Our readers talk back.
Stand Up for Our RightsDear Chronicle,
I wanted to write the Chronicle about the upcoming city vote regarding smoking in public establishments ["Austin to Vote Smoke-Free?," News, March 11]. I am an avid pool player, a friend of the local music scene, and I currently attend a smaller university in the area. A certain organization has decided that it is more beneficial to the public that I no longer be able to smoke while I shoot pool or attend a show. It's not enough that I am taxed an extra amount for the purchase of cigarettes, now they must turn smoking into such a sin that it must take place in alleys and doorways.
Several months ago I was forced to not be able to smoke in restaurants with designated smoking sections and I had to deal with it. Now I am being told that Onward Austin is pushing for city legislation that prohibits me from smoking while listening to my favorite band or playing a game of nine ball at Slick Willie's or Rack Daddy's. What is next? No smoking on city streets without a permit or license? Will the next city ordinance be that I cannot smoke while in a motor vehicle?
I implore that The Austin Chronicle support local business and stand up for smokers across Austin; help turn down the new city ordinance that is coming up soon for the May ballot!
Motivating WordsMr. Black,
I'm a visitor here and picked up a copy of your paper. Just wanted to commend you on the inspiring "Page Two" pre-SXSW column [March 11]. Spot-on thoughts for those seekers who spend much of their time immersed in all of the events and keep repeating to themselves, "Why don't I ...?"
Very motivating words.
Hot Springs, Ark.
SXSW Was OursDear Louis Black,
Awaiting the South by Southwest invasion, I read your "Page Two" article in the March 4 Chronicle. You state that "[t]he people are the best part [of SXSW]. ... People from around the world ... loving this town called Austin." You also say that it is "the people and the businesses of Austin, which are the defining qualities of SXSW." While Austin businesses do benefit from SXSW, there are people whom SXSW has abandoned: the locals.
I am the fourth generation of my family born in Austin. I grew up here, bought a house here. I attended some of the early SXSW Music Festivals in the late Eighties. Back then, wristbands were five and 10 dollars; I never had to wait more than 10 minutes to get into any club, and everybody waited in the same line; most of the visiting bands were unsigned and actually from the South or Southwest. Now wristbands are more than a hundred dollars; you might wait hours outside a club with your wristband while industry people with badges waltz right inside; and many bands are already signed and not from anywhere near Texas. SXSW was ours. The organizers sold it out from under us.
Every year SXSW forces itself upon Austin, making it difficult for locals to eat at our restaurants, drink at our bars, or merely park downtown. And what special considerations does SXSW give Austinites? Nothing. People from around the world love Austin for a one-week stand, then leave us locals feeling used.
Mr. Black, I am not trying to "attack and denigrate" SXSW. I realize that it requires hard work. I simply ask that you "reassess" Austinites' future role in SXSW. (Twenty-five-dollar wristbands for those born in Austin, maybe?) Just remember us, your people, the locals who year round embrace Austin.
Doesn't Want New RoadsDear Editor,
I think Brewster McCracken's idea of doing a study on the advisability of building billions' worth of toll roads is a brilliant idea ["Point Austin," March 11, News], especially since there was little public discussion of the issue. However, I think the $100,000 price tag is too steep. In the interest of public service I would like to offer my own study gratis: "As we experience record gasoline prices and further price increases are on the way, it makes no more sense to spend billions on toll roads than it does to spend billions building an eight-track tape factory."
More BettahDear Editor,
Equally important to this column signaling the arrival of the new and improved, more bettah Louis Black ["Page Two," March 11] I'm willing to bet it will change the life of anyone who reads it, for the the better, forever.
I've often told my kids that what society places value on has little or nothing to do with things as they really are, in the grander scheme, way beyond man's present capability to understand all the seen and unseen forces at work that make our world.
So Louis, while you won't win a Pulitzer for this column, I have a rather good feeling that somewhere up on high, you've just hit the mother lode on brownie points.
Way to go.
From someone who hasn't always been a fan.
