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Letters are posted as we receive them during the week, and before they are printed in the paper, so check back frequently to see new letters. If you'd like to send a letter to the editor, use this postmarks submission form, or email your letter directly to mail@austinchronicle.com. Thanks for your patience.
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City Disrespects Planning Process

RECEIVED Tue., April 10, 2007

Dear Editor,
    Despite no authority to do so, city staff proposed their own amendment to the Dawson Neighborhood Plan, and they did so without notifying the two homeowners whose properties they had offered up for a scheduled vote by the Planning Commission (NPA-07-0001.01, Planning Commission meeting, March 27). One of the homeowners is 73, and the other is 90.
    Both longtime citizens had refused to sign papers necessary for the developer group's original proposed plan amendment. They both came to neighborhood meetings to clearly state that they did not care if their neighbors sought changes that would allow development but that they did not want to change their own property. City staff attended these meetings. After losing a neighborhood vote, the developer group applied for the plan amendment leaving out these two senior citizen's properties. This was the decent thing to do. These elders obviously wanted to be left alone. However, city neighborhood and planning staff decided that they had the authority to add properties that had not been applied for!
    This is the first time city staff has offered up properties for a plan amendment when the owner did not apply. This is also the first time the city did not inform the owners nor the surrounding owners that properties not listed in the official city notice would be voted on. City staff's disrespect for the elderly and disrespect for the neighborhood planning process is shocking.
Donald Dodson, president
Dawson Neighborhood Association

Vance Cuts to the Quick: 'I'm Good; You're Not!'

RECEIVED Tue., April 10, 2007

Dear Editor,
    Christopher Ringstaff’s response [“Postmarks” online, April 9] to my April 3 “Postmarks” online is a perfect exhibit of the moral difference between neo-leftism and neo-conservatism. My use of the word “existential” is in reference to a clear and present genocidal threat to the free world – Islamist fascist tyranny. Mr. Ringstaff’s definition revolves around the thoroughly discredited dogma of Thomas Malthus. My position is based on a real “existential” menace. Mr. Ringstaff’s is based on an intangible but fashionable viewpoint of today.
    Neo-leftism is a social phenomenon driven by the herd and what is popular at the time. Conversely, neo-conservatism is based on intellectual honesty and the moral courage to focus one’s ideological positions accordingly.
Vance McDonald

Bad, Bad SXSW

RECEIVED Tue., April 10, 2007

Dear Editor,
    Here's one more belated note regarding this past South by Southwest.
    For the first time in more than a decade of attending the annual free “shows for the people,” I was denied access to Auditorium Shores because I attempted to bring in a camera with an extended lens (checked out from ACC).
    Was there any advance notice of this new restriction? I doubt it.
    This was heartbreaking because, by the time I walked a half mile back to my car to put the gear back, I missed the show.
    What gives? Year after year I've taken a few “trophy pics” of the performers without disrupting anyone or with the intent of profiting from the images.
    It appears the Festival is going with the flow of chipping away at rights and freedoms and taking on a more corporate attitude. Down with the old Austin and in with more oppressive rules.
    And you were in our park, rented out or not, shame on some anal suit. I never needed no stinkin' badge before.
    Thanks for the great music anyways.
Pete Perreault

Blame Israel for Everything!

RECEIVED Mon., April 9, 2007

Dear Editor,
    With the Bush administration gearing up for an attack on Iran at the behest of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the powerful Israeli lobby also behind the war in Iraq, do most Americans know that Israel has a conservative estimate of 300 nuclear weapons? Maybe that fact should be discussed by U.S. policy-makers and in the press. Ask yourself what country, besides the misguided U.S., is the real destabilizing force in the Middle East.
John Callaghan

'Gabriel Does Not Deserve to Have His Ears Blessed'

RECEIVED Mon., April 9, 2007

Dear Editor,
    Robert Gabriel does not deserve to have his ears blessed with the art that Brother Ali creates [“SXSW Reviews,” Music, March 16]. Obviously, he cannot escape the box that he lives in long enough to see the truth that is so relevant to the world that we live in today and so prevalent in this album. I am positive that he did not take the time to feel the emotion and passion that is being expressed throughout this gem of an album. He is probably some right-wing, ignorant pacifist (which is probably why he is stuck reviewing music at AustinChronicle.com). I'm sure this guy is just scared to listen to something that would probably change his life, because then he would have to look at himself without trying to be something that he's not … real.
Chris Jeffords
San Jose, Calif.

If State Reps Can Steal, Why Can't the Rest of Us?

