Our readers talk back.
Schoolchildren Learn to BegDear Editor,
Texas schools need to be well-funded ["The Dropout Problem," News, Aug. 12]. I saw schoolchildren begging for money at the street intersection of Brodie Lane and West Slaughter exactly like the homeless do. They asked for money to participate in a band event for which the schools can fund. Instead of providing for the full education of our children, our Texas Legislature is responsible for our children learning how to beg. The Texas school system has failed. Your elected representatives have failed you and your children. Go Republicans, go.
Teach Kids Who Have a ChanceDear Editor,
I know that the liberal mantra for fixing anything is "money, money, money," but I disagree ["The Dropout Problem," News, Aug. 12].
First, teachers make good money. In Austin a new teacher earns $35,000 and a veteran tops out at $55,000 for less than nine months of work. That's the equivalent of almost $47,000 and $73,000 for 12 months in the real world with three weeks vacation. Go to Jobs.com and compare those numbers with what junior and senior engineers are making.
Second, everyone who has gone to college knows education is one of the easier majors. You want a hard major, take chemistry or physics. Supply and demand dictates pay. My wife didn't become a teacher to make big bucks. She did it so that she could work at the same school my daughter attends and have the same breaks.
Finally, the reason that most teachers want out of AISD is the same reason they want out of DISD and HISD. No one wants to teach in these inner-city schools where there is no discipline, parent support, or student interest. The only reason these young teachers are doing it is because there are no openings in the good schools. As soon as one opens up, they are gone. My wife does not think there is a solution to this problem. My solution is to kick out all of the kids who don't want to go to school and send them to trade school. Quit wasting money on bilingual programs and mainstreaming special education students. Take your limited resources and spend them on the kids that are bright, motivated, and have the best chance to succeed. Maybe then we can stop this continual spiral to the lowest common denominator.
Fever Tree MemoryDear Sirs,
Re: "The 14th Floor," [Music, Aug. 12]: I remember No. 12, Fever Tree, very well. I used to see them occasionally in Houston in the gym of Marion High School for Saturday night dances/concerts.
A Lot Has Changed in Austin Since the Sixties?Dear Editor,
I discovered your Web site, and I want to thank you for such an informative array of listings. I will be visiting your city this October for theatre business, and I am grateful to have found such a terrific resource before my trip. My only prior connection with Texas was back in the Sixties, and I'm guessing a lot has changed since then.
Overlooked Psychedelialetter to the editor,
Re: "The 14th Floor" [Music, Aug. 12]: I played in three of the bands you never heard of: the Virgil Foxx Group, the Water Brothers, and the Electric Rubayyat. I guess that makes me very unmemorable!
The Electric Rubayyat: Unfortunately, we followed the demise of the 13th Floor Elevators. My brother Dan (Elevators bassist) was not too enthusiastic. I think "embarrassed" would be more accurate. But we had an interesting lineup: Billy Hallmark on guitar/vocals, Al Acosta on vocals, and Sam Allen on drums. Sam and Al were both members of the San Antonio cult phenomenon the Stoics.
The Water Brothers featured Don Evans on vocals, John Rogers on guitar, Ricky Kopff on bass, and Bucky Payne on drums. I would describe the Bros as freestyle psychedelic blues/raga/fusion. Note: It should be pointed out that our roadie, Leonard "Eric" Friedland, later founded San Antonio's beloved postmodern pachuco-esque Los #2 Dinners.
The Virgil Foxx Group: we began as pimply faced dorks and called ourselves the Zilches, but as the acne intensified in direct proportion to our soaring egos, we outgrew the name and needed something "heavier" something of substance. A name the chicks could dig. So I unashamedly lifted the name from concert organist Virgil Fox. I correctly assumed that no one in a South Texas garage band had ever heard of him. It was too cool (not to be confused with "kewl" and "awesome"). I was not going to let a little thing like ethics and credibility get in the way. I added an extra "X" just to jazz it up. The lineup: Phil Arroyo and Jay Hoyer on vocals (please notice that I did not use the term "sing"), Rick "the Crow" Mendez on guitar, Mike Long on bass, and Rob Meurer on drums. I, of course, played lead guitar. I was a legend in my own mind, Jay charmed the girls right out of their panties, Phil sang everything that required talent, Rob beat the living shit out of his drums, and Mike and "Crow" made sure that the band (and our large entourage) had plenty of "Big Red." We certainly were arrogant for a bunch of kids with bad hairdos playing cover tunes. But we played them loud and we played them like it really mattered.
