Our readers talk back.
Say It Ain't SoDear Editor,
Re: "Monkeying Around" [Music, Aug. 5]: Say it ain't so! Not right there in Austin, the very home of our beloved Roky Erickson and his Sixties band the 13th Floor Elevators. That group was among the earliest to go simian, with their version of Powell St. John's classic "Monkey Island." How could your thoughtful scribes forget?
Studio City, Calif.
Only the Activists' ViewsDear Editor,
The article about primates ["Monkey Law," News, Aug. 5] is so full of misinformation it is beyond me how anyone in the news business continues to print only the activists' views. Why not give primate owners a chance to tell their side? We own primates and are responsible. We also have a package of information, facts not fiction, that is available online. See the Web site www.simplysimian.com and get both sides of the primate story.
ThanksDear Ms. Jordan Smith,
I am writing in regards to the article you wrote about James Harry Reyos' wrongful conviction ["Who Killed Father Ryan?," News, June 17].
James is a very close friend of mine. I've read every article about his case and I must say yours is the best and most in-depth all-around article on this subject.
I thank you and I'm sure James does also. It's a shame how corrupt the Texas criminal justice system is. Even when there's overwhelming evidence of a man's innocence they still ignore it.
Thank you for a job well done.
Earl Ray White Jr.
Buses Aren't EmptyDear Editor,
Wells Dunbar is right to be suspicious of the suburbanite "empty buses" talking point pushed by Gerald Daugherty ["Labor Woes at Cap Metro," News, Aug. 5] and accepted without argument by our Statesman.
Even an honest observer in the burbs might see "empty buses" even when those of us in the center-city see them as full. This is what you would expect on a typical city bus route the endpoints of the route are logically where the least people ride. If one never goes closer to downtown than 183/MoPac, most buses do in fact look "empty."
This doesn't excuse the Statesman, who ought to know better than to simply accept the word of a transit-hater like Daugherty. I've been covering the empty bus meme irregularly on my weblog at mdahmus.thebaba.com/blog/archives/cat_empty_buses.html. Suffice it to say, the buses aren't empty, and a strike is going to hurt, big time.
Prevent Private Primate OwnershipCheryl Smith,
You did an excellent job on "Monkey Law" [News, Aug. 5] and I wanted to let you know that there is something your readers can do to prevent primate ownership via a bill in Congress right now: www.capwiz.com/bigcatrescue/issues/alert/?alertid=7249201&type=CO.
The Plight of PrimatesDear Chronicle,
Thank you, thank you, thank you for dedicating an entire issue to the plight of our primate relatives [The Damn Dirty Ape Issue, Aug. 5]. I used to volunteer at Primarily Primates and it's an experience I will never forget. It's my greatest hope that all who read and participated in that issue will recognize the multitude of ways they can help ... from donating time and/or money to avoidance and nonsupport of events, organizations, etc., that exploit primates and all other creatures. Hey, the circus is coming to town ... don't go!
Love the naked ape,
Another Great Monkey SongDear Editor,
Re: "Monkeying Around," Music, Aug. 5: How could any of your rock critics not mention Patti Smith's "Space Monkey" on the Easter album released in 1978 and co-written by Ivan Kral and Tom Verlaine?! It was my 4-year-old son's favorite cut at the time!
Laughed His 60-Year-Old A-- OffDear Editor,
Kudos and a tip o' the hat to Kevin Brass for his article "'Statesman' Drops a Turd" in The Austin Chronicle, Aug. 5 [News]. It's refreshing to view an article that's well-written and to-the-point (no beating around the bush), and Kevin's does exactly that! I laughed my 60-year-old a** off this morning. What a way to start the day! Thank you Austin Chronicle and Kevin Brass!
