Our readers talk back.
Remarkable Women Working in Theatre
Seeing Lisa Byrd on the cover and the accompanying article by Molly Beth Brenner ["Sisters Under the Scrim," Sept. 12] prompts me to write. I submit that these talented women represent the tip of the iceberg of women working behind the scenes in Austin. This is something that makes me proud to live and work here.
When I began touring with the Joffrey Ballet 17 years ago, it was rare to see many women on a stage crew (except in wardrobe). I will never forget the excitement and dismay over a woman carpenter at City Center in New York. Back home in Austin, IATSE Local 205 already had several skilled female stagehands and projectionists in its ranks. Lisa Byrd was one of them.
Today, 18% of the members of Local 205 are women. Many have followed the trail blazed by members like Lisa Byrd, as well as others such as Mary Nelson, currently the production manager at the Paramount Theatre, and Rita Kelso, wardrobe supervisor for past productions of the Austin Musical Theatre.
Thank you for spotlighting these remarkable women.
IATSE Local 205
UT Not Color Blind to Mexican-Americans
It was with great consternation that I read the article on the dismissal of Mr. Guerra ["Closing the Books," Sept. 12] and the closing of CMAS Books through a unilateral decision of the CMAS director, Jose Limón. Unfortunately, this is not the first time that the UT system has allowed the wholesale slaughter of efforts targeting academic research and programs that focus on Chicano/Latino issues. The administration at the University of Texas at Arlington gutted the Center for Mexican American Studies as it was just getting under way. It currently exists, but certainly not with the community-outreach focus it had at the time. It appears that UT-Austin has the "patron" mentality when it comes to Mexican-Americans -- in other words, what you say and do is OK as long as you are saying and doing what is OK with "me," i.e., administration. Where are the academic freedom rights of Dr. Guerra that are extended without question to Anglo faculty? This is another sad chapter in the relationship between the UT system and the Mexican-American community, and I'm not surprised. However, just as UT-Arlington had to pay money to the staff at CMAS who were unfairly treated by their unilateral decision, Mr. Guerra will probably also receive our tax dollars to compensate for the wrongs of the UT-Austin administration. It is time for the UT system to be truly colorblind and to allow Chicanos/Latinos to raise concerns without fear of being fired.
CMAS Books Closing Tragic
I was saddened and shocked by the news that CMAS Books was being closed down ["Closing the Books," Sept. 12]. I am the editor of a similar small academic press, the Ethnic Studies Library Publications Unit at the University of California at Berkeley. Both CMAS Books and Victor Guerra are highly regarded in our publishing niche. This is a shameful turn of events which is being brought to the attention of the public thanks to your newspaper. I hope that Mr. Guerra will be compensated for the injustice that has occurred. His long and productive career should be rewarded; instead he is summarily fired. Such a loss to ethnic publishing is unforgivable.
New Yorkers Brilliant; Texans Stupid
Reading various reviews offered by Jones and Baumgarten, a foreign reader can't help but giggle at the incredible divide between East Coast reviewers and the rest of the U.S. Generally speaking, it would seem that what Texans consider pretentious and boring are precisely the films that New Yorkers consider vital and stimulating. For example, Jones' recent review of a remarkable film that is highly praised in both New York and Paris, Fellini: I'm a Born Liar, seems written by someone tremendously proud of her ignorance, as if to say, "There! I've debunked another boring foreign film." And yet, far better critical minds writing for high-level magazines such as The New Yorker described the film as a superb piece of filmmaking. The critic, David Denby, has been reviewing for more than 30 years and his judgment is finely honed and thoroughly documented. If Jones is certainly entitled to her opinion, there is still the critic's imperative to evaluate a film based on a professional knowledge of critical methods. And yet, her review reveals that she knows precious little about Fellini or the forms of innovative filmmaking in general. Still, she'll bluff her way through, writing in clichés to meet her deadline. It's a pitiful performance by any standard, whether East Coast, West Coast, or Parisian. Jones should leave critical matters to those with bona fide talent but, above all, blessed with intellectual honesty. And for some reason, I doubt this will be printed in The Austin Chronicle.
