Our readers talk back.
Have You Read the 'Chronicle' Before?
Was the article by Mike Clark-Madison, "Tobacco-Free Triumph Goes Up in Smoke" [June 13], a news story or an editorial? The writer cited a possible lawsuit by club owners against the ordinance but failed to mention possible lawsuits against club owners by individuals (especially employees and musicians) who contract lung cancer from having breathed secondhand smoke. Also, there is no question about Clark-Madison's position about the ordinance, per his own words: "The ordinance's ridiculous ban on smoking ..." Your readers would appreciate receiving just the facts, ma'am.
Pineo Review Rebutted
[Re: tempOdyssey review, "Exhibitionism," June 13]
First, I find it remarkable that the star of the show, Jenny Larson, is not mentioned at all! What kind of reasoned review doesn't find room for the freakin' star? Was she good, bad, witty, dull, apathetic, or energetic? A review should review the lead, at least.
Secondly, the list of reasons Barry also hates theatre is presented without clear reference to whether or not any of these things occurred in this show ("... when actors drop every cue in a scene, do little for extended periods, ... scream dialogue, go so fast, ... or go so slow. ..."). I was at this exact show, and none of this occurred without good reason, but Mr. Pineo certainly implies if you see this show you are going to see these things and join him in hating theatre.
While the second act had a considered and reduced pace, I disagree that it dragged or was anywhere near "interminable." There are many reasons for people to be tense, nervous, shifting in their seats. The audience, engaged in a moment in which a woman aims to blow up a skyscraper full of strangers over the objections of a newly dead guy, should be expected to do more than sit politely with their hands folded in their laps. The people I watched bent forward in anticipation, checked in with their friends as plot twists unveiled, and were thoroughly engaged. I am sure some people wanted out, but no way was that the overwhelming characterization of the opening-night crowd.
SVT, like Macbeth, is neither for everyone nor perfect, but tempOdyssey, as Pineo points out, is an "amazing play." Comments not clearly linked to this show create a muddled and untrustworthy account of the experience, which according to people I asked, they were glad to have had.
Arts Integral to Austin Identity
Thank you for the strong emphasis on the arts in recent issues. Robert Faires' piece detailing the effect of the economy on the arts ["Culture Cash," Feb. 7] was exceptionally well-written. Congratulations on covering a sensitive, unpleasant topic with such objectivity and professionalism. The Jonathan Bober/Blanton Print Collection article ["Renaissance (and Baroque) Man," April 4] and last week's Flatbed Press feature by Madeline Irvine ["Next Edition," June 13] showcase the extraordinary visual-arts offerings right here in Austin. Both writers presented interesting, insightful views free of bias. It is refreshing to have talented, well-informed journalists writing about the depth and diversity of our visual-arts community. Thank you for your continued coverage of this rapidly growing segment of Austin's cultural identity.
RAVE Act an Important Issue
Thank you for the recent article on the RAVE Act ["Will RAVE Act Stomp Out Drugs -- Or Dissent," June 20]. Very well done and an extremely important issue that the public needs to know about.
Time for a Restaurant Update
Your "Second Helpings" column of June 20 mentioned some good ice cream shops for a hot summer day. Sorry to see that TCBY wasn't included, since I do love their swirled flavors. Also, your column noted that only one Baskin Robbins remains in Austin out on Stassney. Hate to tell you, but today I was in a Baskin Robbins at Parmer and MoPac, and that one reopened a week ago. Someone there told me others will be opening soon. When I went to your restaurant listings online, the Chronicle still has six Baskin Robbins locations listed. Maybe it's time to update that list. As always, thanks for all your good restaurant reviews and listings.
Restaurant Guide Needs Help
It's really nice that you have it, I've used it a lot, and I thank you for that, but it's years outta date, it seems you should update it or get rid of it. It's little good to newcomers as is.
Thanks, Jennifer Milbauer
Compliments to the Chef
We were astounded to see an incredibly large omission in the June 20 review of Zoot Restaurant that owners Mark Paul and Stuart Scruggs would certainly want to put right ["The Zoot Allure"]. Not once in that glowing review was the name of the chef given.