Time to Bring in DeLayDear Editor,
I never thought I'd say it, but perhaps the people of Texas need to bring in Tom DeLay to help them get our state Legislature and our governor to act on school financing and a tax bill.
Seems to me that's the only time these folks acted with a sense of purpose (albeit misguided) to get something passed.
I wonder what we all need to kick in to have Mr. DeLay strong-arm legislation that actually serves the people of Texas?
Dissecting SXSW Band NamesDear Editor,
In studiously reviewing the musical choices for this year's SXSW Music Festival, I have noticed some interesting tendencies in nomenclature. Names describe what must certainly be traumatic, but nevertheless one imagines, real, life experiences of the band members the musicians' attempts at Pop Art if you will. Lest you consider my analysis too esoteric, I encourage the reader to examine these tendencies directly. One cannot help but notice how noms de plume chosen by the various artists are almost Fibonacci-like, in that a definite pattern emerges from the chaos.
Some of the groups seem to choose minimalist language when describing the relevant action (see 1). Juxtaposed against this, we find more indirect, perhaps disguised, uses of expression (see 2). As can be expected with any wide sampling, we find powerful examples of rhyme (see 3) and vociferousness (see 4) used for affect. Additional choices by the musicians seem to signify certain geographic locations underlying some sort of anatomical event (see 5); still others create a combine of sorts, blending the vociferous with the anatomical and a more regional geographical element (see 6). In a subtle nod to the geographic and anatomical themes, one discovers words of foreign derivation used to allude to both origin and organ the apparent issues at hand for the particular artist (see 7). The specimens examined conclude where we began, with somewhat more direct imagery (see 8).
Footnotes actual names of referenced SXSW 2005 bands:
1) Dogs Die in Hot Cars
2) The Lascivious Biddies (author's note: "biddies" can be traced to its root form "biddy," meaning hen or young chicken)
3) Sluts of Trust
4) Southern Bitch
5) Nashville Pussy
6) Alabama Thunderpussy
7) Feable Weiner
8) Selfish Cunt
FYI: Wooderson drove a Chevelle, not a Camaro ["Phases & Stages," Music, Feb. 25].
Honoring Sir DougHello,
My name is Betty Ritter and I'm 39 years old. I'm writing to remind you about three online petitions I've created: one is to honor the wonderful Doug Sahm (an extremely talented, yet highly underrated singer-songwriter/musician) and the other two are to help get Doug and the Sir Douglas Quintet inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, under the category of "influence." You can find the petitions at:
Please remember, though, to click on "approve signature" when you are prompted to do so; otherwise, for some reason, they won't add your signature.
Thank you for taking the time to read my letter ... and please ... let us all remember "Sir" Doug Sahm and the Sir Douglas Quintet!
God be with you!
Rock Crusher ConcernsDear Editor,
As a resident of Elliott Ranch in Buda, I am very concerned about the rock crusher operating west of Buda on 967. Our community is already negatively impacted by this facility and they are not yet properly permitted. Our roads are already dangerously overcrowded and it is only a matter of time before a tragedy occurs. In addition to traffic issues, this facility sits atop the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone, which supplies water to thousands of Northern Hays and Travis County residents. We need regulations now for additional rock-crushing facilities in Texas. The current proposed bills in the Texas Legislature are a smoke screen for the real issues. Please support our cause and save our community. All we are asking for is responsible growth. For more information go to www.stopthecrusher.com.
Concertgoers, Shut Up!Dear Editor,
Two words for Austin concertgoers: Shut it.
I am amazed and embarrassed by the number of fools who shell out good money to see great artists, only to try to talk, or rather yell, over the band. They pay little or no attention to what's happening onstage and seem interested only in being part of some little scene. Well, you're not at home or at the frat house or on a conference call. And lose the cell phone.
The sync between a great audience and the musicians onstage can lift a performance into the realm of magic. We've all experienced this at one time or another. So why, as the Live Music Capital of the World, don't we respect and encourage this?
I'll do my part by respectfully asking you to shut your pie hole.