RECEIVED Mon., April 9, 2007

Dear Editor,
    As an artist, musician, and writer, I was horrified by state Rep. Borris Miles’ action in stealing artwork from an anti-death-penalty exhibition at the Capitol and the legal and public apathy in its wake [“State Representative: Let’s Hang the Artist,” News, March 30]. I brightened, however, when it hit me that, if all I have to do is adopt a stance of righteous indignation, change some language, and abuse my position as an elected official (two out of three ain’t bad), then I, too, can not only publicly confess to stealing but get away with it with nary a raised eyebrow! Thanks to Mr. Miles and the trend he has set, I can now realize my lifelong dream of marching into the nearest Hallmark store and confiscating every glittery, heavy-lidded, huge-craniumed Precious Moments figurine on the shelves, stating that they offend my sensibility as an artist on one hand and as a human with a brain and a modicum of good taste on the other. I shall stash them in my studio and, when confronted, stand tall and proud, declaring that because I have decided for the rest of you that they are tacky and inappropriate, I stripped them from public view on my own initiative. Many of my friends who regularly compliment the emperor’s new clothes would agree with me. Once I start to feel the heat, I’ll simply say I gave the Precious Moments figurines back to a Hallmark employee, who will deny having them, and no one will “seem to know where [they] have gone” at press time.
    The sad truth is that there never would have been an issue if Mr. Miles had taken five minutes to go to the information desk and inquire about the nature of the exhibition.
    And I’d be arrested and jailed if I took Precious Moments figurines, because people care about Precious Moments and collect them, whereas what Mr. Miles took was just a couple of anti-death-penalty paintings that don’t matter, made by some chick from Portland, Ore., and some black guy on death row. Right, Mr. Miles?
Yours in fear for what’s left of our First Amendment rights,
Jennie Kay Snyder

Vocabulary of Islamic Fascism, Neo-Leftist, and Moral Relativism

RECEIVED Mon., April 9, 2007

Dear Editor,
    While reading Vance McDonald's incoherent right-wing rantings of April 3 [“Postmarks” online], I noticed the word "existential" pop up. Wow! Considering his three-word vocabulary of Islamic fascism, neo-leftist, and moral relativism (OK, five words), this is a quantum leap for his obviously challenged intellect. Perhaps Mr. McDonald is ready to explore the broader implications of his newfound word.
    Consider the possibility that Homo sapiens as a species are three swings out of the evolutionary tree heading toward a Malthusian calamity of their own making. Or that all the wars presently being waged over resources across the planet are tantamount to a bunch of spider monkeys throwing shit in one another's eyes over a bunch of bananas.
    Your anthropomorphic god of delusion, as well as all the other gods of religions you so vehemently denounce, was invented by humans for humans. We are all nothing but walking sedimentary detritus. Don't believe me? Just take a drive along Loop 360 and contemplate the magnitude of all the once-living biomass comprising those scenic sedimentary beds of Cretaceous limestone. The existence of all those creatures is no less significant than our own. Our blip in geologic time is simply the next, albeit unconformably lying, stratigraphic layer.
    A bit much for your pea-brain to handle? Maybe you should just stick to watching Fox and listening to Rush like the rest of your moronic ilk.
Sincerely,
Christopher W. Ringstaff
Rockport

Another Week in Iraq

RECEIVED Mon., April 9, 2007

Dear Editor,
    We are another week into the Iraq war, and this is what has happened: The crazed Democratic Party has dared to provide oversight to the executive branch by merely suggesting a measurable objective. Congress now dares to ask for results in exchange for the lives, bodies, and national treasure; how dare they? If President Bush actually believed that we’re on the right track, why would he be so against benchmarks? The only reason I can figure out is that President Bush knows that this boondoggle is the same stay-the-course strategy fitted with a new bow. President Bush has threatened to use his veto, and that shows progress. I mean if this was a Republican Congress, President Bush would have just done another signing statement, and that would have been the end of that. Let us hope that control of our nation can be rescued from the grip of what can only be described as imperial power. When a president is beyond the reach of law, when there are no checks on the presidential power, we no longer have a president but a dictator or king. Every single minor change in tactic and policy has always been reported to us as being successful, yet it has never decreased any measurable effect in Iraq, so how exactly was it successful? I believe that the “success” is the simple continuation of this pointless and elective war. If the nation is not being shown success in Iraq, we’re not having success in Iraq. That is the simple fact, and we can no longer deal in conjecture because we’ve had lie on top of lie given about our new “successful” tactics. I believe that we’re only throwing more fresh meat into the meat grinder, which is called the Iraq war, and President Bush knows this.
Ron Ruiz

Dying Because of Bigotry

RECEIVED Sat., April 7, 2007

Dear Editor,
    Michael Ventura's last “Letters @ 3am” [March 30] touchingly described the agonizing deaths of thousands of American small towns. But these towns aren't just choked with bigotry because they're dying. They've been dying for decades, but from their very start, they've demanded straight, white, Christian neighbors who keep their women at home. Meanwhile, Marfa, Texas, and Taos, N.M., are doing fine as open-minded, tolerant cultural hubs. And small-towners are also quite free to follow their children to cities and suburbs.
Will Warner

'Chronicle' Film Writers Conned by 'Grindhouse'