When Mark and Stuart took ownership of Zoot the first thing they did was install their longtime friend and colleague, chef Michael Hall, to impart his artistry and drive to the restaurant. This choice has clearly paid off.
If the reviewer enjoyed the lyrically balanced menu and impeccable execution, then they were enjoying the vision and craft of Michael Hall and due credit should be given.
Friends of Zoot,
Mary Regan and Michael Barrett
Tommy Steiner Is Awesome
I just read your article on Tommy Steiner ["Phases and Stages," April 12, 2002], and I would have to say that you are dead wrong. He is an up-and-coming star, and for this being his first CD, it is wonderful. So quit hatin' on people. Tommy is awesome.
Support Local Businesses
I was surprised to see Acclaim Sports' game All Star Baseball left out of the baseball video game reviews in the June 20 issue ["Play Ball!"].
Given your support of "Buy Greater Austin" and "Keep Austin Weird," I would have thought that you would have mentioned our game since Acclaim Studios Austin is the largest video-game employer in Austin and the award-winning All Star Baseball game has been developed in Austin since 1997.
David "Malc" Crummack.
Director of product development
Acclaim Studios Austin
Legalize Medical Marijuana
Kudos for publishing the story "A Quarter Ounce a Day" [June 20]. Your story amply shows that not only is marijuana relatively safe on the risk/benefit scale, it is cost effective! Could it be that prescription-drug manufactures support marijuana prohibition in order to protect their bottom line? Nah ... they're in the helping and healing business.
Gerald M. Sutliff
Castro Valley, Calif.
Hyde Park Keeps It Real
Joe Hootman, just where did you get that case of sour grapes? [Postmarks, June 20]
You think Hyde Park isn't somewhere "regular working-class people" can live? I've been living in the area 12 years now; this is my second address here. I'm a high school dropout working at a regular hourly job. There are working-class people on both sides of me and across the street as well. No sign of trust-fund babies anywhere. There are a lot of big, older houses around here, but if you look closer, you'll see several mailboxes on a lot of them. That's because they've been divided up into small one-bedroom and efficiency apartments. These are filled with students, artists, slackers, and weirdos, but no signs of inherited wealth in any of them.
But we do take a lot of pride in our neighborhood. There's little crime, things to do, and a neighborhood association that takes "regular working-class people" seriously. And when "Best of Austin" comes around, we stand up and wave our hands vigorously.
How about where you live?
Hyde Park tycoon
Honoring Our Musical History
Like very few newspapers in this country, the Chronicle honors its musical history. Reading Margaret Moser's fine, fine piece on Marcia Ball ["Spangles and High Heels," June 20] made me remember those magic nights at Bevo's, the Split Rail, and way beyond when Freda & the Firedogs were creating redneck rock in Austin. A lot of people have gotten the credit, but it was the 'Dogs that did it. For Ball, bless her heart, that was only the beginning. After a week of hurting from losing Big Al Ragle, Moser and Marcia put a smile back on my face. Many thanks.
The Lips Speak From the Heart
After reading Melanie Haupt's review of the Flaming Lips concert last week, I feel compelled to respond to her accusation that the Lips are all style and no substance. Seeing the Flaming Lips these days is more than just a concert, it is an experience, and although the June 11 show was musically fantastic in my opinion, I believe what left a lasting impression on most people's minds that night was lead singer Wayne Coyne's sincerity. After having the crowd of nearly 3,000 sing happy birthday to his bandmate Steven Drozd, Wayne spoke directly to people in the crowd that had suffered through a recent tragedy or hard times. He told them he hoped just attending "this wierdo show" would comfort them, if only for a couple of hours. He also told everyone to "tell your friends you love them more often." The audience was hanging on his every word. No substance? Is there anything more substantial than loving with a pure heart? In these troubling and uncertain times, we need more people like Wayne Coyne and more bands like the Flaming Lips to remind us that we're not alone in our sadness, and that it's OK to tell someone, even a total stranger, "I love you."
Not really a hippie,
P.S. I do agree, however, with Melanie's fondness for the amazing Starlight Mints. They are a band definitely deserving of more attention.