Fire No Joking Matter, EverDear Editor,
New England suffered a tragic loss not so long ago when a fire at the Station nightclub claimed the lives of 100 young concertgoers. Public spaces from all six New England states have altered safety procedures in efforts to never again see such a terrible day. The topic is about as humorous as prison abuse, beheadings, and racial profiling. That is to say, there is no joke appropriate for the occasion, especially for cops. As a theatre producer, no task is more important than assuring that all 1,000 patrons remain safe while attending events I produce. The police are not afforded the luxury of tiring of keeping the public safe. Thankfully, no one died at the Midtown ["Naked City," News, Feb. 25]. The inference made by the flurry of police e-mails that Midtown, the fifth busiest club for police response citywide, deserved to burn implies that its innocent patrons' lives are of lower value to authorities. Austin, the production world is watching. In the wake of this scandal, fire marshals had better make damn sure that event attendees are safe in Austin, a city noted nationwide for excellent live music and the venues that support it.
Tax Jesus!Dear Editor,
The ones who support displaying Judeo-Christian doctrine and guidelines for their morality such as the Ten Commandments forget that this country is a cultural melting pot ["Naked City," News, March 4]. The ones who wish to press this issue are going to be the loudest because they are the most selfish and rude. The rest of us have enough manners not to ram our beliefs down people's collective throat. I still say that if this ruling is to be fair, then either disallow all religion from government or give all religions in this country equal billing and time. One way to insure this is if any religion wants government endorsement then they should pay taxes for it. Tax Jesus! Food for thought: Great things do not have to tell you they're great ... you can figure it out on your own.
No Idea Festival ThanksEditor,
This is Chris Cogburn director of the Creative Music Workshop and Ten Pounds to the Sound record/DVD label. I am writing to say thank you for including Michael Chamy's wonderfully written review of the No Idea Festival double CD, included in your February 11 edition ["Texas Platters," Music].
It was a delight to read such a thoughtful and genuinely inquisitive piece written about the CD document of this four-day gathering of creative musicians here in Austin (and Houston) last spring. While the CD, and the festival in general, has been gaining recognition throughout the world of improvised music, it is rather inspiring to hear that this work of a few committed improvisers is not only being recognized by your publication, but that it is also being intelligently and passionately discussed and considered. In noncommercial art forms, this sharing of process and collective, active contributions to the art itself, is considered one of the art's highest successes.
This year's No Idea Festival, the third annual, takes place March 31 through April 3 four days and nights of music from creative improvising musicians from all corners of the U.S., Europe, and Japan, including artists from: NYC, Berlin, Portland, Boston, Philadelphia, Seattle, San Francisco, New Mexico, Baltimore, Houston, and of course, Austin.
For more information, please visit: www.noideafestival.com.
All the best,
Veterans Deserve Our HelpTo the editor,
As Congress begins to debate President Bush's newly proposed budget, it's important for us to remind them just how devastating the budget cuts would be to Americans. When it comes to America's top priorities from homeland security to educating our children Bush's budget is a true disaster. Yes, Texans, it is.
Bush wants to cut $420 million in homeland security funds, taking cops, firefighters, and other first responders off our streets. He plans to cut $60 billion in Medicaid, enough to provide health coverage for 1.8 million children. And Bush would underfund his own No Child Left Behind Act by more than $13 billion.
And while Bush cuts these vital priorities, his budget sticks future generations with a record $427 billion deficit new debt we'll have to borrow from foreign countries like China and Japan.
Veterans deserve our help. Period.
President Bush's new budget makes it clear: His priorities don't match ours. It's time for Congress to trash it and start over.
