Top 9 Letters of 2009
By Mark Fagan, Fri., Jan. 1, 2010
1) SOUND ORDINANCE HURTS LIVE MUSIC (JUNE 8)
On Thursday evening [June 4] between 8 and 10pm, my band the Gourds performed a free show at Shady Grove on Barton Springs Road. As a crane pivoted overhead like something from an H.G. Wells novel, Shady Grove was cited for a sound-ordinance violation. The irony was not lost on anyone there. In its race, which is already lost, to move people Downtown, this city is going to lose something that cannot be replaced. Music in Austin is a well-known quality-of-life element that draws unique people and businesses to live here. It is remarkable that up until now we have been able to maintain such a vibrant musical scene with the artificially overvalued real estate market. Before we lose control of it, the sound ordinance needs to be replaced by neighborhood-specific agreements between businesses and residents. In a rapidly growing city like ours, the police and fire resources wasted on call and response to this nonissue is ridiculous. And when it is more acceptable to have cranes undertaking major construction projects than it is to have a local band playing music for the citizens of Austin, I think we are at a serious crossroads. I hereby call on all musicians, music industry professionals, and supporters of local music to make some serious noise about this issue. If we do not, then those who call it "noise" will have their way. And all will be lost.
2) CLOSURE NEEDED FOR A SHOT IN THE DARK STORIES (AUG. 4)
A Shot in the Dark: What about success stories? We've all done it. We've all opened the Chronicle and turned straight to A Shot in the Dark. Perused for the chance that it's us they're looking for. Lamented the ad placer's timidity in BookPeople. Vicariously been that alluring reader in jeans and a white shirt flipping through the Turkey travel guide. We identify. We hope. And we wonder. Will the book lovers connect? Well, what if you told us? I propose that The Austin Chronicle begin A Shot in the Dark success (or failure?) stories section. Because don't we all want to know if it ever works out in the end?
3) TEXAS RELAYS GIVEN THE COLD SHOULDER (AUG. 5)
Two weeks ago, South by Southwest was met with open arms from nearly every business in town, along with the cooperation of city officials and the Austin Police Department. This past weekend a very different host greeted the patrons of the Texas Relays. Bars all around the Downtown party district shut their doors on what could have been a very lucrative weekend, presumably out of fear of violence. Highland Mall evicted its customers and shut down early. Police barricaded exits, roads, and parked cars on both the upper and lower decks of I-35, shining their high beams on the cars in gridlock traffic with gobs of police on foot daring pedestrians to act up. People will argue that crime rates spike every year during Texas Relays and preventative measures need to be taken, but agitating partygoers by treating them as criminals out on recess is not the way to go about solving the problem. As a business in this time of economic uncertainty, there was no reason not to capitalize on this weekend unless you were a whites-only bar. I think a lot of Austinites pride themselves on being more progressive than the rest of Texas, but the acts of Austin businesspeople and the APD showed that there is really nothing weird about Austin at all. We're just as racist as the rest of the state.
4) WALKING IS A MAJOR FORM OF TRANSPORTATION (NOV. 13)
When will the city of Austin recognize that walking is a major means of transportation? The simplest, cheapest, and cleanest way to move around is eternally neglected here.
For the price of the recently approved water plant, Austin could have sidewalks – legitimate walking space – on both sides of every street block. But it seems that we will never have this.
"Green transportation" in Austin means a few hybrid cars, a not-yet-operable diesel-powered train, and too-narrow bicycle lanes on a few streets. It does not include safe, comfortable space for walking around the city.
In the picture accompanying the latest of Copenhagen article ["Climate, Meet Mobility," News, Nov. 6], we can see that pedestrians get as much street space as cars, bicyclists get a full-sized street lane, and buses get their own lane. The Austin system is to block every single street lane with cars, and on most streets to give pedestrians no space at all.
There are no plans to finish Austin's sidewalk system in less than 200 years. Nor are there any plans to allocate street space to pedestrians.
Even right next to elementary schools there are no sidewalks. Unlike most U.S. cities of our size, we don't regularly close park roads to motor traffic on weekends. When it comes to transportation, Austin is stuck in the 1950s.
This is a sad waste of resources. Austin has an excellent climate and natural landscape for walking and bicycling. Yet cities without our natural advantages devote much more space to human-powered transportation. Why are we so backwards and at the same time so self-congratulatory?
It is contradictory nonsense to praise "green transportation" while ignoring its greenest and most basic form. Walking is fundamental. Let's start recognizing that. Finish the sidewalks. Help people cross streets. Without these basic steps, "green transportation" is empty talk.
