Well, well. Another story about wannabe indie filmmakers who mortgage their homes and ruin their credit, then throw together a movie on their new Best Buy camcorder for a few grand starring themselves and their friends, only to spread tales of shattered dreams and woe when the industry declines to prostrate itself before them and hail them as the new Scorsese ["I Made a Movie, And They Didn't Want It," July 11]. Gosh.
Ambition is great, driving will is better, but failing to learn the realities of an industry before you try to get into it is just foolish and will get you burned every time.
Once I too was a young hopeful, with visions of my first Oscar acceptance speech dancing in my head. But it took exactly one day working as a P.A. on a real feature shoot for the reality fairy to bitch-slap me something good and make me realize that no, I did not, in fact, know everything. (I've noticed how many indie directors don't even have P.A. experience!) I've taken a more gradual course toward realizing my filmmaking goals since, but I suppose I could've made my first feature 10 times over by now if I belonged to the "DV & MasterCard" camp. Rule No. 1: There's no need to rush your dream. Take your time, learn your craft, learn the business.
I'm sure there are good films among the digital chaff. (Though one thing I noticed missing from your report about 7th Art was that of the 2,500 film submissions they get a year -- from which they pick 10 -- 2,470 of them probably aren't made with enough professional competence to pass muster at the Ed Wood Remedial School.) And I applaud the never-say-die tenacity of committed artists. But if you don't disabuse yourself of your unrealistic expectations before getting behind the camera, disillusionment is assured.
Dear Big Louie,
In your "Page Two" musings today [July 11], you question the timing of the invasion of Iraq. Although I find no reason to dispute your conclusions, I think that you are missing an important component that catapulted Iraq from a long-term international pariah to a country posing an imminent danger to the United States: During the summer of 2002 leading up to the mid-term elections, the Bush Administration was experiencing considerable flak for its cozy relationship with corporate leaders who had guided their firms into some high-profile bankruptcies and a general fleecing of stockholders, workers, and consumers. Karl Rove needed a straw horse to deflect voters' righteous indignation. Saber rattling and made-for-TV warfare successfully misdirected voters' attention from the class warfare (the attack of the wealthy against the poor and middle class) at home.
Thought you'd like to know.
Dear Chron (really Louis),
You've really got to let go of the "Saddam didn't use them against U.S. troops, therefore the WMD threat wasn't real" argument ["Page Two," July 11]. Even if it had logical merit, which it doesn't (indiscriminate terrorist weapons are best used in other countries, not your own, they wouldn't have changed a damn thing, and Bush made it perfectly clear to the Iraqi people, who carry painful memories of Gulf War I, what would happen to those who used WMDs, no matter who gave the order), don't you find it a moral stretch to opine that the only way stopping Hussein's regime made sense is if he was moments away from a catastrophic attack on someone?
The significance of a decade of failed UN resolutions may be lost on you, but there was no "rush to war" in Iraq; it was just the right time. The capability to produce WMDs quickly and quietly has always been the real problem, not stores of existing weapons. You may doubt the ability of Iraqis to focus on a single task for a decade and come up with some good solutions, but I don't.
In the words of John Kerry in 1997, "I submit that the old adage 'pay now or pay later' applies perfectly in this situation. If Saddam Hussein is permitted to go about his effort to build weapons of mass destruction and to avoid the accountability of the United Nations, we will surely reap a confrontation of greater consequence in the future."
When did you want to pay that bill, Louis? Now, when we can choose the time, place, and means? Or after another "smoking gun" is laid on our doorstep?
Mike Clark-Madison, how does this guy fit his entire head in the mirror? While bashing the Statesman in his July 11 "Austin@Large" column, he states that a poll taken by them is somehow invalid because "What went unmentioned by the Statesman is that none of its spotlighted victims had four-year degrees ...."
Mike, get up on your "high chair," pull your four-year degree off the wall, and stuff it up your ass!
Fact is, most Austinites don't have four-year degrees. Some of us have served our country, worked underpaying jobs, and worked extremely hard to get where we are today. Our skills and abilities are much more transferable than you think. The real problem is that kids coming out of college (yesterday and) today with a four-year degree think that they are owed something by the rest of us for what they see as hard work. Granted, college is no cakewalk, but how dare you disrespect the hard working, non-degreed population of this city! I don't have a degree, but I can read and comprehend.
