Our readers talk back.
'Save Lick Creek'Editor,
Thank you for your excellent reporting and coverage of the deplorable situation on Lick Creek, as well as other issues besieging western Travis County ["Up From the Slime Commissioners Push for Water Quality Rules," News, March 18]. Those of us who live on Lick Creek have been saddened and angered to see its crystal-clear waters (which ran clear for hundreds of years until August of 2003) first filled with sediment and runoff debris due to poor engineering and now clogged with sickening green algae due to overfertilization and a disastrous experimentation with untested and controversial erosion controls.
What is, perhaps, most frustrating of all is the fact that all of this pollution could have been avoided had only our upstream neighbors given a moment's thought to the design, placement, and long-term effects of their development's dam and retention pond. Mistakes have consequences and we are living with some pretty serious mistakes.
After months of trying to obtain help from various regulatory agencies, including TCEQ, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Travis County, LCRA, and fruitless discussions with the developers, we had absolutely no recourse but to seek relief by filing a federal lawsuit under the Clean Water Act. A jury trial in federal court is scheduled for this fall.
"Save Lick Creek" has become the battle cry for those in western Travis County who cherish this bit of heaven in the beautiful Texas Hill Country. We encourage anyone who cares about our fragile environment to get involved and let their voices be heard. It's not too late, not even for Lick Creek!
The Guardians of Lick Creek
Roky FanDear Editor,
That shot of Roky Erickson on your cover is fantastic [March 18]. It's really heartwarming to know he's doing well and to see a picture that reflects all the recent things I've been reading about him.
And I'm extremely jealous of everyone who got to see him at the Ice Cream Social. That's what I get for moving to D.C., but I picked up the new compilation of his songs to make up for it. I hope everyone else does the same.
The Night I Drooled BloodTo the fabulous Louis Black,
Hopefully you are now getting some much-needed rest; you probably deserve it.
Upon reading "Page Two" (March 11) it felt like you had written it with a little bit of my band in mind. It is not easy keeping a band going whose lead singer is a 6-foot-tall alien creature puppet that sings like a puppet, in an unpopular genre. Lucid Dementia has applied for SXSW eight years in a row, including this year, and has never won a showcase (can any of you whiners top that?!). So you can only imagine how exciting it was for me to be invited to the Austin Music Awards to accept an award!
I've learned to enjoy my artistic life by moments, rather than by expectations. Like the moment I sold my first CD, and every CD after that, and the first time I heard one of my songs in a club, and people got up and were dancing to it, or the time I was recognized by a fan in a grocery store, and now, the night I drooled blood on the Austin Music Hall stage accepting an award for best industrial/goth band.
Will my music ever be bigger than Britney Spears? I don't know, but whatever happens, I will always have my beautiful moments.
They Ain't WhiningDear Louis,
Thanks for your column and your grace in including my comments ["Page Two," March 18]. In the words of Ray Wylie, "We like to get paid. It just doesn't always work out."
I agree it's about the music not the money, and the people I'm talking about certainly do it, as you and others have said, simply because "one can't not do it."
What I'm trying to say is there are, as you kindly agreed, a lot of incredibly talented and hardworking people here, presumably reading your column in which you're decrying the whiners.
These gifted people just go out and do it, and have done it for years.
They have not been "found" by the constant, industry-wide search you were talking about.
In fact they aren't making jack, and are making huge efforts and compromises simply to keep doing it.
And they ain't whining.
Warmest personal regards,
Gracious ThanksDear Editor,
While we've never garnered much local press and SXSW won't give us the time of day, Austin's No. 2 punk rock band would like to thank our fans, the local music community, and Chronicle readers for hopefully opening some eyes (and ears) to what the Midgetmen do ["The 2004-05 Austin Music Awards," March 18]. Without the help of the wonderful people at places like Flamingo Cantina and Red Eyed Fly, the Midgetmen would never have gained enough exposure and fans to trounce so many other notable established Austin punks who inhabit Red River. It's an honor to see our name with the likes of Cruiserweight, the Yuppie Pricks, and the Applicators when people talk about "the best."
Thank you to the fans and the electoral process,
Sorely DisappointedTo whom it may concern,
I invested $150 and my entire spring break in SXSW in hopes that it would live up to its reputation. I was sorely disappointed when Friday and Saturday I spent more than five hours in line and no hours listening to the music I paid to see. Sunday wasn't even worth going to, as only three venues were even hosting bands. A number of things about this festival were unfair. The fact that 34 out of 52 of the venues were age-restricted in a college town where half the college students are minors doesn't make sense except to club owners intent on making alcohol profits. I saw maybe three long lines in front of the 21-and-older clubs, while five or six of the all-ages venues were impossible to get into. Another part of the problem was the fact that anyone could get in if they arrived early enough. Standing in front of Red Eyed Fly, someone mentioned that they had sold out of night pass tickets hours earlier. People who hadn't invested more than $100 in a wristband (or more than $400 in a badge, many of whom also couldn't get in) just arrived a few hours early and got in for a cover charge. I was under the impression that by purchasing a wristband I bought myself a fairly reasonable chance of getting to see the shows I wanted, but apparently that was only true on weeknights when night-pass people hadn't joined the crowd. I feel that I was ripped off big time. There is no reason for a festival to be so poorly run that the expense is far from worth the reward, and I imagine that the operators were quite aware of the fact that they were overselling the shows.