John K. Wheeler
Too Many Big-Breasted WomenDear Editor,
Lately your paper has run pictures of many females with a horrible disfigurement of the chest. These young women obviously need medical attention. It would be far better to hold fundraisers for their care so they would not have to seek funds by exposing their disfigurements in print. Shame on you, Chronicle, for callously profiting from bloated frontal appendage syndrome, like P.T. Barnum and the Elephant Man.
Trust the Artist Not the ArtDear Editor,
Your article on the FLDS ["Meet the New Neighbors," News, July 29] was disturbing enough, but your cover holds the real shocker. The FLDS might be wallowing in polygamy, but what's happenin' on your front page is likely incest to boot. How so, you ask? Because, contrary to popular myth, that dour-faced gal puckering in Grant Wood's 1930 painting American Gothic isn't the farmer's wife, but rather it's his daughter. "Grant"ed (pun intended), Wood was intentionally vague about this (as with most of his works), but although conventional wisdom overwhelmingly embraces the "man and wife" interpretation, in fact it was more likely "man and offspring." This is according to Wood's own sister Nan (the actual model for the woman; Wood's dentist was the model for the man). Perhaps embarrassed and alarmed by the barbs flying from "not amused" Depression-era Midwesterners for being depicted as "married" to a man twice her age, Nan repeated the "Grant intended it to be a spinster daughter" story emphatically and often enough to make it stick (and brother never exactly refuted it). Indeed, it looks like that "what we've got here is a failure to amalgamate (er, marry)!"
However, if you good folks want to stick with the "it's his wife" interpretation, and it's therefore "just" polygamy, then I'd make the one in the window my fave I love the shy type.
SOS' Clark RespondsDear Editor,
Letter writer Julie Cooper suggests that the community give up and let AMD pollute Barton Springs and abandon East Austin because the corporate giant made up its mind to do so ["Postmarks," Aug. 5].
We're reminded of a similar situation two years ago. The biggest retailer on the planet had decided to build a 200,000-square-foot store in the Barton Springs Watershed. The community fought back, and Wal-Mart backed off. And the "fully entitled," grandfathered, ready-to-be-developed site remains undeveloped today.
Now AMD wants to build over 800,000 square feet in the Barton Springs Watershed, and the community is fighting back. More than 10,600 citizens have signed a petition asking AMD to reconsider its proposed location. Wal-Mart listened to the community. Why won't AMD listen? Why should AMD ignite more urbanization in the fragile Barton Springs Watershed? There is no reason AMD can't reconsider and work with the community to find the best site possible for AMD, for Barton Springs, and for all of Austin.
There are plenty of sites in Austin that AMD can move to without breaking city policies, such as no major employers in the Barton Springs Watershed and the Save Our Springs Ordinance, and without abandoning East Austin for the western suburbs.
If we (citizens, neighborhoods, organizations, businesses, elected officials, etc.) don't hold corporate decision-makers at AMD accountable to the community's desire for clean water and sustainable growth, no one will. Join the effort at www.moveamd.com. Sign the petition, contact AMD's top executives, and learn more.
Save Our Springs Alliance
Appreciates 'Mysterious Skin'Dear Editor,
At the risk of sounding condescending aww, screw it I must say that I feel embarrassed for Jennifer Chenoweth's assessment ["Postmarks," July 29] of both Gregg Araki's film Mysterious Skin and Marjorie Baumgarten's critical response to it [Film Listings, July 1]. Anyone who can refer to the film's treatment of pedophilic sex as "glib" or "smug" clearly did not see it through to the end.
The film charts a history of sexual abuse and manipulation and its messy aftermath with graphic candor and without sensationalism or prurience. It demonstrates poignantly that both pedophiles and survivors of childhood sexual trauma are complex human beings, at times worthy of empathy or at least greater understanding. In Chenoweth's cinematic world, it would appear that pedophiles need to be marked with trench coats and lascivious stares, and should meet with a well-deserved demise.
