Our readers talk back.
Letter to the editors of The Austin Chronicle,
The dismay, anger, and paranoia I felt upon reading of the arrest of Nicole and Jeff Rank in Charleston, N.C. ("The Hightower Report," Aug. 6), led me to make an Internet search about the case. Many details of Mr. Hightower's report were there confirmed.
However, Mr. Hightower chose not to tell the whole story. I learned that charges were dropped, the Ranks received a formal apology from the bipartisan City Council, and the local newspaper published a strong condemnation of the incident. Furthermore, Ms. Cole's job with FEMA by its nature involves frequent reassignments, with gaps between periods of paid employment. (Also, the Ranks live in Corpus Christi, not Charleston, as reported by Mr. Hightower.)
I also learned that the Ranks had apparently attended the rally for the sole purpose of provoking pro-Bush attendees; they wore their anti-Bush T-shirts under other clothing and revealed them once inside the event. While this in no possible way excuses those who overreacted to their presence, I find it appalling that the Ranks chose such cheap, theatrical tactics.
Mr. Hightower's column now seems to me a self-righteous bit of agitprop. Like too many of the hardcore leftists who have discredited my Democratic Party so disastrously, he appears to be addicted to manning the ramparts to the point that he'll manufacture pretexts for erecting them. He never admits that any progress has been made on any social or political front, which can only create more divisiveness at a time when the country is suffering enough from the most viciously poisonous partisanship in decades.
Mr. Hightower, I do not thank you for your hysteria-mongering, nor do I thank the Ranks for seeking to raise the political temperature when they could have more responsibly been trying to shed light. Is this America, indeed?
[Jim Hightower replies: They were arrested for wearing T-shirts!]
I'm a little disappointed by the reply that was tacked to the end of Linda Curtis' letter regarding Ralph Nader's fight to get on the ballot ["Postmarks," Aug. 6]. Curtis brought up several valid points. None of which are addressed in the reply. The only point the writer makes is to cite the number of certified signatures and listing a different number than in Curtis' letter without explaining the difference. Curtis cited the number of raw signatures, he cited the certified ones, although both numbers are technically correct. His pointing out a different number and failing to explain the difference is obviously meant to portray Curtis as wrong. To me this seems disingenuous.
He then went on and attacked an individual he claimed was not an "independent activist." If they are working to get an independent candidate on the ballot, then I would say they fit the definition.
His response should have addressed the point Curtis brought up. Instead of trying to change the debate with smoke and mirrors and personal attacks.
If you want to have an honest discussion of the issue and report truthfully, you shouldn't stoop to these tactics.
[News Editor Michael King responds: I'm sorry James Hammett considers disingenuous my attempt at simple clarification. The number of "raw signatures" on a petition is meaningless. As the Texas Nader plaintiffs acknowledged in court, they had not accumulated by the state deadline the legally required number of signatures of registered voters who had not voted in a primary their case rests on the unfairness of the requirement itself, greater in number than that imposed on third parties. As for the rest, he and I clearly disagree on what constitutes an "independent activist." I stand by what I wrote.]
Many Women Working on Films
I read with interest your article on catering for movies ["Feeding the Film," Food, Aug. 6] and I've been enjoying the "crew stories" series (more, please!). Austin has a very rich and diverse pool of talented crew members, and it is great to see this diversity celebrated in your paper. In the "Page Two" editor's note [Aug. 6] looking back on the "crew stories" series, it is mentioned that Courtney Harrell is "Austin's only female second assistant camera." Fortunately, this is not true. Off the top of my head I can think of four more women (and I'm sure there are more) who are working as camera assistants in Austin. They are Victoria Gonzalez, Cara Singleton, Beth Puorro, and myself. Austin is also the proud home of a female camera operator (Heather Page) and a female still photographer (Deanna Newcomb). All of us have worked very hard to gain respect in our field. While it is true that camera work has traditionally been done by boys, Austin has a deep base of talented girl technicians, and I'm proud of all my sisters for the committed professionalism they bring to each job.
I think it's important to note that, per capita, female camera workers are better represented in Austin than they are in Los Angeles.
'Letters @ 3AM' Powerful
Thank you for a very powerful column ["Letters @ 3am," Aug. 6]. It was worth the chills of seeing little towns I mosied through and remembering how small some of them are and to know this war has touched them in a permanent way.
These towns had a bit to do with one George Bush or another making it to the Oval Office two times. This election they will be making their contribution again, this time to keep it at two terms of Bushes.
They've had their dreams stolen, they've had their children's futures marred with record deficits on the back of tax cuts for the wealthiest few, and now their best and strongest have sacrificed on lies and they will quietly turn George out of office.
Thank you for a good paper, even if I miss "Straight Dope" and don't care for the froufrou new styling.
'Chronicle' Corporate Fascists
In response to Mike Clark-Madison's article on the "Access of Evil" ["Austin@Large," News, Aug. 6], I would like to point out that there was no real open forum on the proposal to discuss the "new and exciting" changes occurring between AMN and ACTV, especially with the very people who are home to the network. In the past, this was not the case. Why the sudden change?