Think before you make such a comment again. While you're sitting in your car thinking about the next column you're gonna write, remember this: The reason you're sitting in that God-awful traffic in the first place is because a bunch of overeducated idiots (most of whom have, at least, a four-year degree) are running this city. Those before them didn't have the common sense to see we needed better road systems and those after them probably won't either! What the hell are they teaching kids in college anyway ... English literature? What good is that doing?
[Re: "Glow Sticks: A Menace to Society!" July 11]
That does it. End the war on drugs right now. This is what we spend millions of dollars for?!? I want my money back. Makes me want to shove a glow stick where the sun don't shine ... know what I mean?
To Whom It May Concern,
I just wanted to send a little note to let you know that I read part of your "periodical" over the weekend. I'm kind of new to Austin, but now I know what I won't be reading any longer. You people are even more liberal than the Austin American-Statesman. It wouldn't surprise me to find out that you are owned by the same people.
Anyway, here's my problem with you (one of many). You people seem to take issue with true media outlets, such as Fox News (perhaps, we're a bit jealous????) ["Fox News Fauxs Up," July 11], but don't seem to mention a word about the liberal tilt of the mainstream media, who have been liberal for at least a couple of decades now. Surely, you can't be so blinded by your own left-wing agenda that you don't see this, can you?
I'm pretty conservative myself, if you haven't already noticed, but let's just put mine and your own positions aside for a moment. Wouldn't you prefer to have fair and balanced news, as opposed to your own opinionated version of what's going on in our world? Just a thought. I'm sure it will go unheeded.
I'm not a fan of either side tilting the news to their own preferences -- I prefer the truth. But I will say, Fox is a nice alternative (and yes, I will admit they can be a tad bit on the conservative side, occasionally), to liberals such as Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw, who always slant the "news" to the liberal side!
So basically, what I'm advising you is to get a grip and face reality. The media are slanted to the left wing, and have been for a while. This is why the nightly news ratings have been declining for many years now. So, if you feel so secure stating your own liberal views in your "publication," just because Austin is a pretty liberal city, please continue to do so. But, I refuse to subscribe to your point of view. Nor will I read your left-wing garble.
Thanks so much for time. Respond if you dare.
God bless! And yes, I said God -- oooh, what a sin to you liberals!!
In the summer, it's always nice to hear old stories once again. However, the reports of the death of CinemaTexas are, as they say, greatly exaggerated. Marjorie Baumgarten's story of the halcyon days of CinemaTexas ["Lights Out," July 4] was excellent. Indeed, by the mid-1980s, CinemaTexas as a film society was in deep financial trouble due to VCRs. When I arrived in 1987, professor Tom Schatz and I worked with the Radio-Television-Film staff to come up with a solution. Using course fees, we were able to transform CinemaTexas. CinemaTexas continues to screen four nights a week, usually two screenings a night, and sometimes in a couple of venues simultaneously. What we had to give up was public announcements of these screenings in order to protect the cost advantages of showing films at an educational exemption rate. Still, over the past 15 years, CinemaTexas continues to provide students at UT with a wide array of films at a very low cost; occasionally we have enrichment events with filmmakers and special screenings, and former CinemaTexas directors include Eric Schaefer (teaching at Emerson, author of a book on exploitation cinema), Michael de Angelis (teaching at DePaul, author of a book on stars), and Walter Metz (teaching at Montana State). Current CinemaTexas director is Lee Sparks, a summa cum laude graduate of RTF. CinemaTexas faculty have fought the loss of film culture at UT; I spoke with Chronicle Editor Louis Black at one of the rallies (that failed) to save the film program at the Texas Union. CinemaTexas faculty agreed to share the name with the Cinematexas International Short Film Festival group (which, however, doesn't put the T in Texas). And the Steenbeck Marjorie loves resides in the CinemaTexas office, now in the same building as the RTF department. CinemaTexas lives!
As soon as I saw the "Lost Austin" cover (July 4), I asked myself what are the chances there'll be anything about Roy Bedichek? Slim to none, I thought, so I was especially touched by Steve Moore's essay ["Salon of the West"], with its elegiac tone that emerged, even as he consigned Bedichek et al., if not to literature's ash heap, at least to its compost pile.
