Our readers talk back.
Fri., Jan. 24, 2003
A Constructive Suggestion
When I read "Page Two" in the Jan. 17 issue, I once again thought how your newspaper can contribute to solutions rather than crying over problems.
Here's an idea: Instead of bellyaching over the "sustained war over development vs. the environment," that "... there's no realistic way to improve the [traffic] infrastructure [at Sixth and Lamar]," and the "contradictory mess" we have in our construction and building code, why not create a new section in your paper wherein you state a particular problem and then invite members from stakeholder groups (SOS, ANC, GACC, DAA, RECA), or even the general public, to write 500 words or so proposing solutions?
Who knows, maybe then when The Austin Chronicle staff looks into the mirror they will smile knowing they are part of the solution?
Oh, and by the way, a traffic solution was proposed for Sixth and Lamar several years ago and the local retailers successfully scuttled it.
Barton Springs Road
The article by Amy Smith about the construction problems on Barton Springs Road ["Barton Springs Eternal," Jan. 10], while informative, raises more questions than it answers. For example, the $2,000-per-day penalty the city is charging the construction company -- where is this money going? Does it go to helping the businesses that are being hurt by the construction mistakes? If not, why not? Also, are businesses able to buy some kind of business-interruption insurance? If not, why not? Maybe these topics are fodder for a separate piece? Thanks.
Not so Fond of Fonda Article
We expected an article in The Austin Chronicle written about our neighborhood parking problem to be done in a fairly balanced way. However, we were very disappointed to see such a slanted perspective as that presented in Lauri Apple's recent news article regarding Fonda San Miguel restaurant ["Not so Fond of Fonda," Jan. 10]. In fact, out of 24 homes in the blocks impacted by the parking concerns, only two refused to sign. It is preposterous to say the parking situation has not worsened since 1975, it has. The number of seats may not have increased but the sheer volume of people has multiplied considerably. There is as much as an hour-and-a-half wait for a table on some nights.
Ms. Apple also did not include other information I gave her when she called: the inability of emergency vehicles to access our street and that there are elderly people who have to walk down the block to get a ride because their friends won't drive down the street anymore.
We have also been frustrated by owner Tom Gilliland's lack of support for our concerns. By switching to valet parking in their own parking lot, they have forced more people to move out on our street to avoid paying for parking. Mr. Gilliland refused to consider suggestions that the restaurant work with other area businesses and make parking arrangements [with] those without evening patrons.
We are simply asking for Fonda to be a good neighbor and respectful of our rights. We do not want to be part of an extended parking lot. Is it too much to ask to be able to park in front of your own home, to be able to put your trash out for pickup the night before, and to not have refuse thrown in your yard? Isn't that what residential permit parking is all about? Shame on you, Fonda. We want you, but we want to preserve our neighborhood, too!
Rally for Our Rights
I appreciate your sponsorship of a rally for our rights and the renowned speakers who will "teach specific action steps you can take to ensure your voice is heard." [Ed. note: See this week's "Naked City."]
I am curious what advice Kirk Watson and Gus Garcia will share with us. My experience of these two gentlemen's concern for the average citizen's participation in the political process was gained over the year that my neighbors endeavored to preserve their homes against the unusually dense student-housing project known as the "Villas of Guadalupe." We were treated to a real civic lesson. Kirk and Gus made it clear that:
A) A handful of lawyers and one developer are more persuasive than a council chamber full of opposing citizens.
B) Bring the cash! ($700,000+ spent or offered to overturn a valid petition.)
C) Allow developer to gerrymander the property line to omit citizens opposed to the zoning request.
D) Then allow developer to move the line back when it dawns on him that a reduced site equals reduced apartment units, and do this with a posted public hearing.
E) And then, like Gus suggested, if you are unhappy with all this "progress" and "smart growth" you should move.
I look forward to their contribution.
Sold Down the Unpotable Liberal River
If Louis Black ["Page Two," Jan. 17] was trying to say Austin has been sold down the river by carpetbagging snake-oil salesmen dressed up like liberals, then he was on the mark. Smart Growth was the bait that liberals took hook, line, and sinker. Whistling through the graveyard, Black has the nerve to ask "What about the traffic?" You and your scumbag minions are responsible for the gridlock. How many more Californicators are we going to allow to foul our roads and highways? How many more illegal aliens are our local (and state) government going to allow to saturate our shrinking labor market? How much longer will the rubes fall for this City of Ideas bullshit? How many more student sardines can we pack into the UT can? For liberals to attempt to take the moral or intellectual high ground on any issue is enough to gag a maggot, but to ask what went wrong is the epitome of ignorance and/or denial.
P.S. So now Austin has its own Love Canal, and that's not a new sex club. Not only has Austin been sold down the river, the river isn't floatable or potable. The shit has really hit the fan this time! As if Left Austin needed any more problems. Hey, maybe the Barton Springs cesspool will be linked to liberal psychosis and a cure can be found.
Who Is This Kurt Standiford?