Get Over It!Dear Editor,
This is in response to Raad German's Postmark from the March 18 Chronicle and all the other whiny locals that hate SXSW. Get over it! It's not the Eighties anymore, wristbands aren't $10, Liberty Lunch is gone, Stevie Ray is dead. Any true fan of live music would embrace a four-to-five-day onslaught of bands from all over the world. What are these out-of-towners doing for us, you ask? How about bringing not only their music, but their money. I'm sure the local restaurant/bar owners aren't complaining about the extra business. It's the best event, in the best town in the world. Embrace it! It's only Thursday and I've seen a dozen bands, mostly for free or a low cover charge. Being a regular patron of live music here in Austin, I've gotten the "local" hookup you whine about not getting. Learn to grow with your surroundings or get left behind, stuck in the Eighties, making us look bad.
SXSW Enabling, Not UsingDear Editor,
Wow, Raad German really takes SXSW personally ["Postmarks," March 18]. It "forces itself upon Austin" and "leave[s] us locals feeling used."
I'll agree that for local music fans it's basically a good time to stay home. During SXSW there's no going to places like the Saxon Pub and hearing living legends like Ian McLagan playing for a handful of people. Or Grammy winners like Asleep at the Wheel playing a grocery store (Central Market) for free. But that seems a small price to pay for all the times that you can do so, the other 361 days of the year.
Without the boost of dollars coming into their coffers every year a lot of these venues would be gone, or converted to shot and DJ bars. Live music requires live music clubs, live music clubs require money from fans. I do what I can, and it sounds like Raad does too. But that isn't enough, not with ever higher rents, insurance, state fees, etc. The SXSW people aren't using us; they're enabling us. Call it a money transfusion or whatever, it's an essential part of keeping live music living. So skip the club shows, there's always the big free shows at Auditorium Shores, great bands, lotsa room, and no wristbands required.
I also thought it odd that the one solution Raad suggested for feeling used was a cheaper wristband. After all that complaining about overcrowded clubs, the solution is to put even more people in line trying to get in? Interesting.
This 'Affliction' Is a Blast!Dear Editor,
For some reason, it seems to have become fashionable to whine and complain about SXSW and the events around it, as if they are some sort of affliction or temporary illness to be endured.
Well I enjoyed it. The whole crazy week. (Of course, I manage a pub, so the extra business is a big bonus, but I still had fun.) I enjoyed meeting lots of new people, hearing more than 30 bands in four days (without leaving the pub), chatting with a mélange of actors, filmmakers and film buffs, rodeo buffs, basketball nuts, musicians of all stripes, reporters, and plain ol' music fans.
I enjoyed bragging about the fine winter weather, and all the fun that Austin has to offer. I tried to explain what "Keep Austin Weird" means to curious L.A. visitors, and why bats are a prime tourist attraction. I had an especially fine time as St Patrick's Day collided with SXSW in a riot of Irish music. Sure it's a zoo, and I wish we could spread out events like this so they don't all happen in March, but it's our zoo. Enjoy it.
Kudos to our SXSW crew, and to all who make this "annual affliction" such a blast.
Mad Rush to TollsDear Editor,
Many Central Texans are concerned about the Texas Department of Transportation's new policy of tolling freeways built with gas-tax funds. This is happening all over Austin, Texas, over public opposition.
Citizens concerned about this extra, unjustifiable fee on paid-for highways should ask their representatives to support House Bill 3363 by Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, which would place a two-year moratorium on levying tolls on state roads originally built using gas-tax financing.
This moratorium will stop TxDOT's mad rush to tolling and allow more study of options and more public input.
A Really Fine Austin TimeDear Margaret Moser and the Chronicle folks at large,
Congratulations! The awards show was a flat-out hoot this year! Finally, Johnny X Reed is in the Hall of Fame! (How about an in-depth coverage story on the "X" for those new kids in black?) The Roky cover is killer (nods to W.V. Overbeek) and so good to "see" [March 18]! So is Roky! Oh! Thanks for the mighty Neville Brothers at Auditorium Shores it had that old-school feel for sure! Thanks y'all for showing everyone a really fine Austin, Texas, time!