No one disagrees with the fact that AMN is one big money pit that needs to just crash and burn. The real question is why must ACTV go down with it? For the past 30 years, ACTV has successfully run on its allotted money, and now its show of appreciation is to be doomed with AMN.
The alarm over this issue may be well-founded in the fact that some producers have been told personally that their shows will be pulled, simply because they are not liked. This violates cable's agreement with cable access and poses a threat to free speech.
Despite your comment that ACTV is just some "libertarian paradise," the network is home to all ranges of political beliefs: extreme on both ends. It literally welcomes anyone with anything to say. I'm sure if you're interested in setting up a network yourself, there are spots available for corporate fascists.
It Was Only Part One
Thank you for the article about the 13th Floor Elevators ["High Baptismal Flow," Music, Aug. 13]. But what of the murdered guitarist?
[Ed.'s note: See this week's "High Baptismal Flow, Part 2," Music, p.66]
Martinez Issue Complex
We are writing in regard to your article on July 30 entitled "St. Ed's Director Fired" [Arts, July 30], by Robert Faires. As former members of the St. Edward's theatre department, we would like to begin by saying that Dr. Melba Martinez is one of the most creative people we have ever encountered. She does not limit herself to traditional, staid, or conventional ideas. She has a boundless imagination that is not limited by or to this realm.
However, the time, energy, money, manpower, and space required to execute her grand plans is often not available to those trying to complete them. She has no grasp of budgeting concerns or time management, and a disagreement with her has been seen as a challenge to her authority and a lack of respect for her position. Dr. Martinez was the director of the program, artistic director of the theatre, and the only professor that taught certain required classes. Getting on her bad side could make it very difficult for you.
Three years ago many students in the department held meetings with Dr. Lisa Martinez, dean of student affairs, dealing with the students' departmental concerns in terms of curriculum, politics, and power structure. There seemed to be an agreement that something needed to be addressed, rethought, or restructured. Dr. Melba Martinez never attended a meeting; although, she made it clear to us that she did not support them.
While we do agree with Dean Brusatti's decision to ask Dr. Melba Martinez to step down as the artistic director of the theatre, her decision to leave the university entirely is ultimately to the detriment of the students. Hopefully the new artistic director will be open and creative and also have the organizational and managerial skills needed to balance the department.
Ashley Herron and Dallas Williams
Melba Martinez, Inspirational
I was one of Melba Martinez's students before she became artistic director of MMNT. Your article ["St. Ed's Director Fired," Arts, July 30] cites everything she represented for the theatre and its possibilities, already an open door to unlimited potential with the Equity program, but under guidance that seemed wont to push through to the other side. Just as she inspired so many of us to be better at what we do whatever that may be I have no doubt Melba will land on her feet and St. Edward's will be remiss for her departure.
Worried About Cable Access
The City Council has authorized city staff to begin talks with Time Warner concerning the Austin Music Network and ACTV. This may be the beginning of the process of taking Channel 15 away from AMN, merging AMN with ACTV, and freeing up Channel 15 for Time Warner's own commercial use.
From all we have heard about the proposed changes, they would completely destroy what makes our current agreement one that upholds our First Amendment right of free speech. Under the proposed new restructuring, there will be limits to what each producer may broadcast, as their message content must be pigeonholed into one of three newly created content formats.
This is in direct conflict with the present rules established by the Austin Cable Commission which state that the producer, not the city, its officials, or the managers of ACTV is responsible for program content.
These proposed changes have been presented to us by the ACTV board of directors as a way of enhancing quality programming and making the airwaves safe for the children. But this is a sugar coating on the reality of how it will affect public access TV. It sets up a relationship where the sponsors of public access television may, first, have control over its content, and then ultimately acquire the stations for themselves.
AMN is being used as a battering ram for Time Warner to acquire more assets while eliminating the dissenting voice of public access television. There will then be fewer public access news programs to expose the corporate corruption rampant in outfits such as Time Warner. If the city of Austin goes along with this, ACTV will no longer reflect the free speech of the citizens of Austin, and there will no longer be true public access television in Austin.
Didn't Like Dentler's Review
[In reference to "Texas Platters," Music, Aug. 6, "What Would Foscoe Do?"] What would he do? He'd write a letter to the editor. I came to Texas five years ago from North Carolina because of the Kerrville Folk Festival.
I do not come from (and I am not in) the tradition of Cory Morrow or anybody I refuse to be lumped into the genre of Texas country. The Distractions and I play funky blues and jazz, rock & roll, songs with words that even people outside of Texas can relate to. I do not sing about Texas towns, Texas beer, or Texas trucks (not that there's anything wrong with that). I do not sing songs about being raised in Texas. I am proud to live in the free music capital of the world.
For Willie's sake? Foscoe has been my nickname for nine years it comes from a band I played in. When the band broke up I kept the name. My real name is Daniel Richard Harrington (that's got about as much ring as Robert Zimmerman).
I don't care what you call me. You have the wrong guy.