I have enjoyed your paper for over 15 years now. My favorite reading is the mail you receive. How about doing one full page of just letters sometime?
And speaking of letters, who is this Kurt Standiford, anyway? I'm surprised he reads The Austin Chronicle, actually. Judging from his rantings, one would think his choice of printed media would be The GOP Weekly and/or The Aryan Nation Newsletter. At least Amy Babich made sense.
P.S. To Michael Ventura: You go, boy!
If it feels good do it! If it sounds right say it! Journalism that Fox has perfected has come home to roost, and the rooster is crowing. Over Edward R. Murrow's dead body. And if there's a sane brain left, it will reign in its wickedness that has taken over the store. You don't send me flowers anymore. But the payola is nice. I must admit.
Slanderous you say? Yeah maybe, but it's a page from their book (Easy Sleazy). You must have read it, it was on the NY Times bestseller list for 20 years. Yes it was, it was in a parallel world, you know the one it feels like you're in when you're listening to or watching their broadcast. Where you and 400 million people are simultaneously shaking your head from side to side. Well, all right then, if you want to split hairs, 390 million. Happy now? There's Breaking News!
Viewers are exiting the Big Three Majors and heading over to Fox News as we speak. Folks, listen, I'm not making this up. It says so right here on my TelePrompTer. And besides, we report and you decide. C'mon, who gives you a better deal than that?
This just in from our Sister Station C'mon TV. Are you all morons? Why aren't you watching Fox? Love your Sister.
Susannah Alabama Ohltorf
I Could Have Spit On Sid
Dear Mr. Editor;
Many kudos are due to Margaret Moser, Nick Barbaro, Louis Black, et al., for their work that resulted in your article called "Holiday in San Antonio" [Jan. 10]. I remember going to that Sex Pistols concert in 1978, and it seemed that over half of the crowd was composed of people that I knew from the Austin protopunk scene.
I attended that show with Rick Turner, a fellow band member of the Uranium Savages that went on to do many of the classic Austin punk concert posters from that period. Rick was in such a hurry to get to see the Sex Pistols that he got a speeding ticket on I-35 for driving 100 miles an hour. The trooper that stopped him could not believe that his car was capable of going any faster than that.
The concert at Randy's Rodeo was absolutely packed with all manner of fans, and it was obvious from looking at the ceiling that this structure had originally been designed as a bowling lane. It was the first time that I saw so many piercings and safety pins in people's faces in public. Nowadays we take that stuff as normal, but at the time it was new and almost a little "edgy." I got close enough to the bandstand that I could have spit on Sid Vicious, so I did. He was so out of it that I don't think he even noticed my spittle resting on him.
I keep ticket stubs from music concerts that I really enjoyed. The stub from the Sex Pistols show in S.A. in 1978 is my all-time favorite ticket stub because it was the most memorable show that I have ever seen ... so far.
The Not-Yet-Born Kennedys
Your Mr. Ward has had a lapse of memory. In his story about the Pistols' last stand at Winterland ["Holiday in San Antonio," Jan. 10], he claims to have witnessed a set by the Dead Kennedys. Er, I was there, too, and Jello and Co. -- who didn't rear their heads in the Bay Area until later in '78, if memory serves -- were not among the openers. I do remember seeing the Nuns, the SF punk act that included Alejandro Escovedo among their number. I'm surprised former Austinite Ward couldn't pull that pertinent recollection from the ol' brain bank.
[Ed. note: Shortly after we published that article, we got this message from Ed Ward: "Arrrgggh. Just got a note informing me that it was the Nuns (whom I hated) and not the Dead Kennedys (whom I also hated) opening for the Sex Pistols. That may well be right; they would have been on first, and I would have ignored them, wandering around Winterland looking to see if any of my friends had made it in. (I don't think they did, except for Greil; my friends were firmly of the guest-list persuasion.) Sorry to ruin your article." The Chronicle regrets the error.]
Mr. Not-So-Smarty Pants
Dear Mr. [Smarty] Pants,
I must take issue with a statistic you wrote that appeared in the Jan. 10 Austin Chronicle.
You wrote, "The annual accumulation of debris from the world's computer keyboards weighs about 37.5 million tons." That has veracity issues, based on the following sanity check:
Converting to grams, one remembers that a ton is 2,000 lbs., and a pound is 454 grams. (37.5)(106)(2000)(454)=34(1012) grams.
How many computers do you think are in service worldwide? I'm not sure. I figure there are 6 billion people, most of them don't have a PC, many of us in the U.S. have more than one, but not even everyone in the U.S. has one.
Considering that PCs have sold in high volume for only the last 10 years, and that high volume is maybe 100 (106) per year, there may be as many as a billion computers. This seems like a good upper bound, because many populous continents like Asia and Africa are too poor to have many.
Dividing 34(1012) grams over (109) computers gives 34(103) grams per computer. That's 75 pounds, more than a computer weighs. Even if I'm off by an order of magnitude, 7.5 pounds per computer is more than a keyboard weighs. I consider it impossible for a keyboard to accumulate more debris mass in a year than its own mass.