'Hulk' Inspires Rage
Wanted to comment on your score of Hulk. Having grown up with the original version, I was looking forward to seeing how the movie would be. It was 2 1/2 hours of wasted time, scratching my ass would have given me more enjoyment than the movie. It was the slowest, most boring movie I have seen in a long time. The storyline was horrible, where did they come up with the idea that Bruce was born with this thing in him, if you know the original you would know that it was all caused by the gamma radiation. Also what was with the idea behind the father turning into some alien creature or whatever you want to call him. The final scene between Bruce and his father was totally stupid. You can bet that I will be spreading the word that this was the worst movie of the year.
Anti-Smokers Support Ban
I was so pleased to return from vacation and learn that the City Council has passed the ban on smoking in Austin's indoor restaurants and bars.
One must travel to other cities with similar bans to really appreciate eating a meal in a smoke-free environment. Personally, I no longer enjoy going to many of Austin's live music venues due to the pervasive cigarette smoke. I strongly believe that this ban will have a positive impact on our local economy and the live music scene in the future.
Recent news reports indicate that newly elected Mayor Will Wynn is in favor of overturning or greatly limiting the effect of this ordinance. I urge all of Austin's citizens to voice their strong opposition to revoking or limiting the smoking ban and hope that the City Council will see that the ban is beneficial for Austin in the long run.
Debra E. Alexander
Austin Could Learn From Dallas
Although a Dallas resident, I always pick up your paper when in Austin. While thorough in your coverage of Austin-area events, your paper seldom views such events in the broader context of what is happening in other Texas cities, or cities elsewhere for that matter. I've especially noted this in your coverage of transit issues and the anti-smoking ordinance. Given Austin's reputation for worldliness, this seems a might peculiar. Yet, provincialism is common to local media and hardly peculiar to Austin alone.
I doubt many Austinites are even aware of how readily people in Dallas have embraced the early development of what will soon be an integrated network of 17 miles of urban trails and 93 miles of rail transit. These systems interface for ease of access, not only with each other, but with a privately funded and volunteer-run vintage streetcar network as well. The rail system, in particular, has been a raving success. This despite the neglect of municipal planners, who continue to allow big-box drugstores, convenience stores, office-supply outlets, supermarkets, and service stations to snatch up land that could have been better allotted for high-density development. There is much Austin can learn from these experiences, just as Dallas could learn much from Austin's efforts in recycling, downtown development, and nature preservation.
Regarding smoking restrictions, are Austinites aware such ordinances are already on the books in such cities as Arlington, Dallas, and El Paso, and perhaps soon, San Antonio? Such ordinances affect entire states, and even the entire country of Ireland. I, myself, am a nonsmoker who isn't especially bothered by smoke. I'm fortunate to live in a neighborhood in which many bars and restaurants have outdoor terraces. For what it's worth, I'll note that outdoor dining no longer holds the attractiveness it had prior to the ordinance, especially on weekends.
Radicals Steal KOOP From Austin
When the Chronicle described KOOP Radio as "superradical," Lonny Stern asked, "When did radical become a bad word?" [Postmarks, May 30] To answer his question, KOOP leadership became superradical when they labeled anyone who disagreed with their power-grab as racist, sexist, and homophobic. It's the same tactic as, "You're either with us or you're with the terrorists," and "If you don't support the war, you're unpatriotic." Label your opponents as immoral, how clever.
Have a look at their Web site (www.koop.org). It's beautifully done, but they keep the list of board members a secret (odd for a nonprofit, extremely odd for a "cooperative, democratic" nonprofit), and the bylaws show how the board has the real power, membership be damned. And do I even need to mention that they kick people out whom they don't like, claiming that those ousted had violated unwritten rules and not providing proper procedures for appeal?
Readers new to Austin may not realize how we lost a radio station to these superradical power-grabbers. The sad story is archived at www.michaelbluejay.com/savekoop.
'Chronicle' Held in High Regard
Dear Austin Chronicle:
I recently had the pleasure of communicating with Mr. Frank Rich, perhaps America's premier political/cultural essayist. I told him that I ranked him alongside the brilliant Michael Ventura, who appears in your pages once or twice a month.