My fondness for Bedichek's books has to do with being from a generation that grew up with nature books -- the best my parents could find, and afford -- all of which seemed to be written for the New England states. I lived in Houston, with no chance of seeing lichen communities on glacial boulders, or hearing the oven bird sing "teacher, teacher." I was both enthralled and frustrated by these books.
Moving to Austin in the Sixties caught me just at a time to be thrilled by Austin With a Texas Naturalist, with its descriptions of things I could step outside the door and see with my own eyes. Present-day Austinites are spoiled for choice when it comes to guidebooks for our region, so Bedichek is not likely to seem as revelatory.
Of course Bedichek aimed at something more than just descriptions of local species. His overarching vision -- again, coming to it in the Sixties was the perfect time -- was that "the charm of nature is that everything is with the rest." A line, by the way, that I've given up on finding the source of. He quotes it twice, and I'd love to know the source.
Yes, there are things Austinites might find worthwhile in Bedichek, though he's unlikely to have the open sesame effect on readers today that he had on me in the Sixties.
Let me be the first one to say that the Chronicle has some of the best movie reviewers in the country; well, actually, you have one, Marc Savlov. The others are competent. However, Ms. Baumgarten never ceases to amaze me with her incompetence. In particular, I take her to task for her review of Levity. The film Levity is not that bad, it was actually pretty good. What is bad was her review of the film. Movies are subjective and I will not take issue with her point-by-point. However, she seemed put off that it was not more flowery. Hmm, a film about a convicted murderer living among the down-and-out in Chicago? Sounds dreamy. Moreover, she includes in her review that Holly Hunter's character is the mother of the murder victim. She was not; she was in fact, the sister (stated clearly). For her to have been the mother, she would have had to have been in her Sixties. It is frightening to see her attack a film so viciously and give it a one-star rating (a kiss of death), when she obviously did not see it or understand it. Get your facts straight and pay attention, and if you are going to give something one star, know what the hell you are talking about.
Dear Austin Chronicle:
Regarding issue Vol. 22 No. 44 week of July 4, 2003, the "Picnic Basket" interview with Willie Nelson's "words of wisdom from Texas' No. 1 candidate for sainthood." His "blonde joke" about a "brunette with bad breath" in reference to an unpleasant order from a woman's vagina is offensive, degrading, and ignorant (in my opinion). In the real world, many women suffer from vaginal diseases and STD's that emit an unpleasant order. Most likely these diseases can be or have been passed to their sexual partner. Many free government clinics are overbooked and under-funded in treating cases related to sexual issues. I am offended at this interview and at the fact that the Chronicle published this article in silent support of this offensive attitude about women.
In addition, the reporter's lighthearted attitude ["Willie Nelson's 4th of July Picnic," July 4] about the smoke on Willie's bus being "potent" in a lightly veiled reference to smoking pot reinforces an uninformed and dangerous attitude regarding marijuana addiction and its destruction of lives, including sexual dysfunction. The family disease of addiction is a battle fought daily by many families and individuals (including many mega-talented artists).
All are certainly entitled to our opinions and desire to support certain practices, but please include my letter as another point of view from a more real-life stance. I have been involved with addiction recovery and feminist issues for many years and believe that printing this article conveys support of addiction and degradation of women -- and when that happens, it degrades men too.
Dear Mr. Black,
I would like to comment on your "Page Two" column in the July 4 issue of the Chronicle. In the seventh paragraph you made reference to a letter to "Postmarks" by Michael Bluejay, and you talked about placing blame for George W. Bush's "victory." I guess that the meaning of the word "victory" has changed. We have a frat boy in the White House who got there by nepotism. Bush lost the election by at least 500,000 votes. In fact, Al Gore got more votes than any presidential candidate in history. You should know that, and so should Mr. Bluejay. There is apparently a lot of ignorance flourishing in our society, and it should be part of your job to try to correct this. I sincerely wish that you would use your formidable voice to try to educate the masses. Mr. Bluejay did get one thing right: Nobody's vote means a goddamned thing.
Please take my thoughts to heart, Mr. Black. I admire the work that you do, but there may be room for improvement.