Mr. Hoyer recently passed away (rest in peace). He will be honored at a memorial/roast Sunday, Sept 18, in San Antonio. It should be pointed out that, with all due respect, Mr. Hoyer never could sing.
Correct Simian Site InfoDear Editor,
In the "Postmarks" of your Aug. 12 issue, you printed Linda Hunnicutt's letter titled "Only the Activists' Views," but there was a printing error: The correct spelling of the Web site she mentioned is www.simply-simian.com; the dash was omitted in your printing.
My correction is not intended as an endorsement of that Web site. Your readers can visit the site and decide for themselves. As a helpful preview, visitors will encounter such commentary as "Thank goodness Newkirk is sterilized, at least the country is safe from any offspring from this idiot." Ingrid Newkirk is cofounder and president of PETA.
In the name of the First Amendment,
Kids Should Talk to Strangers?Dear Editor,
I have just filed a formal complaint with the APD Internal Affairs office against three Austin cops for violation of my First and 14th Amendment free speech rights. Responding to an invitation posted at my front door, I attended a local "National Night Out" neighborhood meeting a block from my house and was outraged to see the APD-sanctioned "Stranger Danger" brochure on offer along with some others. I objected vociferously to its message that recommended that kids avoid all contact and conversation with strangers, and I noted that most kids are abused by parents and folks they know, like priests, not strangers. The lynch mob of paranoid parents demanded that I leave, to which I refused, finding myself in a public forum and standing on a public street. A uniformed EMS officer who was present called the cops, who arrived without delay, started in to interrogate me and then threatened to put me in handcuffs and arrest me. I had foolishly expected the APD cops to protect me from the lynch mob and to read them my rights to free speech. I challenged the cops and managed to make it home without getting shot.
And you wonder why they hate us and need to use bombs to get their point across?
Barton Oaks Neighborhood
Taking King to TaskDear Mr. Black,
It looks like Mr. King is throwing the Chronicle behind Mr. Montenegro. He downplays the influence your paper has on ignorant parents with angry kids that sometimes results in fatal events. He's also endorsing elitism, overlooks inflation, poverty, and crime; all consequences of pampering outsiders in the local school districts (and beyond). You probably have noticed the change of stance at the Statesman on these issues, because some are affecting the middle class already. I'd like you to consider firing this individual who rejects reasoning and pretends East Austin does not exist.
Paul Aviña[News Editor Michael King replies: In fact, I didn't write the most recent Chronicle response concerning Hector Montenegro ["Postmarks," Aug. 12] the Ysleta school superintendent who for some reason is the latest obsession of Paul Aviña's but it is characteristic of Aviña simultaneously to abjure "elitism" and try to get somebody he doesn't know fired. For the record, while we have no official position on hiring matters in South Texas school districts, we do try to correct factual errors where they occur, even in "Postmarks." In general, we also try to distinguish between "reasoning" and character assassination, even when our correspondents choose not to do so.]
Where Are the Disfigured Chests?Dear Editor,
After reading Karen Suffian-Frost's impassioned public service message in last week's "Postmarks" [Aug. 12], I can only conclude my copy of the Chronicle must be missing some pages! I've looked over and over for these rumored photos of women with disfigured chests. So far all I've found are the usual topless bar ads and singles line ads with women that look, well, pretty much like the women I see every day at HEB, or at work, or in the Warehouse District on Friday night except, perhaps, for the fact they've been made up a lot for the modeling shoot.
I'm truly disappointed. I hate it when I miss out on things.
Loving Christian Ponders 'Fashion'Editors,
Re: "After a Fashion," Aug. 12: Why do fat, ugly, sodomites hate rich, hot heterosexual women? Sour grapes? Jealousy? S.M. Moser, who couldn't win a beauty contest against a mud fence, must have fallen into the fashion business out of necessity. Ya gotta wonder how many cotton fields gave their lives to save the world from such a morbid view.