His response? "Well, I'm not familiar with Mr. Ventura, although I will seek out his work, but I do know the Chronicle very well and hold it in high regard."
Congratulations, my old and dear friends. Keep up the good work.
Don't Revisit Smoking Ban
I do not want the approved smoke-free ordinance revisited. I am very happy that the ordinance recently passed.
The smoke-free ordinance will now allow me and many of my friends to enjoy the Austin music scene, which I have been unable to enjoy due to the unhealthy, smoke-filled air in most of our music venues.
Please leave the health of Austin's residents as part of your legacy.
Take This Job and Another Job
Why don't those homeless people just get a job? We've all heard that before. What may be surprising is that simply getting a job may not do much to get someone off the streets. One would think that working 40 hours a week at any job would be sufficient to provide at least a place to live, but it's not even close if you're making minimum wage in Austin. You need $10.60/hour to afford an efficiency apartment and basic living expenses based on HUD's fair market rents.
If Austin residents and businesses are truly concerned about working to end homelessness, they should advocate for paying their employees a living wage. A living wage ensures that anyone working a 40-hour workweek would be able to afford housing based on the wage earned. Not only would the standard lift minimum-wage workers to a decent standard of living, taxpayers would benefit from the decreased need for subsidizing what businesses aren't providing for their employees. We must recognize that this is a community problem, not an individual one. For more information see www.universallivingwage.com.
A Car-Free Austin?
In one of Andy Singer's CARtoons he suggests that, just as there are smoking and nonsmoking sections in restaurants, we have car-driving and no-driving sections in cities. If we tried this, I think that the no-driving residential slots would quickly be filled by wealthy car drivers who would opt to store their cars in garages in the car-driving section. That way, they and their children could enjoy the benefits of the car-free zone (cleaner air, safer streets, cooler temperatures, more freedom for children) while still being able to drive their cars through other people's neighborhoods.
I know that we're not going to try the car-driving/car-free zone idea in Austin any time soon (probably this will only happen when some wealthy developer sees the idea's moneymaking potential), but it would be interesting.
A Redistricting Proposal
The Texas Legislative Council has developed two computer programs for redistricting. The first, RedAppl, is used by political partisans to draw gerrymandered districts that favor their party. The other, Target, can be given a set of specifications, and it will randomly draw a district map that meets those specifications, without the need for further human intervention.
Instead of divisive debate over particular maps, let the Legislature adopt a bill that would provide the general specifications and whatever map the computer draws to those specifications. Let the software be fully disclosed for anyone to examine, and let the operation of the computer be supervised by the grand jury to guard against any undue intervention.
The specifications should be only that the districts have equal population, be compact, contiguous, simply connected, and that only counties with populations of more then 60,000 be split. There should be no consideration of ethnicity or voting history whatsoever, nor should districts be drawn to protect incumbents.
To further insure against districts that favor one party, let the districts be redrawn every two years, at least nine months before the next election, so that as each map is randomly drawn, advantages average out over several elections. This proposal is discussed at www.constitution.org/reform/us/tx/redistrict/cnpr_proposal.htm.
DeLay Is Forcing Redistricting
Yet another privilege given to us in this great state is about to be taken from us. That privilege? The right for your vote to count for the representative of your choice.
Tom DeLay is going to be taking that right away from you if his redistricting plan goes through the special session of the Legislature Gov. Perry is calling. This means the U.S. congressman you voted for, if they're a Democrat, stands a good chance of being removed from office in the next election. Not because you voted them out, but because Tom DeLay decided they need to be removed to pack more Republicans onto our congressional delegation.
This is a power grab of unprecedented proportions and must not be allowed to occur. Mr. DeLay apparently doesn't understand that citizens can vote for someone other than a Republican.
Call or write your state representative or senator and urge them to vote against this. Good citizens and representatives of conscience should not allow this unwarranted redistricting to occur.
Don't Let History Repeat Itself
Congratulations to Louis Black for lambasting the Naderites whose mantra is that there is no difference between the Democrats and the Republicans.