In closing, I will say that I realize that you may be uncomfortable with the idea of my providing you with a critique of your work. In the years to come, you will probably have an opportunity to critique my work as a songwriter.
I look forward to that.
Gary L. Zimmer
Several weeks ago the Chronicle published my letter ["Postmarks," Web edition, May 23] responding to reviewer Jim Caligiuri's mean-spirited review of Bill Passalacqua's music. Because you placed my letter on your Web page only, your print readers, who are the majority, never saw my defense of Bill's artistic talent and his importance to the peace movement. Ironically, you did publish in your print version Matt Hoggle's reply ["Postmarks," June 6] in which he accuses me of "calling for the abandonment of honest criticism" and cries, "free speech for all!" I wonder, were your print readers confused never having had the opportunity to evaluate my free speech since you never put it on your pages?
Editors have power over speech. I would not abandon serious, evidenced criticism that takes performance in context. I would, however, not support ill-considered churlishness such as Caligiuri's and Hoggle's that serves to obscure, in this case, Passalacqua's serious social criticism. Don't kill the messenger in these dark times!
Bill's lyrics on Peace of My Mind are far from "insipid." He crafts "Inside Trade" in the talking blues style that is like bluegrass rap and was perfected by Pete Seeger. His song bemoans the lack of real choice in the two-party system and points out the results: "Sound bites for the drug war/Monopolies for the company store/Minimal minimum wage for the working poor/And billions and billions for machines of war." You cannot forget the words of his haunting chorus on the environmental lament "It Used to Be a River" nor the questions in his song about our very own U.S. terrorist training camp the "School of the Americas":
What did you learn at school today?
What did you learn at the SOA?
Did you learn about murder and learn about rape?
Did you learn about torture and no escape?
That's what you learned at school today.
'Cause that's what they teach at the SOA.
By artfully exposing critical social problems, Bill's songs inform and rouse the uninitiated and provide soulful guide for our growing demonstrations for an end to state terror.
Jason Meador ["Postmarks," July 11] has an interesting take on the 2000 election: Al Gore threw the election by distancing himself from Clinton, and Gore got more votes than Bush II. So? Last time I looked, the reason the Bushistas went to the Supreme Court was to put an end to the murkiness of the Florida vote count in part made possible by votes for Nader (remember the hanging chads? Remember the Electoral College?) and to invoke the support of the likes of Justices Scalia and Thomas in an unprecedented judicial coup d'etat.
The problem with Ralph Nader is 1) his unremitting, doctrinaire refusal to allow that there is any difference between the Democrats and the Republicans, and 2) his stated position that a Bush victory in 2000 (abetted by his candidacy) would lead to a situation so awful that the American people would turn to him and his party. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the assaults on every progressive initiative achieved since the 1880s should demonstrate the speciousness of the first. As for the second, Nader's reasoning is eerily reminiscent of the pre-Nazi Communist Party (KPD) in Weimar Germany. The strategy then was to so weaken the Social Democrats (SPD) that the SPD would become irrelevant, and then the German people would turn to the gentle embrace of the Comintern-inspired KPD. It didn't work out that way. Fifty-five years after the fall of Hitler, Nader's KPD-like cynicism helped to deliver the American people into the hands of the most sinister presidential administration in the history of the republic.
One thing: The howls of those affronted by Louis Black's comments on Ralph Nader ["Page Two," July 4] bespeak a certain realization that a Gore administration would have been infinitely preferable to the murderous junta currently ensconced in Washington D.C.
John David Hengst
I used to be stationed at Bergstrom AFB. While there, a group of us used to frequent a barbecue place called The Shanty. I think it was on First Street. This was in the early 1960s. The barbecue sauce used there was a vinegar-based dark sauce that resembled what we called pork-chop gravy back home. It was the best I have ever tasted. Even though we only made around $26 per week then, several of us came up with an offer of $300 for the recipe, just before we were discharged. We promised it would be used for personal use only, and we all lived a great distance from Texas. The owner turned us down. I know the business closed before I returned to Austin for a visit several years later. If anyone knows anything about the recipe, the owner's whereabouts, or anything related, I would appreciate the information. They could e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a recent transplant to Austin, in particular to the southwest corridor, I was shocked to learn that Wal-Mart is planning a superstore near my new neighborhood ["Battle of the Big Box," July 11]. Never mind that there is already a Wal-Mart four miles down the road. But consider these quotes from a June 30 article from reporter Ruth Rosen of the San Francisco Chronicle (www.sfgate.com):
"Wal-Mart's nonunion, big-box stores drag down other workers' salaries, destroy downtown businesses, prevent smart-growth development and increase traffic congestion. What really surprised me though is that we, the taxpayers, end up subsidizing Wal-Mart stores by paying for the health and retirement needs of its workers.