Chenoweth intimates that anyone, including Baumgarten, who finds value in this movie must be titillated by images of exploitative intergenerational sex. With this logic, I must get off on watching women slowly succumb to devastating cancer because I hold Terms of Endearment in high regard. The representation of sex that is violent or of compromised consent need not be an erotic spectacle; it is these sexual scenes, neither glib nor smugly presented, that structure the imaginative and libidinal lives of the film's two main characters, for better or worse. Chenoweth's half-baked and knee-jerk reaction to this film is symptomatic of the contemporary climate of irrational and unexamined fears of child endangerment in which we find ourselves living.
Dr. Casey McKittrick
Facts Speak for ThemselvesDear Chronicle,
Mr. King's response ["Postmarks," July 29] to my letter ["Postmarks," July 22] concerning the excessive perks received by Mr. Montenegro is disappointing in that he presents Mr. Montenegro as accepting a low-paying contract: "actually accepted less in salary when he accepted the position at Ysleta."
This is truly misleading in light of the facts and figures on which my "claims" were made. Yes, what Mr. King said is true that the house that the district purchased remained district property, which cost about $180,000. (How many school districts do you know buy a house for their superintendent to use?)
Mr. King also failed to note some of the other perks that KVIA ABC affiliate El Paso didn't: $73,100 retention bonus; $12,751 home security system; $9,611 pool maintenance; and $2,847 landscaping.
On top of Mr. Montenegro's salary, the cost of the home purchase, and other perks (home maintenance), Ysleta ISD's expenditures to hire Mr. Montenegro added up to nearly half-a-million dollars.
I didn't intend to bruise Mr. King's ego, but the facts speak for themselves no matter what kind of spin your News editor puts on it.
Anybody notice school finance in the news?
Doug Yancey[Editor's note: Michael King wrote, "Montenegro actually accepted less in salary ... than the Board expected to pay." This speaks to the intention of the board and not the actual salary or value of perks. Nothing in Mr. Yancey's letter disputes King's assertion. Instead, arguments are made on a separate and different point; the facts offered are only to back up spin. Facts are facts and King's were right.]
Price ExchangeDear Editor,
Re: Claudia Alarcón's article on Billy Forrester's restaurant, Billy's on Burnet [Food, July 29]: Yikes! Eight dollars for 12 chicken wings, and $11 for 18? Seemed a little off. Try $4.50 and $6.00 respectively (as per their online menu). Was the extra charge for the beer or for Billy's company? Y'all go. He's a hoot.
Ben Anglin[Food Editor Virginia B. Wood responds: The prices that appear on their Web site are old. The prices in the restaurant have been raised. Our reviewer, Claudia Alarcón, has receipts that reflect the new prices, as did her review.]
In Defense of AnimalsDear Editor,
Thank you Cindy Widner for pointing out how wild animals suffer in the entertainment industry ["A Better Place," News, Aug. 5]. Coincidentally, some wild animals will be coming to town very soon ... for the Ringling Bros. Circus that is. Animals doomed to circus life are stolen from the wild and forced to perform "trained" with bull hooks, whips, and electric prods. Most of their lonely lives are spent in boxcars traveling from circus to circus. I sincerely hope that all fauna-loving Austinites will stay away from Ringling Bros. Better to go to an animal-free circus like Cirque du Soleil, where everyone is a willing performer.
Hunting Is Not CowardlyLouis Black,
I read with interest Michael Ventura's musings on chimps ["Letters@3AM," Aug. 5]. He describes "those beings who sit in camouflage suits and offer food to deer and then, in a profound act of betrayal, shoot the dear. These cowards call that 'hunting.'"
Since I don camo, I got to thinking: sitting in a ground blind near an oak mott, I wait for deer to move in for easy acorns. Is the oak mott a betrayer for its profligate mast? Am I the coward for killing the deer? Rawlings' yearling jumps the fence to take out a corn patch. Is the Baxter family guilty of both betrayal and cowardice? Indians once smoked wild aster to replicate the smell of deer hooves. Others wore skinned-out deer heads (camo?) to aid in stalks. Modern hunters use bottled doe scent. Cowards and betrayers all? Come to think of it, does Michael believe deer ruminate on betrayal and cowardice or on the wad in their four-chambered gut?