[Editor's note: Excerpts from e-mail response sent to Will James: Will, us hicks here in the innards of the country are always so grateful when our far more worldly and sophisticated brethren in those big Eastern cities condescend to enlighten us on our many shortfalls. Here I would have thought that to accuse a review one disagreed with of lacking intellectual honesty would be sophomoric, but turns out that I'm wrong. It would seem the height of pretentious arrogance to argue that Paris and New York have the "right" opinion on films, and us dumb hicks know nothing, but you set me straight. You've got to forgive us our ignorance, because some of your "East Coast" critical and film folks have gone out of their way to compliment our film coverage over the years, including Pauline Kael, Elvis Mitchell, Jonathan Demme, John Pierson, and John Sayles among many others, and Film Comment, when it offers surveys of critical opinions not solely located on the two coasts, often includes us. Birthed as most of us are by married siblings, we didn't realize they were just humoring us out of pity. Unfortunately, Kim is no longer on our staff, though still reviewing, because after being accepted into the writing program at the University of Montana and the Michener program at the University of Texas, she decided to go back to school. Isn't that funny, a non-New Yorker thinking they could write? Damn, that's dumb.]
Passing Proposition 12 Limits Texas Citizens' Rights
What a sad day in Texas. People, do you realize what has happened? With the passing of Proposition 12, we the people have lost one of the basic tenets of democracy: the right to redress in the courts, by judge and jury. This power has now been given to legislators and the lobbyists that own them. How is it possible that such a major event slips by practically unnoticed? It is possible because those legislators, with their backing industry lobbyists, were successful through lies and propaganda to misinform 500,000 Texans. It only took 500,000 misinformed people, approximately 2% of the population of Texas, to give away this vitally important right of all its citizens. The depressing level of voter apathy, indicated by a 9-12% turnout, will insure the further erosion of our liberties and rights. Decent government and real democracy cannot be maintained with these levels of vigilance. We will have the government we deserve.
All Kinds of Jam
In response to Jason Smith's ["Postmarks," Sept. 12] comment, "String Cheese as if they have any bluegrass in them at all anymore. Please." The article ["Jammin'," Sept. 5] was written about jamming in general. It is impossible to name all the bands that jam in the form of bluegrass, especially the resurgence in Austin. The Gourds are a very talented band, but I find it difficult to fit them into the bluegrass genre. String Cheese Incident, on the other hand, was founded on bluegrass. It remains within their sound today. I suggest you go to the ACL Fest this weekend and listen to some of the bluegrass artists attending. There will be many bands to listen to, and you will realize, Cheese is still one of the most innovative jam/bluegrass bands on the planet.
Critique as Silly as Movie
Your guy Marc Savlov wrote in his review of The Order that the "church is close to collapsing under its own perverse weight these days." I know the movie is probably silly, but that comment is just as silly as well. I found that to be quite out of character for him and uncalled for. That couldn't be further from the truth.
Replacing Trees With Buildings Ludicrous
I am not sure from where Mr. Patrick Goetz ["Postmarks," Sept. 12] is transplanted, but could it be from somewhere along the Eastern Seaboard megalopolis? Might I suggest he leave all that behind and try to get a better feel of where he is living now? These old urban neighborhoods give Austin its inherent feel.
Is he, maybe, just stuck in his head and doesn't easily see the reality of what already exists and the reality of change? A change leading to crowding and concrete, more stress, and a type of insanity large cities breed -- then add long hot summers.
Travis Heights is an old, established neighborhood. Our centuries-old trees are integral. Most of us moved to the neighborhood for the life in it, not explicitly for profiting from its property.
That Ms. Barkley does not live on the property emphatically makes her not a member of the community, nor a neighbor, and her behavior reinforces the fact. Now, to call the neighbors "unneighborly" is beyond twisted.
If you look at most properties in the Travis Heights area, there is not room for a second residence. Therefore, it does not apply, regarding Barkley's property, to talk of creating an "urban village." Hers has no potential to be part of a "building to the sidewalk" design. As to a Kinney Street without variances nor trees: no thanks.
I've lived in New York City and cities in America and Europe. The truth is, when I got here 25 years ago, it was the trees, throughout, that attracted me. To consider replacing them with buildings is ludicrous in this town -- or any town.
What Austin has is just right! The sense of community is strong, the intelligence level is high, and, in most, the sense of what is right and what is wrong is well intact.
Fairview Park, twixt SoCo & Travis Heights