God save us all if Moser ever tries on his "Daisy Dukes" outside of the bath house. (Do they even make cut-offs that big?)
Twisted 'Philadelphia' StoryDear Editor,
I read Belinda Acosta's "TV Eye" column last week [Screens, Aug. 12] and it sparked my interest to check out the new comedy programing on the FX channel. I had to write in about the show that came on after the highlighted program from the Chronicle article. The comedy program that caught my attention is titled It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
The show is about three friends in Philly who run an Irish bar. This sitcom is one of the best comedies I've seen in a long time. It's crude, politically incorrect, and takes on subject matter that is usually taboo.
The one episode that I watched (entitled "Charlie Wants an Abortion") had plot lines that involved one male character going to a pro-choice rally to hit on women ... then deciding to cross the picket line to the pro-life side because the pickings were slim. There is a child that gets drunk and pukes on himself, a prostitute at a free health clinic that offers a $10 blow job to one of the main characters, and lastly an afternoon fling in the backseat of a car between a character that acts like he's pro-life to get laid and the anti-abortion gal that falls for him. Nothing is taboo on this show and it is hilarious.
Why write this letter? To get the word out on a program that isn't the same old Friends-type crap. The more folks that watch, the more chance this twisted comedy will survive and show the networks that viewers want to watch edgier programming. If you're interested in watching, it comes on the FX channel Thursday nights at 9:30pm, Central time.
Hunters Self-RegulatedDear Editor,
Most hunters I've known say they love nature and are helping balance the ecosystem. Who screwed the ecosystem? Inconsequential. But these aren't the reasons hunters hunt. No, the reason people hunt is because they love killing animals. Now, if you believe Stephen W. McGuire ["Postmarks," Aug. 12] he "must ... cull does, spike horns, and old, spent 'trophy bucks'" (took me some time but in layman's terms; kill, kill, kill) because of a horrible and terrifying overpopulation of deer that threatens us all. That's why in good conscience he can put out food, hide, wait for deer to wander in, point a firearm, and rip one off. Why this explosion in deer numbers? Well, "development" contributes, according also to Mr. McGuire. Hmmm. Where I live development has a tendency to destroy animals and animal habitat. Speeding cars and stress seem to be doing an adequate job of "balancing" nature.
I'm not saying nothing good comes from hunting. No, indeed these "sportsmen" turn to copious amounts of fatty foods and vast quantities of beer to combat the boredom of having to wait to kill, which hardens arteries and eats livers respectively, thereby decreasing their lifespans. Plus occasionally they shoot each other. Now that's population control.
Such Language!Dear Editor,
Regarding Kevin Brass' article "'Statesman' Drops a Turd," [Aug. 5], in which the Statesman refused to run a Doonesbury strip containing the words "Turd Blossom," in reference to W's pal Karl Rove:
I have had an on-and-off relationship with the Statesman as a contributing comic-strip artist for several years (the strip is entitled Toxic Womb and appeared in the XL supplement between 1999 and 2005).
After bailing on them a few years back, I "re-upped" and began cranking out new strips ... with an undisclosed caveat: Clean up your act. My published repertoire in the late Nineties and early 00s included the terms "ass," "crap," "hell," "bastard," and probably a few more I can't recall. It was a loose ship in those days.
Then, a few months back, either Statesman or XL editorial nixed a strip in which I used the inflammatory word "freakin'," and another was shelved when a character said "You da bomb." Such language!
I don't know if we're seeing an overall directive to "nice things up," or an individual editor's caprice. I would hope it's the latter, but, when they get a "load" of this letter, I'll be the dropped turd.
Anyway, the Statesman doesn't need to use the vile epithet "turd" to fill their paper with crap ... they've already got that covered.