Those of you old enough to remember the slow descent into the Vietnam horror will recall that the news in the early 1960s would report the death of an American "advisor" or two continually until the decision was made to go in with more and more troops. The results, as they say, are history.
We see currently that an American soldier or two is killed just about every day in Iraq. Why? So the despicable Bush/Cheney junta can make the world safe for Halliburton and ExxonMobil? Apparently. Make no mistake, then, about this: The death of every American soldier is on the head of Bush II and his not-so-merry band of thugs in the Pentagon.
Remember this in 2004, you Naderites. Al Gore won the popular vote, and the votes cast for Nader in Florida could very well have made the Supreme Court coup (it was Republicans that put Antonin Scalia and his poodle Clarence Thomas among the Supremes) unnecessary. I refuse to believe that we would be in Iraq (or Afghanistan for that matter) if Gore were president today.
And do I need to remind you all of the assaults on the elderly, the poor, the environment, the economy, etc. perpetrated by the current Republican regime? A little less doctrinal purity and a lot more pragmatism next time, please. Anybody but Bush in 2004!
John David Hengst
I guess the administration has done what it wanted to. It bombed a country back into the Stone Age. It is now rocks versus bullets.
A proud American?
Law Unfair to Nonwealthy
State Sen. Van de Puette and State Rep. Carlos Uresti sponsored this 78th Legislature an ill-conceived law. In 1987 Sen. Grant Jones' defeat was the result of a backlash from his backing of a similar bill, and lawmakers later repealed it. I am a 71-year-old living on $789 (social security) and maintaining my 88-year-old mother's vacant home while she is in a nursing home. Her $1,000-plus homeowners-insurance premium costs me a month-and-a-half income, and despite poor health, I have to cut the grass, because I can't afford to have it done. Needless to say, we are not the wealthy family that shifts assets to shelter a large mansion from Medicaid requirements. The thing most precious in my mother's life is her modest home. She will not be told that her only possession will go to the state when she dies, and I will continue to endure the hardships and expenses of maintaining her home until the state takes it. This law should be repealed or at least amended to exempt a $50,000 to $100,000 home.
Lege Trades Tots for Toyotas
Let me get this straight -- the Texas Legislature weeps and moans that there isn't enough money to go around, so it denies basic medical care to millions of children, the elderly, and poor people ... then turns around and hands out $15,000,000 dollars to Toyota? We can all sleep better at night knowing that $720 million (much of it from the federal government!) won't be spent to keep our children from dying. They "reorganize" the TEA so hard that thousands of teachers will be laid off and schools will (once again) be forced to do more with less, but they throw millions of corporate welfare dollars at the cattle industry to research cow genomes? They've all but guaranteed that insurance companies will lower services and raise rates. They've invented the catch phrase "Tort Reform" because it fits on a bumper sticker better than "Negligent Corporations Can Injure or Kill You With Unsafe Products and Poisoned Food and You (Or Your Grieving Family) Can't Sue Them to Recover Damages." Now they're costing us $1.7 million to hold a special legislative session just so they can blatantly gerrymander the state, the better to hand over more of our tax dollars to their corporate masters next regular session.
Does anyone else get the feeling that Republican legislators would sell Jesus Christ himself to the Romans if they thought they could make 30 pieces of silver on the deal?
Is Marijuana Unsafe?
The Eagles right to use their property to raise money has been affected by the new federal law. They would have standing in a declaratory judgment proceeding in federal court to question the constitutionality of the federal classification of marijuana as a controlled substance. This is a main reason for the threat of enforcement of the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act of 2003 on the Eagles.
I do not see it as a free speech issue. I see this federal law, RAVE Act, affecting rights to privacy, to property, and to liberty protected by the Fourth and Fifth amendments of the United States Constitution.
Supposedly, due process of law requires a compelling state interest to threaten to violate these fundamental rights of members of the Eagle Lodge, which is a private entity. The root of the matter, marijuana, is illegal. So the question is, why is marijuana illegal to threaten the fundamental rights of the Eagles?