"'It [Wal-Mart] not only pays workers less than most of its retail competitors, two-thirds of workers don't have health-care coverage -- a cost taxpayers are picking up across the country' [according to United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1179 President Barbara Carpenter]."
After scolding Wes Marshall for using lower shelf liquor in cocktails, Alan Arvesen closes his letter ["Postmarks," July 11] by taking a shot (pun intended) at man's most ancient and beloved alcoholic beverage -- beer. By saying "If you're cheap and don't care what it tastes like, drink beer my man, that's what it's there for," Arvesen reveals his unawareness of the wide variety of beer styles available. It's not all insipid, light lager. In fact there are more varieties of beer than wine, and a beer for every mood, event, or intent. From the apéritif sharpness of a Belgian lambic to the malty strength of a German doppelbock, there is a beer to please just about any palate, unless of course, you simply don't like fermented grain beverages.
In Austin, we are blessed with six small breweries (five brewpubs and one microbrewery with more in the works) that brew fine interpretations of parent beer styles from Germany, Belgium, and Great Britain. We also have great beer stores: Whip In, Central Market, Grapevine Market, and others.
Do yourself a favor Alan, put down your single-barrel bourbon and Coke and pick up a copy of Michael Jackson's Beer Companion, the bible for beer lovers. By the way, yes I am a beer snob.
Southwest Brewing News
Thanks for the great article ["Naked City: Proud to Be Un-Patriot-Ic" July 11].
Austin Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Hello, my name is Eric, and I am a 15-year-old of Leander, Texas. My friends and I didn't know where to go for this problem, but in anyway, maybe you can help. I have been skateboarding for about three years now. And one thing all my friends and I notice is that whenever we skate, people always give us dirty looks. People don't know that skateboarders are nice people, and they don't even know the background of skateboarding and all the hard times the "sport" has been through. No one gives us a chance. And one thing that every skateboarder hates is people that kick us out of our "skate spots." We are often kicked out and yelled at because we are skating on public property such as basketball courts, tennis courts, or even schools. People decide that instead of finding a solution to keep us away, they'd rather yell at us over and over and get police into it. But getting down to the point, we want a place to skate where we don't have to worry about being yelled at, kicked out, or having to watch for cops. We want a skate park. It doesn't have to be fancy, expensive, or big. Just something to skate, wooden or cement. Think of it this way, if we did have a skate park, cops could deal with more important stuff than us, the public can be happy that we are out of their sight, and we will be so incredibly happy we can have our own "skate mecca" and not having to be on constant guard. Please put in deep consideration, and think of all the possibilities. Thank you for your time.
Hypothetically, how the Bush Administration might handle the situation in Liberia, if it had been their idea:
(From the White House)
President George W. Bush announced today that Secretary of State Colin Powell will address the UN General Assembly. He will show definitive proof that the Liberian government is hiding books of vast instructions. We must therefore send our troops into Liberia to liberate these books from oppressive, despotic governmental control. He has appointed Gen. Dewey to lead the assault. When victorious, we will be sure that a democratic Dewey decimal form of government will exist, and hopefully all Liberians will be liberated in the process. May God bless Gen. Dewey and the men and women of our armed forces as they undertake this perilous mission.
William J. Vordenbaum
Here's an idea: Whole Foods/local stores drop prices a teeny bit, Austinites boycott Wal-Marts, more Austinites shop Whole Foods/local stores (and more than make up the difference for cutting prices), and we are happy. I want to throw up at the thought that a Wal-Mart Supercenter wants to plant itself in my back yard (MoPac/Davis). I'll gladly drive over to Lamar and Sixth for my grocery and personal needs if it's more accommodating to my budget, and if it means Wal-Mart stops invading the pretty green corners in Austin. Booooo, Wal-Mart!