5) 'I SWALLOWED MY TONGUE' (OCT. 27)
I am writing to you regarding the phantasmagorilicious review of Fits by Raoul Hernandez [Record Review, Music, Oct. 23]. His rendered regaling of unexplainable, ubiquitous prose led me down a befuddled, topsy-turvy rattled path of extreme mystification as to how one could conjure up said thoughts after listening to White Denim's newest LP. Somehow synthesizing senses, a media mephitis bubbled forth as written words cunningly coalesced into crap. His perineal pining was a crappy clanging cacophony of theosaurohalucigenic prepostera. It evoked an arhythmic nauseopshychosis in my rockish rollish selfsame soul. My predispository boogievibe is woundsmacked beyond consolitory rehabilitation ... and yeah, dude, I swallowed my tongue.
6) FILM SUPPORT LIKE A COOL SHOWER (AUG. 27)
Kudos to the Austin Film Society for its continued generous support of emerging Texas filmmakers ["TFPF Announces Grant Recipients," Screens, Aug. 21] and to The Austin Chronicle for its coverage and encouragement of local filmmakers. Our film No No: A Dockumentary, about controversial Seventies-era baseball player (and notorious LSD-induced no-hitter hurler) Dock Ellis, was one of the TFPF grant recipients, and that support is like a cool shower in the dog days of the hottest summer likely ever to be recorded here. Hot as it is, there's no place we'd rather be making films than in Austin.
Jeffrey Radice, producer
Mike Blizzard, co-producer
7) SOMETHING IS WRONG AT KUT (AUG. 21)
Something is gravely, gravely wrong at KUT these days ["Media Watch: Unwinding the Twine at KUT," News, Aug. 7]. Paul Ray's and Larry Monroe's hours have been badly cut and Aielli Unleashed has been canned. This is killing the golden geese. Paul Ray, Larry Monroe, John Aielli are KUT. They are its heart and soul. They are what make KUT listeners come across with 85% of KUT's ever-growing budget, twice a year, regular as clockwork.
The word from KUT is that if Phil Music Show and Paul Ray's Jazz were as "successful as other music programs," they wouldn't have been cut. How do you measure success? A devoted listenership, reliable underwriters, and massive outcry when they're threatened – that sounds like success to me.
I don't understand how KUT's $5 million budget paid for Ray, Monroe, and Aielli last year and how its $5 million-plus budget can't this year. However, if cuts really need to be made, cut David Brown. Cut management, in pay and in positions: They are not what KUT is about and clearly can't be trusted with its future.
KUT has become the best in the nation by sticking to the basics: great people, great music, local control. It's about hiring and keeping wonderful people like Aielli and Monroe and Ray and giving them the time and room to do what they do well – play music that interests, inspires, amuses, exasperates, delights, and unites Austin.
Reinstate all of Monroe's and Ray's hours and benefits! Bring back Aielli Unleashed! Restore our trust in KUT!
8) THE UNBIASED AND THE SNIDE (MAY 22)
I was pleasantly surprised to actually read a well-informed and unbiased account of the gun-rights issues prevalent today from The Austin Chronicle ["Gun Crazy!," News, May 22]. Thank you very much, Ms. Smith, for this "breath of fresh air" when other biased, misinformed, and insulting editorials run rampant in other news sources. You managed to present the issues without prejudice in either direction and with factual information. It is much appreciated.
I can only hope the person(s) responsible for the snide jab related to Senate Bill 1164 (concealed firearms on campus) in the article "When Good Things Happen to Bad Bills – and Vice Versa" [News, May 22] can learn from your sterling example in factual reporting. As a college student and spouse to a law-enforcement officer, I am completely for concealed carry on campuses across the U.S., as is my husband, and we both heartily object to the author(s) blindly including us and friends in some blanket statement claiming we would be against such things. Hopefully the author(s) can come to terms with the fact that the NRA is not some faceless entity but is made up of people working at universities, students, law enforcement, mental-health officials, as well as thousands of other law-abiding U.S. citizens. One should not deal in absolutes and claim that all of these groups are completely against concealed carry on campuses.
9) SENSATIONALIST RHETORIC AND SCARE TACTICS (JUNE 27)
While Marc Savlov's article on crime Downtown is a worthy subject and something that everyone should be aware of, what is with the sensationalist rhetoric and scare tactics throughout the article ["Crime and the City Solution" Music, June 26]? Marc Savlov and business owners characterize Sixth Street and Red River like it's a death trap waiting to steal your wallet and eat your children, when that just isn't the case. Buried deep within the accounts of rampant drug dealing and violence is the statistic that crime is down 14%, so why the tagline "Murder, shootings, and crack dealers on every corner"? Of course there's crime Downtown, but is this kind of language really necessary?