The rule of law requires the government to prove marijuana is not safe to use to violate fundamental rights. The government would have to prove marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol. I am sure the members of the Eagles know the answer to that, as well as the editors of this newspaper. Seeking relief by the federal court declaring the federal classification of marijuana as a controlled substance arbitrary and unconstitutional.
Michael J. Dee
Marijuana Laws Perpetuate Myth
Your excellent coverage of George McMahon's plight carries a strong condemnation of both state and federal policies concerning medical marijuana ["A Quarter Ounce a Day," June 20]. Save for his membership in the federal Compassionate IND program, McMahon would be subject to the current laws endorsed by both Gov. Rick Perry and George W. Bush. These mandate that patients who use marijuana with a doctor's recommendation should be subject to arrest, criminal prosecution, and time in a prison cage. Opponents of reforming current policy insist that to do so would "send the wrong message" to children about marijuana use. But McMahon demonstrates that adults can responsibly use pot without graduating to more addictive drugs, without selling to minors, and without committing crimes to fund their use.
Clinging to the notion that medical marijuana patients belong in prison is akin to being a member of the Flat Earth Society. You can join us in the 21st century, or if you prefer, you can refuse to travel west in your boats, citing your fear of sea monsters or worse, falling off the edge of the Earth once you reach the horizon. Both patients and our kids certainly deserve better than this egregious mythology.
Member, Drug Policy Forum of Texas
Resident, Clearwater, Fla.
Support HB 809
What is the latest on the bill [HB 809] that would let the Indians have gaming back on their reservation? This is a big issue here in East Texas, for it would bring jobs to our area, and promote business for this part of the state.
Cheaper Than War
We're told that Sadamn Insane has these incredible "weapons of destruction" and is ready to use 'em against us if we don't act fast and take 'em out. Spent a whole month over there shocking and awing ...
And who started the "weapons of mass destruction" lingo anyway? Aren't they just bombs 'n' gas?
I digress ... back to the invisible WMDs. Our president perps false info to us, so we can go over and blast 'em to pieces in self defense (not to mention the incredible clean-up effort for the next several years) and for what end result?
Seems to me that given the poor state of economic affairs, those funds could have been better spent back home. I mean, surely George has heard about back home here in Texas where the local gov's got themselves in a bit of a $9 billion financial pinch?
Seems to me what we have here is an economic and moral failure of impeachable proportions. I mean jeeze folks, Clinton got impeached for just getting a blow job and sayin' he didn't, and it didn't cost us anything!
Tom DeLay Can Kick Perry's Ass
Hey Rick Perry! I heard Tom DeLay bragging that he could kick your ass! I guess he was right.
P.S. I hope all reasonable people will join me in forwarding my tax refund directly to the DNC.
Golly, people read my stuff. I can tell because it has been pointed out to me that Noam Chomsky is not a moron, he's a brilliant man who knows just about everything about everything. He even won some prize or something! Woo hoo! So, Noam is a linguist by trade, and he is pretty decent at that. He's mastered the art of reading old books and then comparing words in those old books to words in new books. Fascinating stuff, certainly qualifies him to be secretary of state, gives him a stunning endorsement for his comments on things totally outside his training. Chomsky has an audience among the scared little sheeple who think it's all a plot, everything is a conspiracy, everyone is trying to steal from everyone else, and overall, Americans are the scum of the earth. Tell you what, next time someone in your family gets cancer or something, don't take them to a doctor, take them to Chomsky. He's a really brilliant man. Course, nobody would do that, they would take a sick relative to someone with expertise in the medical profession a bit deeper than editorial comment on cancer treatments. Next time you have a problem figuring out the concept and meanings of "Ye Olde" as it relates to "The Old," call Chomsky. I am sure he's the most qualified man on the planet to explain this ancient mystery to you. As far as anything else goes, he has no bona fides, he has no career experience, he has no practical experience. He makes comments from the sidelines, which is cool. But as far as anything other than linguistics, he's an idiot. Unless you think a world-view that revolves around America and Americans Suck makes someone brilliant.
Carl T. Swanson
Mustard's Last Stand