In the case of Social Justice v. Affirmative Action, the verdict is that both are mutually inclusive! A victory for progressive politics! End of story. Well, not quite. Social justice is a necessary goal for society, but what end will affirmative action ultimately meet? The "social circumstances" discussed in "Page Two" [June 27] are the symptoms affirmative action is trying to cure, but when one tries to cure the symptoms rather than the disease, the problems arise again. The underlying causation of the social problems facing students and workers is economic. The scenario of privilege, whose ancestors are still alive today, is one of many pertaining to family economics. Not all white Americans lived in privilege and many today still live below or barely above poverty levels, but because they were born "white," then they get less of a chance to better their position than a minority in the same economic class. Affirmative action only helps a portion of the public rather than all.
Affirmative action supporters believe that once minorities receive their diplomas, then they in turn will help others obtain their diplomas, and with a good job their economic situation will ameliorate. Affirmative action is trickle-down emancipation. Those who benefit from affirmative action will hold on to their new power and money and join the ruling elite much like tax cuts make the rich richer and the poor poorer. The few that do distribute their advances will be so small that the present stagnates. Many, if not most, will stay in the same abhorrent environments they were in before, and the social circumstances will remain. Rather than uprooting the main cause of social injustice by revolutionizing the whole political economy, affirmative action covers up the fundamental negligence of capitalism and acts as a tactical diversion for true social, political, and economic change.
I am a reformed smoker. I chose to quit. I know about the health issues, as does any Austinite with enough sense to operate a childproof lighter.
The U.S. Bill of Rights guarantees every American certain basic freedoms. One of which is the freedom of choice. I do not remember any part of our Bill of Rights that says that our right to freedom of choice is only valid when it is popular with the entire population.
I have heard all the hoopla about the smoking ban. This "Tobacco-Free Austin Coalition" seems to think that they are the rulers of the universe. Do we really want to give this little group of people the right to decide what is best for all Austinites, simply because they don't like it? Today it's a smoking ban in restaurants and bars. What's next? Why don't we ban ladies' perfumes, or men's colognes, as they are just as offensive to some people, who may have immediate and sometimes severe respiratory reactions to these?
Smoking is a choice, some choose to, and others choose not to smoke. If this "Tobacco-Free Austin Coalition" wants to drink and dine in a smoke-free environment then they should have that right, but should they have the right to tell the rest of the population that they must do it also? Perhaps this "Tobacco-Free Austin Coalition" should open their own restaurants and bars for nonsmokers only. They can have their own little private world to rule as they see fit.
The restaurants and bars should have a choice. If it is the will of the majority that these establishments be smoke free, then those that choose not to will be forced to change in order to stay in business because their clientele will go to a nonsmoking establishment because that is their choice. If the majority decides that it would rather frequent a restaurant or bar that allows smoking, then the nonsmoking establishment will be faced with the same dilemma. Let the people make the decision based on their personal choices.
Rep. Ron Paul is the one and only official in Washington who has never broken a promise, voted for pork, or been accused of lying. He has written his observations on the administration's record, the people Bush chose to be his closest advisers (NeoCons), and their propensity for lying (www.lewrockwell.com/paul/paul110.html).
Paul says that NeoCons share certain characteristics:
Strauss is a philosophy professor who taught that a government must lie to its subjects because they are too ignorant to be told the truth. Does this shed some light on the controversy over Bush's State of the Union claims?
Vincent J. May
I heard this interesting prediction on public access television by one of our local and controversial political pundits. It goes something like this. As in the 2000 presidential election, George W. Bush will also be elected in the 2004 election, because this is what was and has been ordained by the powers that be. Bill Clinton will succeed Kofi Anan as secretary general of the United Nations. So Bush will be playing "bad cop" to the left vs. Clinton's "good cop," while Clinton is playing "bad cop" to the right vs. Bush's "good cop." This is an ingenious ploy that will keep liberals and conservatives at each other's throats, while their liberties are being incrementally and finally eliminated, and as they point the finger at each other. So here we are in a war that will never end, that was not declared by Congress, in violation of the law of the land, against an enemy that is not a nation. We deserve exactly what we are going to get, as we are accepting this situation like sheep. Our founding fathers must be spinning in their graves!
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