In the five years I've been in Texas, I have never played a single frat party. I've never made over 100 bucks on Sixth Street, and unless it's the west side (Momos, etc.) I don't play there at all. If I'm selling out clubs, where is my money?
I dig Bruce Robison, but I wouldn't try and make an album like his. I would shoot more for a Beck, Wilco, Beatles vibe.
I will never be the next great Texas country hope. I'm just a guy from San Marcos who has some good songs and a kickass band from Austin. What would Matt Dentler do? Maybe he would do some homework. www.foscoejones.net.
It would be very helpful if the film reviewers would mention it when the films (like Man on Fire) have what many would consider to be highly objectionable sadistic scenes like when the jaded hero Denzel slowly cuts off another's fingers and when he put explosives up another's rectum. Such things are extremely repulsive to some, and warnings would be appreciated. It's very sad that some of our filmmakers enjoy indulging in such appalling grossness, but understandable when you consider that thousands of hours of their childhood experiences involved playing Doom and other trash games. That plus the sad fact that we have so-called "leaders" like Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld (to name a few), whom some people actually look up to! It's just another part of a huge sign that shouts "something is very wrong with our civilization things are getting uglier when they should and could be getting better." It's comforting to know/believe that the darkest hour is right before the dawn we seem to be almost there.
Faces Tour: Travel, Show, Fun
From 1970 to mid-1972, I was part of the Tycobrahe Sound Company crew that did all of the Faces shows. Your generous review of Ian McLagan's new box set of the Faces tries very hard to capture the spirit of that era ["Saving Face," Music, Aug. 6]. Trust me, it was more raucous than could possibly be put into words. Only three things made up a Faces tour: travel, show, fun. Fun was by far the largest part of the experience. Looking back over all those years I can tell you from the firsthand experience of having worked with the Rolling Stones, the Who, and lately Paul McCartney, the Faces were the epitome of what everyone dreams of working for a rock & roll band would be like. No band that I can remember ever consisted of such hilarious, highly charged, dedicated but honest musicians than this bunch. I can only offer a sincere thank you to Mac, Kenny, Rod, Woody, and Plonk for the experience of a lifetime, which has lasted until this day.
Free Is Just Another Word ...
Dear Austin Chronicle,
A correction? You listed the Chaparral Ice grand opening as a free event, but it cost me $6 to get in [Community listings, Aug. 6]! Boo hoo.
Although skate rental was free, and there was an exhibition, (one tiny girl whirling gracefully), things seemed, pardon the pun, a bit rinky-dink. There were no Ice Bats hanging around, nor Fang, their heralded mascot. But, there was a nice tattooed fellow who explained the bats usually play hockey at the Expo Center, and there would also be ice skating lessons at the other Chaparral Ice on I-35. Unless that was Fang?
I also enjoyed last week's article on Austin artists Jenny Hart's pinup-style embroidery and Hope Perkins rappers found in unusual background jackets, along with the usual Camp Fig heroes ["Stitching Up a Storm," Visual Arts, Aug. 6]. So far Camp Fig has had some incredibly likeable designs and artwork at their shows.
Just a word to the weird from your avid reader and fan,
Noelle "scenester" Poisot
Jones: Rights and Responsibilities
I'm no longer involved with Austin Access and didn't read Mike Clark-Madison's article ["Austin@Large," News, Aug. 6] until I saw the hysterical letters from Jones' defenders attacking it. It was ill-advised to call Jones an "asshole"; leaves you open to the ad hominem charge and all that. But it's sad to see so many people attaching themselves to Jones' black helicopter fantasies with such emotionalism. I suppose that's what you get when you have a presidency that really is borderline fascist.
Like a TV evangelist, he provides no credible evidence for his claims, just the passion and authority of his delivery and nonstop appeals to such emotions as fear. Critical thinking is virtually nonexistent in our culture, and guys like Jones, Roberston, and Falwell milk that for all it's worth.
I'd not deny Jones his free speech rights for a nanosecond, but rationalists everywhere should be concerned how such persons appeal to a disenfranchised lunatic fringe. Don't take lightly the guy who wrote "You want a war, you got it" ["Postmarks," Aug. 13]. Jones' irresponsible rants have already inspired one wingnut to take up arms. In 2002 a loon named Richard McCaslin got 11 years for arming himself to the teeth, donning a homemade superhero costume labeled Phantom Patriot, and invading the Bohemian Grove, where, according to one of Jones' "documentaries," the president was holding Satanic baby-killing rituals or something. As inept as he was stupid, McCaslin was easily caught. But could our future hold a Jones-inspired Tim McVeigh?
Enjoyed Fine Austin Restaurants
On a recent visit to Austin, I picked up a copy of The Austin Chronicle. I really enjoyed reading your "Water Tables" [Food, July 2] restaurant-review article when I got back home. The week your article was published, we ate at Shades and True Grits. We were seated by a bright and energetic young lady at Shades and were generally very impressed by the waitstaff. True Grits also had lively and intelligent service. We liked the food and family-friendly atmosphere at both places very much. We are looking forward to returning to both of these places on future visits to Austin.