Perhaps I miss the point of your column, which I thought was true trivia. Indeed, the statistic immediately following this one told that a supernova would have to be within 25 light-years of earth to cause grave damage to our UV-protecting ozone layer. This I have read independently, from a report of a scientific journal, so I consider it likely to be true (at least as far as anyone knows).
It now seems the point of the column is a joke, which is, "I can tell you anything, and you'll believe it because I sound authoritative."
Please respond. I ask you to either back up your keyboard debris number, or back off of it. Do you expect us to believe this stuff?
[Mr. Smarty Pants replies: The statistic about keyboard debris was sent to me by a reader who I believe saw it in some recent Texas technology magazine. Anyway, my disclaimer, which appears in the print version of my column but is missing from my online version, seems to cover me in such cases: "The above is information which Mr. Smarty pants read in a book, a magazines, or the newspapers; heard on the radio; saw on television; or overheard at a party."]
Local Talent Deserves Attention
This was a typical Chronicle move. Instead of choosing to interview Ben "Snakepit" White, whose comic has already been well-reviewed in nationally distributed mags like Punk Planet, Maximum Rock n' Roll, Vice, and Heartattack (even Entertainment Weekly came sniffing around his door!), you choose to interview a hack who admittedly rips off his stuff ["Live on Paper," Jan. 17]. I don't know this Tim Doyle, his stuff looks good; but come on, dudes!
I mean, Ben's already got Jim Mahfood behind him. Mahfood draws Spider-Man! He's doing a split issue with Maddy from Tight Pants, a zine that regularly sells hundreds, maybe thousands, of copies.
Another case of the Chronicle sleeping on the local talent under the age 35 and without a white belt or Waterloo paycheck.
'Second Helpings'? No, Thanks.
Do your readers really need to be reminded -- yet again -- among the pages of the Chronicle's "Second Helpings" that Burger King's Whopper is "an all-beef patty that is carefully charbroiled on a slow-moving conveyor belt," or that "Sonic's foot-long chili cheese dog ... is always a good bet" ?
This is nothing your readers haven't heard before, and I think most of us know better. Besides sounding like a corporate-bullshit billboard, the "Second Helpings" section (which would be more aptly named "Helpings of Number 2") is a pointless waste of paper that would find better use in wiping the greasy asses of oinking Burger King brown-nosers.
Please do away with these "tasty, bite-sized restaurant listings" that are neither interesting nor informative.
Cell Phone + Driving = Trouble
For all of you in Chronicle-land who have been bitching about cell-phone use by drivers in Austin, now's your chance to take a real stand and possibly elicit change. A beacon of light has appeared in the form of Rep. Paul Moreno of El Paso. He has introduced House Bill 281 that would prohibit the use of a telephone while driving. While not perfect (gee, a whole $25-100 fine), the bill acknowledges the issue that cell-phone use by those operating motor vehicles is a safety problem (duh). If you sit aghast in your car, or on your motorcycle while cell-phone idiots bounce off the cars and railings all around you, speak out now. Write or call your Texas state representative or shut up and forfeit the right to complain when you have your next close call with one of these cell-phone-using fools.
P.S. Find your state rep at www.capitol.state.tx.us/fyi/fyi.htm.
The Real Danger
The Chronicle has an opportunity to improve public safety in Austin. Public safety is supposedly the city's number one priority. Unfortunately, a widespread, disinformation campaign distorts people's perception on dangers.
Motor vehicle crashes are the main source of violent injury and death in Austin. Every day, people are injured in such crashes. How many people? Nationally, there are at least 75 crash injuries per crash death. This probably means over 5,000 injuries from crashes in Austin each year, or an average of over 13 per day. Significant injuries from crashes are a matter of record, because they involve doctors or hospitals.
If our local newspapers reported the daily traffic-injury toll, people would have a much clearer idea of the dangers they face. As it is, people are led to believe that criminals with guns or knives are a much bigger threat to them than cars driven by ordinary citizens. Many parents consider abduction by strangers a bigger threat to their children than injury or death in a motor vehicle crash. The Statesman, like most U.S. newspapers, does not mind giving these false impressions, as a large chunk of its revenue comes from car and truck advertising.
It would be very helpful if one of our local newspapers would regularly report the daily or weekly injury toll from car crashes. The daily or weekly crime record (police blotter) is also useful information. If people could see these records regularly, people could size up life's daily dangers more realistically.
I hope that someone will start reporting this information regularly. If the Chronicle started doing this, Austin's other news media might be shamed into following suit. The first step toward real public safety is a well-informed public.
Dear Letter to the Editor:
I am a fourth-grade student at Rutgers Preparatory School in Somerset, New Jersey. Our class is learning about states and capitals. I would like to learn more about what it is like to live in Austin. If any of your readers would like to write me a letter to me telling me about life in Austin, it would help me learn more about the capital of Texas. Thank you for your help with my project.