the upper limit a jury can award an injured plaintiff or his survivors.
Our trial by jury system may not be perfect, but it is our constitutionally sanctioned justice system. Before we rush to amend it in the name of saving money, we ought to consider the issue fully, including looking at the source of our "commonsensible" beliefs.
David S. Ort
Adam Duxbury's recent letter ["Postmarks," Dec. 13] is typical of these new Republicans, and frankly, I don't know who is more confused, them or me. Republicans have just created the largest governmental body ever, created a new cabinet post, cut taxes and increased spending, completely wiped out eight years of deficit reduction, increased the deficit to Reagan proportions, and continue to dismantle the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. This is the party of less government and more personal freedom?
The next thing you know they'll start a war to distract us from all of this.
$100 Million Plan
In less than two years, working independently and armed only with the same amount of money that was spent during the 2002 Texas governor's race, I can get Democrats everywhere elected, save democracy, and reform political elections for the immediate future.
For my plan to be successful -- nothing has to change! Not a thing. The GOP can keep taking the lion's share of all that special interest money and outspending the Democrats three to one with it and it doesn't matter.
Just give me $100 million, and buckle up, baby.
My plan is simple: Award $50 million to the individual who best defines, in any way they so choose, the word "liberal." They can be of any age but must be a registered voter, old enough and eligible.
Spend the other $50 million promoting the event.
For two years, saturate our culture mediums with "Definitions of Liberal" ads. All time slots, all age groups. Remember the girl who saves Christmas in the Apple computer ads and how effective that style is? That kind of ad.
Then simply announce the winner during a live "Reality TV"-type show on election night, 2004.
Liberty, liberal, and liberalism contain some of the most powerful and patriotic verbiage in the English language:
liberal adj. 1. free from prejudice or bigotry; 2. open-minded, tolerant, fair, generous; 3. favorable to the maximum individual freedom possible; 4. permitting freedom of personal belief or expression; 5. not bound by conventional ideas, or values; 6. advocating measures of political reform.
So, by 2004, everybody, including the DNC, will understand what liberalism means again.
Just think -- if Bush goes on another Heartland Vacation Tour, he will meet folks who have been on a diet of positive, liberal infomercials, who are registered, and who can't wait for Election Day!
Antiwar, Not Anti-America
Recently, the actors Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins appeared on the Donahue show and defended the patriotism of the current antiwar movement. Defense of the patriotism of dissenters is a ritual debate, always required because the pro-war leaders invariably call it into question. The unquestioned assumption shared by all parties in this debate was that being unpatriotic is a most odious characteristic.
Patriotism is synonymous with nationalism. It is typically unqualified. Whereas nationalism was progressive in relation to colonialism, the era in which it is otherwise a force for good has ended. Support of one's country irrespective of the possible ethical consequences for the lives of others is immoral. Ask the Germans. Hitler was obsessively patriotic, and, in obvious reaction, they are now the world's most internationalist people.
Nationalism might justifiably be seen as the root cause for the loss of 100 million lives in wars of the 20th century, conspicuously in World Wars I and II. Although it would be praiseworthy to fight in support of values such as freedom, justice, and democracy, in war these are more commonly propaganda themes brandished by warmongers as rationalizations for aggression. Patriotism is very often no more philosophical than the unity among Jets or Sharks, Longhorns or Aggies, etc. Such tribal allegiance is based more on male competitive instinct, testosterone run amok, than principle.
Hopefully, 21st-century human society will evolve to the point where allegiance to universal human rights transcends allegiance to country and where international institutions would be the sole legitimate agencies to enforce international law. Such laws would doubtless include prohibitions against military aggression by one country against another. Use of military force could only be legitimate if authorized and controlled by a United Nations reformed to remove the victors of WWII from their undemocratic dominance within it.
Sarandon and Robbins had to confront a right-wing attack "journalist" who declared that antiwar activists "hate America." He could not imagine the possibility of being inspired by a higher calling than loving it.