RECEIVED Fri., April 6, 2007

My dear friends,
    Much like the way some musicians will add the scratchy "old phonograph" effect to a part of a song to give it an old-timey sound, the use of the occasional "film damage" filters in film/TV can be visually effective and contribute to setting a mood.
    With that said, and at the risk of being stoned by those who worship at the Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino church, I am dazed and confused that you and so many have been taken in by the exercise of style over anything and everything else that Grindhouse so revels in [“The Cinema of Possibilities” and “Carpenter's Apprentice,” Screens, April 6].
    As I walked out halfway through the premiere the other night, I joined others old enough to remember spending $1.75 for a wonderful day lost in a smelly, roach-infested theatre watching a triple-bill, who, like me, neither found this "film experience" touchingly nostalgic nor hip to the nth degree.
    I do congratulate the filmmakers on the ultimate con job. Make two really awful films, outfit them with crappy sound and little production value, throw a handful of damage filters over the whole thing, and bill it as a trip down memory lane. While I can see the all-too-hipster young’uns taken in by this simulacrum of life before THX, plasma televisions, and HD DVD’s, I can’t believe anyone older than the age of 35 would buy into this horse manure. It’s too bad the title The Hoax was just taken, or else they could have used it instead of Grindhouse.
    Feeling ill from the experience, I hightailed it over to Vulcan Video and rented Homecoming and Larry Cohen’s "Pick Me Up" (featuring the great Michael Moriarty). As I sat and watched these two films, I was returned to the real grind-house days. Zombies, serial killers, political humor, and cheesy-fun dialogue. Compared to what Rodriguez and Tarantino have spewed forth, these two films offer a viewer everything missing from horror films today. But Joe Dante (who was just in town to witness only a smattering of attendance for a screening of his seminal low-budget entry Piranha) and the completely underrated Cohen (I would gladly have a rumble with anyone who thinks Jack Hill’s entire filmography can hold its own to any one of Cohen’s) are everything Rodriguez and Tarantino can only beg, borrow, and steal from then belch out with frat-boy fervor.
    I would not be surprised to find Grindhouse playing at a theatre along the now-sterilized 42th Street in New York. In fact, I could see it playing for years there. They could even hire actors to portray the junkies and homeless you’d typically find yourself sitting next to back in the day. And I bet if Rodriguez and Tarantino had their way, they’d even pump in the odor of urine and vomit, charge 40 bucks for the "virtual experience," and make a massive killing.
Yours,
Ron Deutsch

Pulling the Wool off of Capital Metro

RECEIVED Fri., April 6, 2007

Dear Editor,
    Michael King does a nice job pulling the wool off of Capital Metro's latest attempt to bust our union [“Point Austin,” News, April 6]. They think we're so stupid that we would give up the only thing that moved negotiations in 2005 – the right to strike. This profound disrespect had as much to do with the mentioned near-strike in December and the one-day strike which preceded it in September as any of the economic issues. Do they think we're puppies who have now forgotten the beating and will run back to our master? It is quite the opposite, as we have merged the two Austin locals and organized the last nonunion Capital Metro workers in preparation for the transit authority's next attack on the workers. Our leadership [1091 President Jay Wyatt] is correct to say we "don't … give a shit" about our right to strike [“Cap Met Labor Update,” News, March 23]. As demonstrated in New York that same winter of '05, workers will exercise their inalienable right to withhold work when abused no matter what the legal ramifications are.
Glenn Gaven
ATU 1091 member

All the World's a Stage

RECEIVED Fri., April 6, 2007

Dear Editor,
    Barry Pineo wrote, "I have never traveled outside the continental United States" [“Austin Shakespeare Festival,” the Arts, April 6]. Well, hello! Doesn't that just explain it all?
    C'mon, Barry, all the world's a stage, and you've lived your life in the ticket booth.
Mike McKinley
International Drag Ballerina

Then and Now: It's Still the Music

RECEIVED Thu., April 5, 2007

Dear Mr. Black,
    Twenty-five years ago, I was a rookie sales manager at the Hyatt on Town Lake. Someone approached me about a festival he was putting together at the Armadillo World Headquarters that would bring in musicians from all over and would need a block of rooms to house them. There was no history on the event, but he assured me that this event was going to evolve and we (the hotel) would benefit years down the road if we just had faith and could work with him on this. I pleaded your case to my director of sales, and we came up with a small room block and a price.
    Over the years, my career with Hyatt took me away from Texas, but I continued to follow your success because of my infatuation with the music business. Last year I booked a hotel in Austin to come down with my daughter during her spring break to look for a place to live, so I could move back to Austin. The hotel rates escalated toward the end of the week, and I told her it must be South by Southwest. It was so amazing to be in town with my 21-year-old daughter and sharing with her the energy that was created by the series of SXSW events.
    This year, I am back living here and have been following your story. I’m older and don’t choose to attend the events now. What I want to say is congratulations for having a vision and for following through with your goals regardless of the doubters and naysayers. I can see what your event has done for the hospitality industry and the music and film business here, but more than anything, I wish I could describe the energy I felt just driving my car down Eighth Street last weekend with the windows down! I felt an overwhelming joy for you and your team and all the people who come to Austin to experience this extreme concentration of talent and music lovers.
    Many organizations and events get financial assistance from cities and convention centers. That’s part of the competitive nature of the business. Just tell all those who complain that there are plenty of cities that would gladly pay to bring your event to their bottom line! If people don’t get it, have them contact Nashville and ask why NAMM moved their annual event to Austin and how much Nashville would love to have them back!
Best wishes on continued success,
Diana Mourer
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