Unsolicited Music ReviewsLouis,
This is an unsolicited music review. Today I heard three groups. I don't know the name of any of them. One set up next to my shop on South Congress: a guitar, a fiddle, a banjo. They held the attention of folks on the sidewalk with some pleasant bluegrass until that nifty little thunderstorm came through. The next was a conga set, a bass fiddle, and a trumpet. Man, they sounded nice. Set up inside one of the latest shops to open on the strip. The final sound I heard was someone screaming into a mic, accompanied by some others masturbating across their instruments. All amplified. All invading the privacy of my front porch which was far away from the event. I sought out the first two sounds. They were enticing. I endured the last. It was intrusive. To me, it was pollution.
Curtis' Independents Un(der)recognizedDear Editor:
Thanks to Michael King for his piece on Comptroller Carole Strayhorn's audit of the Toll Authority ["Point Austin," News, March 18]. I was at her press conference. What a hoot seeing the "one tough grandma" going after the highway robbin' bandits!
Strayhorn is not just tough, she's smart. She knows that those who make the rules rule. I believe that is why she sent letters to thousands of people complaining about the toll roads, telling them that the "double tax" toll plan is one example as to why Texans need the right to statewide initiative and referendum. If we had statewide I&R, the citizens could have already defeated the toll plan by referendum or recalled the governor.
I helped found Independent Texans, a loose affiliation of independent voters working for these kinds of political reforms. I also helped found The Neo-Independent magazine. The Neo-Independent is the only publication in the country which speaks to the growing plurality of voters now 37% who do not identify with a political party and want an end to special-interest-driven politics.
Despite our numbers, independent voters remain unrecognized and treated as second-class voters. I will be speaking at BookPeople this coming Monday night at 7pm about what it means to be independent and the power of political fusion. Political fusion is a tool to empower the voters to reset the rules in our favor. I invite your readers (and writers) to join me in a lively discussion of how to shop the ballot and not lose your shirt!
I Will Hunt You DownDear Editor,
This goes out to the bastard who threw a beer can, hitting the drummer of Electric Eel Shock, during their set at the Gallery Lombardi on March 17.
One of my goals, along with finishing that degree, is to hunt you down, line you up, and lob three-quarters-full cans of beer at your barren cromagnon head for an afternoon.
Your fancy beer toss was caught on tape and has been studied like Zapruder in a truck stop meth lab.
See you soon prick.
Greg Johnsonp.s. Lombardi, thanks for the hospitality and free beer.
Don't TalkDear Editor,
For the first time in perhaps three years, I went to an Austin Symphony Orchestra concert last Saturday, attracted by the presence of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony on the program. Since the last time I heard the orchestra, I have traveled to Houston a half dozen times to hear two HGO productions, a symphony concert, and some chamber music recitals. Why? Because Houstonites know how to behave at concerts.
This weekend, I sat in front of four gray-haired folks who somehow got the impression that I spent $25 to listen to them whisper for two hours, rather than a live performance of one of the greatest symphonies ever written. People here just don't get it: When the music starts, you shut up, period. You don't whisper about how much you like it or how much you don't like it or talk about anything else. If you're having a heart attack, it's OK to pass a note to your cardiologist if he's in the same row. And the coughing! Do people think it's OK to cough at a classical music concert? I'd rather have a lung collapse. Some idiot destroyed the beautiful conclusion of the third movement with a cough that could not have been more harmful if it had been planned. Bring some cough drops and unwrap them before the music starts (so we don't get to listen to your rustling wrappers).
In contrast, I still remember hearing Laura Claycomb singing "Caro Nome" during the HGO production of Rigoletto several years ago. What was almost as remarkable as hearing her was the total silence during the pauses no cell phones, no whispers, no coughing, no eyebrows fluttering. You could have heard a pin drop, except whoever dropped it would have been garroted during the next applause.
Austinites, if you want to talk during a performance of classical music, buy a CD and play it in your car. If you want to go to a concert, find your seat, sit down, and when the baton goes down, STFU.
Michael M. Simpsonp.s. To the two elementary-school-age boys in front of me that evening thanks for being very quiet!
Easier to Be Taken InDear Editor,
I know it's easier to be taken in when you're being fed what you want to hear.
Try doing some real investigative reporting into the new "groundbreaking study" released by four lawyers about the medmal climate ["Study Calls Medical Malpractice 'Crisis' Into Question," News, March 18]. First of all, they admit themselves that their data is adjusted for population growth, frequency of visits to health care providers, and health care costs in Texas. The media isn't the only thing being manipulated here. These controls have nothing to do with payouts. Insurers don't get to "adjust" their payouts according to the state's population.
They also lump all cases above $25,000 as large cases. What world are they living in? Most attorneys wouldn't even pause to consider such a paltry amount. But by lumping smaller claims around $100,000 with larger claims, it masks the overall growth of claims more than $100,000.