What Will the Impact Be?Dear Editor,
Enjoyed the article ["Meet the New Neighbors," News, July 29], was a good follow-up to the Primetime show and Jon Krakauer's book [Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith]. I do business in Eldorado and Schleicher (locally pronounced slacker, I mean schlacker) County. The people don't know what to think, and with the last sheriff's race being hotly contested over the issue this will not go away. One of the things that bothers me is that with the amount of people moving into the area they could end up controlling the county politics. The other is the amount of money that is given to them in child welfare due to only legally being married to their first wives.
Increase Biking AwarenessDear Editor,
A few days ago I heard, with great sadness, of a biker that was killed on Sixth Street, west of Lamar Boulevard. Breaks my heart. I've ridden down this street on my way to Deep Eddy many times now. Just wondering about the people that are in this sad story. Who were they? What were they doing? Maybe one day could you write a story about this, and/or biking in general here in Austin, in order to increase awareness? Take care ... see you on the streets.
Nirav V. Patel
[Editor's note: See "Naked City," p. 17, for more.]
9/22 Car-Free DayDear Editor,
The third Thursday in September 2005, is Sept. 22. This is an international car-free day, celebrated by cities in the European Union, some South American cities, and a few in Canada. The annual car-free day will no doubt be ignored, as usual, by the U.S. press, but Austin has a great opportunity to celebrate it this year.
Since September's third Thursday falls on World Car-Free Day this year, how about closing Guadalupe to motor traffic for Third Thursday on Guadalupe? Part of the celebration would be to leave the traffic jams out of it. As a festive city with aspirations to environmental consciousness, Austin needs to learn the art of staging an outdoor festival without filling the surrounding streets, and the festival scene itself, with idling cars exuding heat and poison gases. If people want to drive to Third Thursday in cars, let them know that they need to park the car at least a mile from the party, and walk or bus the last stretch. The way things are now, organizers never even suggest leaving the car at home. If you don't even suggest it, you may depend on most car owners not to think of it.
Every year, the gorgeous Christmas light display on 37th Street is completely ruined by a steady stream of cars chugging slowly through the middle of it, menacing pedestrians and filling the air with carbon monoxide. The same thing happens at First and Third Thursdays. Will Wynn says Austin's going to be the Clean Energy Capital of the World. To deserve any title remotely resembling that one, we need to learn to throw a party without producing traffic jams. A good start could be made on Sept. 22, Third Thursday, and World Car-Free Day, 2005. How about it?
'Radical Genius' Not 'Compromise'Louis Black,
I've somehow managed to reach my 43rd year in this mortal coil and a strange effect of these many years of watching, listening, and reading is that I've had it with all of the anger, whining, and complaining that seems to be the most common response to this thing we call democracy. For myself, I just no longer have the energy to go off the handle anymore, it's exhausting and nonproductive. One thing I do know is that the politics of compromise will never solve the problems of the major paradigm shifts that we are now experiencing. If our "leaders" need to research demographics for every public policy decision then all that will ever result is a lowest common denominator response to problems that probably require nothing less than radical genius to solve. As the price and availability of crude oil continues to rise, our way of life is guaranteed to change dramatically on every level, throughout the Americas especially, and to a lesser extent, across the spectrum of global trade. We don't stand a chance unless we throw ourselves fully into "new" and "old" green solutions. We can no longer accept the con of 40-hour work weeks and a badass joyride. It just isn't worth the effort if all of the profits go to a few very sophisticated thieves. So how about a column called "Green Solutions"? All you need to do is request solutions to current problems faced by the Chronicle readership. The tricky part will be telling the difference between real math and total bullshit. I place an emphasis on math because it's the only true science we know, and if our green improvements do not prove to be profitable then we might as well chuck in the towel and let our petroleum/nuke voodooists send us to hell.
Todd Alan Smith
It's Time for WatsonDear Editor,
Kirk Watson shouldn't wait another minute before declaring his candidacy for the District 14 seat in the state Senate. Gonzalo Barrientos lost my vote when he endorsed Leticia Hinojosa over Lloyd Doggett for the 25th U.S. House district. Barrientos put spite and Hispanic solidarity before the best interests of the multi-ethnic Austin constituency that elected him for 20 years.
Tax for Peace Not WarDear Editor,
Thanks for "Thoughts After Celebration" (July 8) [News] about the costs of war using National Priorities Project statistics. I have disseminated NPP data locally for years to no avail.