Cheap Energy's DeclineDear Editor,
Cheap energy's decline is inevitable. Does anyone disagree? There is credible evidence that we are very close to global peak oil production. Oil production follows a bell curve, so the downward slope of the curve will mean an increasingly higher amount of effort to extract the oil from the earth, increasingly poorer quality oil, and therefore increasingly higher prices. The faith that the transition to the next cheap energy source to fuel our lifestyles will be smooth is irresponsible, and as stated in End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream, www.endofsuburbia.com, "there's no combination of so-called alternative fuels that are going to allow us to run what we're running in the United States the way we're running it now on oil and natural gas. No amount of solar, or wind, or nuclear is going to allow us to continue living this way of life. Hydrogen is an interesting example of a public delusion. Hydrogen is a joke. Generally it takes more energy to make hydrogen than you get from the hydrogen. We have a great crisis coming in energy. The longer we ignore the issue, the more painful the problem will become." I believe the U.S. government's focus on the Middle East and the war in Iraq to be overwhelmingly about an interest to control the last remaining oil reserves on the planet. We can support such a greedy and irresponsible agenda, we can pay no attention to it, or we can fight it. See: www.fromthewilderness.com, www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net, www.oilcrisis.com, www.floydanderson.com.
Socialists' Triumph?Dear Editor,
Many liberals, including myself, have balked at the idea that we will soon be able to divert a portion of our Social Security payroll taxes into private investment accounts. After all, the conservative right devised this scheme. Isn't that grounds for immediate dismissal?
Then again, hasty judgment prevents broadmindedness. Perhaps some benefit could come from such drastic changes.
Clearly, the current executive branch would like to eliminate most of our federal social services. The past five years have also shown that this presidency is unabashedly pro big business. However, Bush's plans for Social Security are veering from his steadfastness to laissez-faire capitalism.
In his State of the Union, Bush announced that Americans would soon have the option of diverting some of their retirement monies into funds similar to those available for federal employees. What he failed to mention is that Thrift Savings Plans are managed through a bid process that bears a striking resemblance to government regulation.
If his proposal passes, the government would eventually have more swing on Wall Street than the attorney general of New York. Our president's plan adds a level of bureaucracy, elevates socialism, and takes power from the same corporations that backed his re-election. He is actually proposing that the United States government should be the largest stakeholder in the global economy.
Imagine a day where our votes (not as stockholders, but as citizens) will actually dictate which corporations receive financial backing. Global corporations currently have few regulatory restraints, but with the overhaul of Social Security any corporate action that does not align itself with the will of the American people could loose a tremendous amount of its capital in the matter of one election cycle.
The overhaul of Social Security may be democracy's last chance to check corporate domination.
Don't Change Workers' CompDear Editor,
Well, the Texas Legislature and their insurance company buddies are at it again. This time, with Senate Bill 5, they are looting the Texas workers' compensation system and hard-working Texans to protect record insurance-company profits. That's right. The Legislature is in cahoots with the insurance companies. Some things never change!
There are problems in the system, but the Legislature's solution of allowing an insurance company mouthpiece, the Workers Compensation Research Institute, to decide what changes need to be made suggests that our politicians aren't listening to the workers of Texas. The WCRI won't even release their data to the public, but the citizens of Texas are supposed to trust them? Does the Legislature think Texas workers are idiots?
Concerned workers of Texas should contact their local senator or representative immediately to let the Legislature know that relying on insurance company "secret" data will not be tolerated. Ask your legislator why the insurance companies are hiding the data, and find out if your legislator supports Texas workers or the fat-cat insurance companies.
It's time for the workers of Texas to stand up and be counted. Tell your legislator that enough is enough, before it's too late. What are the insurance companies so afraid of? If their data is accurate, why won't they show it to any of us? Texas legislators need to do better by Texas workers.
Let's not remain silent any longer. Contact your local senator and representative today. If you are unsure as to who to contact, call 512/463-4630 or visit the Legislature's Web site at www.capitol.state.tx.us/fyi/fyi.htm to locate your representatives.
Dallas[Editor's note: The Chronicle has received several similar letters.]
Talk, Talk, TalkDear Editor,
As I was listening to Sen. Ted Kennedy address the Senate on minimum wage and the effect of bankruptcy on poor people on C-SPAN 2, I heard a lot of pretty words, but show me the personal donations he has made to programs that help the poor. If you are going to talk the talk, you need to walk the walk.