You can complain all you want about the big, greedy insurance industry, but if you bothered to look into the facts, most of malpractice insurers are mutuals, run by doctors, and don't make "profits" like public companies. But that would require doing some homework as well I guess.
Hugo Dax Gonzalez
Budget Bad for AmericansDear Editor,
Republicans are pushing through the budget this week before critics and the media can point out huge program cuts and corporate giveaways.
The Republican budget explodes the deficit adding more than $400 billion to our national debt, when you include the extra money requested for the Iraq War. According to the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office, the deficit is due mostly to the gigantic tax cut legislation and Iraq spending, two things Congress and the president want to make worse, not better.
The Republican budget gives the wealthiest Americans permanent tax breaks, while cutting programs for the middle class and poor.
The Republican budget would make gigantic cuts in health care, especially for Medicaid, which are unconscionable. Medicaid principally serves two groups: senior citizens and the working poor. Most seniors in nursing homes count on Medicaid.
The Republican budget slashes education funding, especially funds for middle class and low-income Americans. The budget leaves out the needed funding for No Child Left Behind and funds to help moderate-income Americans afford college. Pell Grants are dramatically hurt in the budget.
Bizarro Parallel Universe?Dear Editor,
Remember a few years ago when the morally correct got their panties all in a wad because the president was having an affair with an intern? Remember those 70 million tax dollars spent "investigating" every blow-by-blow detail of this shameful and embarrassing incident? Remember the grueling, relentless media blitz-a-thon of novella-style coverage? And remember the televised impeachment that followed?
Now we have a gay military-fetishist hooker, who proclaims to be a "devout Christian" but whose beefcake pictures are spread-eagle all over the Internet, posing as a journalist and covering the homophobic White House. James Guckert, using his hooker alias, Jeff Gannon, advertises his eight-plus "cut" inches for $200/hour on HotMilitaryStuds.com while working for a GOP-funded fake news organization and writing gay-bashing articles on the side.
Curiously, even with heightened post-9/11 security, he was vetted and issued a daily press pass for the last two years using his fake name.
Give me about two minutes on Google, and I can tell you exactly when Clinton inserted that cigar, but the mainstream media won't touch Gannongate with a 10-inch pole. Why? Even with evidence that Gannon was leaked critical news before the rest of the press (yawn). There is a possibility that he might have been the Valerie Plame leak (yawn/stretch). And for the few who have dared, the spin is all about the unfairness of these activist bloggers delving into a fake reporter/hooker's private life. I mean, isn't that just going too far?
Have I slipped into a bizarro parallel universe where a presidential affair with an intern is an impeachable offense and a yearlong soap opera, but the family values administration has got a kinky, born-again gay prostitute coming into the White House on a daily press pass. And it's not even news? God Bless AmericaBlog.com.
Protect Private InformationDear Editor,
The recent ChoicePoint and Bank of America data losses and identity thefts illustrate that politicians and businesses are not intelligent or concerned enough about my private information. If someone suffers identity theft because these data pimps are inept and politicians are in the pockets of these pimps, they should both pay restitution to the unfortunate victim (who isn't even allowed to see the data in his own file, and that's just not fair).
This is what politicians can do: allow a security freeze. A security freeze allows me to stop anyone from looking at my credit report for purposes of granting credit unless I choose to allow it. I actually get to be in control of who looks at my own personal information, and in an ownership society, shouldn't I be the one who is in control of information about me? If the file is frozen, the creditor will deny the identity thief's credit application, preventing identity theft. When I apply for credit, I lift the freeze so creditors can see my credit file. When I am not seeking credit, the security freeze prevents an identity thief from perpetrating identity theft, which costs U.S. consumers about $5 billion a year, and U.S. businesses about $47.6 billion annually.
Under this proposal I have the right to decide for myself whether to place a security freeze. A state law allowing a security freeze option will allow individual consumers to make their own personal choices, to take a responsible ownership position.
There are other things states can do to prevent identity theft, such as requiring that people who have had their personal credit information stolen be informed of the thefts. Right now, only California requires the data pimps to notify the victim if an identity thief steals their information, and that's just not right.
A Tip of the Hat to SlobberboneMr. Black,
As the final Slobberbone performance in Austin [has come and gone] (March 11 at the Parish, to be specific), I wanted to publicly tip my hat to the boys in the band for one hell of a run.
Best of luck with future endeavors, fellas. You'll be missed.
Hypothetical QuestionDear Editor,
Not sure how to make this clear, but to suggest that the only reason we went to war in Iraq was to kill people, spend money, and hold free elections is ridiculous; how should someone answer ["Postmarks," March 4]? The fact remains that President Bush clearly stated the reasons for the war, several times; the idea of answering hypotheticals seems a little strange. I can't answer a hypothetical; not even the brilliant editor of this paper can. Or maybe he can. What do you think milk truck drivers would do if cows could fly? Let's see.