In another piece referring to NPP, "Fund Cities, Not Guns, Say Docs," (May 27) [News], Physicians for Social Responsibility president Lisa Doggett (daughter of Rep. Lloyd Doggett) concludes: "The federal government should be reinvesting our tax dollars into helping our communities, our states, and our country ... not developing macho military programs that fail to make us safer." I couldn't agree more.
Now, 65 years after Hiroshima, the "anti-war" city of Austin considers its budget, oblivious to the siphoning of blood money to fund the Pentagon's Iraqi quagmire. Either indirectly from city coffers through subsidies to war profiteers like CSC or directly from citizens' paychecks, Austinites cough up 42% of their income taxes to fund the "merchants of death," including next-generation nuclear weapons. (According to www.warresisters.org/piechart.htm, it's 50%.)
Whither the outrage from the peace movement, city officials, social service agencies, conservatives, and ordinary taxpayers?
One path toward greater resistance is the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Bill, HR 2631. It would draw attention to the military budget and protect the civil liberties of conscientious objectors to military taxation (one of whom was just sent to federal prison in New Jersey). The bill has bipartisan support in Congress and endorsements from many local and national groups, most recently the delegates to the American Civil Liberties Union's convention.
However, "anti-war" Rep. Doggett (who said, "Denying even a single citizen their rights is totally unacceptable" in "Naked City," July 22) [News], PSR, Center for Public Policy Priorities, Texas Impact, et al. groups refuse to support it. Concerned citizens can ask Doggett and other U.S. representatives and senators to co-sponsor HR 2631. Details are at www.peacetaxfund.org or 888/peace-tax.
Looking at AustinHello,
I am an author and poet living in Atlanta. I am thinking about relocating to the city of Austin. I am enjoying browsing through your newspaper, keep up the good work! Thank you for being online.
Check Out Reido'sDear Editor,
For some two years, give or take, a squat building at 626 N. Lamar has been the nightly headquarters for a vibrant and distinctly American operation. I'm speaking of Reido's, and the proprietor, Reid, who all the while has been slinging his famous take on the "slider," with great pride and aplomb, to the delight of all late-night patrons.
The decor is nothing to write home about, no matter. Reid can recite T.S. Eliot, he can talk music for days, and he can cook a mean cheese slider or Coney, as many as you can eat (the records are on the board to prove it). More importantly, he can take modest surroundings and invest them with a perfect, un-self-conscious authenticity, by sheer force of personality (and the smell of frying gristle). When you glance over his menus, and the fond anecdotes he provides of favored haunts from way back when, you know exactly what he's talking about. You are there, and though we may be drowning in a sea of ugly throwback chains, the genuine article is indeed out there.
Through August. I admonish you, good citizens of Austin, to drop in and enjoy the greasy bacchanal as it rages on. Nightly, mind.
[Editor's note: See "Food-o-File" for more.]
John Roberts Versus the PenguinsDear Editor,
Many Americans are asking, hmm, why did George W. pick John Roberts, Esquire? Is he as middle-of-the-road as some progressives are hoping or is he waltzing with the current money and power?
Given that I'm a liberal Texas grandma who just snuck away to see the noble penguins of summer at my local cineplex, frankly, I do see nature and the environment and hard times as the issues of our "wartime" future. People in McMansions still don't realize it, I suppose, sadly, but any species' stress right now is bound to make the offspring's survival harder and harder.
Oh, Debby doom and gloom. I ask myself every day: What risks am I taking to expose my feelings about everything from industrial hemp to community gardens? Everything from these CNN polls about privacy vs. security to empires in apogee and entropy?
Oh, Texas. I love the recent Bill Maher "rule": no more presidents from Texas, just stewards of la tierra.
Would I invite John Roberts to the penguin movie? My guess is he'd be busy attending a tie-and-jacket event, not conserving cotton but, presumably, in his own spiritual way, finding a way out of the Wannsee Conference and into post-Nuremberg Trials. Oh, Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, and Artemis, goodness gracious, bless us all.
Luisa Inez Newton