As for "cowardice," what role does this (and by implication, courage) play in hunting deer? Except, perhaps, for consciously taking direct responsibility for killing to eat, deer hunter "beings" have little use for Michael's straw coward. One species is well-developed for predation, the other for avoiding same. Some chimps prey on weaker primates in collective hunts, others make war on other chimps, perhaps courageously. They, at any rate, seem to know the difference.
Baiting is less difficult than still-hunting, but whether for the ecologically well-managed Texas ranch or for reducing overwhelming deer numbers, one must specially cull does, spike horns, and old, spent "trophy bucks." And the deed is done in the safest, quickest, and most effective manner consistent with sound biology: over bait. Bring back wolves, Michael, but can they take the 40% experts say is needed for herd balance?
The deer explosion is mainly due to development, clear cutting, farming, game laws, and anti-hunting activism. So, what do you "call [courageous] hunting," Michael? Will your method(s) keep Noah's Ark afloat (or even deer populations in check), or are you just looking for Eden? I got a feeling Noah was neither fleeing from nor sailing for the Garden.
Stephen W. McGuire
Another Side to Cuba StoryDear Editor,
Re: "Long Arm of the Bush Administration Touches Cuba Caravan" [News, July 29]. The law breakers taking unlawful articles to the communist dictatorship in the island of Cuba, where a repressive and murderous regime reigns, should count themselves lucky that they were allowed to proceed to the enslaved island and were not taken into custody by U.S. authorities. Maybe, if they are really principled, they should protest Castro's murdering of thousands of Cubans and the many thousands of political prisoners found in the island. Unless they do this, their "principles" are highly in doubt.
The Austin Chronicle should let people know in the article about the repressive dictatorship of Castro, and that many people would leave there in flimsy boats and inner tubes rather than suffer under the hated dictator.
Jose A. Mazon
Cuba, New York
Miles and Miles of Arguments Over MilesTo the editor,
Advanced Micro Devices wants to move most of their workforce upstream of the Barton Springs Aquifer. They say the controversial move will save AMD employees commuting distance.
A cross-check of their data, which anyone can perform, in fact shows the opposite. The move to Lantana appears to add distance to the average employee commute. Part of this finding was reported in the Chronicle ("Discrepancies in AMD Lantana Traffic Data?," News, July 29).
A letter-writer tried to refute this analysis by saying the comparison assumes "everyone flies to work" and therefore it's wrong ("Postmarks," Aug. 5). Not so.
AMD reports the distances between work and home in two different ways: "as the crow flies," and in driving distance.
The Chronicle article focused only on problems with "crow-flies" distance. There are 698 instances where AMD's reported "crow-flies" distance to work is further than any point that exists within the employee's ZIP code. This is clearly impossible.
There also seems to be a massive problem with drive distances. Google can measure the driving distance from a ZIP code center point to any address. This offers a way for anyone to find the average employee drive distances for each ZIP.
Double-checking AMD's numbers this way shows that moving from their existing East Austin address, where there is plenty of room to expand, to Lantana (using 7000 W. William Cannon as the address), adds more than 1,000 vehicle miles of travel per day. See www.moveamd.com.
AMD may have some explanation for these discrepancies, but so far none has been provided. Until AMD releases more details about where employees actually live it is impossible to say for sure. They can release street names and block numbers without violating employee privacy. Instead, AMD has stonewalled this information request for several months.
Move AMD Coalition[Rachel Proctor May responds: The AMD traffic study included two separate analyses: as-the-crow-flies distances and actual drive distances. My article failed to make clear that the portion of Beers' analysis I cited was questioning the former, not the latter, and for that I apologize. However, the main point remains: Until AMD releases more detailed data, independent confirmation of their claims is impossible.]