Twisted Roots

DNA tracing: I disagree with Bennett Greenspan's inaccurate and misleading characterizations of myself and African Ancestry in John Nova Lomax's article ["Who's Your Daddy?" April 14]. Indeed, African Ancestry was never contacted for a response to Mr. Greenspan's accusations.

Mr. Greenspan accuses our company and me of overselling: "Kittles is trying to tell people that they can put you back to a single tribe out of hundreds...but you're not gonna see another scientist saying, 'Oh, that clearly works.' "

In most cases, African Ancestry can trace genetic lineage not to one particular ethnic group in an African community but to several groups in particular regions -- depending upon how common some lineages are and the migrational histories of certain groups. We do not promise or claim otherwise. We are confident in our abilities and have worked with anthropologists, geneticists, archaeologists and historians to construct the world's most comprehensive database for African lineages.

African Ancestry regularly gets orders from customers who have taken Mr. Greenspan's Family Tree DNA test. These customers learn from that test that they have African ancestry. These customers tell us that they wish to take African Ancestry's test to further learn with what African groups in which particular African regions they may share common genetic lineage.

Rick Kittles, Ph.D.
African Ancestry, Inc.
Washington, D.C.

Sonic Boom

Silence is golden: A few clarifications are in order regarding the recent article ["Lowering the Boom," by Josh Harkinson, April 21] on my new residential anti-noise-pollution service, Noise-Busters of Houston:

I do not "shout down" noisy dogs on behalf of my clients. I send out one or two letters to the owners or caretakers of the animal, send a copy to the property owners if they reside elsewhere, and try to discuss solutions with them on the phone. If no one will cooperate, I advise my client about the most effective way of filing a formal complaint with law enforcement, or I provide detailed information about filing a civil lawsuit.

My total retainer fee to take on a case and initiate my service is $60 per client. There are no additional hourly fees assessed afterward.

Thank you.

Howard Lehrman
Noise-Busters of Houston

Young Guns

NRA safety: I read your article ["High-Caliber Kids," by Josh Harkinson, April 21], and if I hadn't attended the NRA convention myself, I would have thought it was put on solely to promote the use of military weapons by kids.

You started out by referencing the "destroys flesh like a chain saw" capability of the HK MP5 submachine gun (heavily restricted, mostly military use) and stayed on that theme throughout the balance of your "news" article. The picture shows a nine-year-old boy posed behind a ten-pound semiautomatic rifle he can barely hold. I equate this with letting my ten-year-old sit in the seat of an F-16 at the air show, but most people would realize that he isn't going to take off and start launching rockets anytime soon.

The NRA has the best-known and most effective gun-safety training program in the world for kids. It only makes sense to teach our children what to do if they come across a gun someday. Unfortunately, some of our education bureaucrats don't like the NRA, so they won't put out the message. I wonder how many kids perished because somebody put politics over common sense.

And I'm sure you can admit that a certain amount of your own sentiment flavored your text. If you are able to recognize and admit that, all I ask is that next time you banner your piece with "editorial" and not "news."

Tim McGonigel

Saluting the Showcase

Hard work for music: Scott Essex is a friend of mine who has worked with the International Festival for ten-plus years [Racket, by John Nova Lomax, April 21 and April 28]. He's done the palapas and landscaping, and last year he built the elephant habitat. He had the most popular booth at the festival two years ago. He had a small stage where he had bands, dancers, a DJ and karaoke. He had a beer booth and palm trees; everybody was in Hawaiian shirts. People were dancing in the street!

Scott's doing the Showcase Stage this year for the love of the music, and for his love of the festival. Scott built the stage, bought the PA system and God knows what else out of his own pocket.

A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into this. We were inundated by the response to our Internet ad to find the bands that would play. Chris "Flash" Shockley and Scott had to quickly screen the responses. They wanted to offer something for everybody. Scott did want to offer country, zydeco, blues and Latino music, etc., but those bands didn't respond to our ad. A lot of the bands didn't want to play when they found out it was a free gig. It's a lot of work lugging your equipment downtown to play for only 45 minutes.

Roxanne Stengel

Giving musicians a voice: It is correct to say that my knowledge of palm trees and palapas is much greater than my knowledge of all the various types of local musicians, but I am paying my dues to learn more.

The reason I am doing the Flamingo Gardens Houston Showcase Stage is so that many (not all) of the great voices of Houston can be heard. Why can't Houston have its own claim to music fame? I apologize for not knowing all the acts you listed in your column, but the groups that are playing are top-notch, dedicated musicians. And yes, to be a full-time musician in Houston does mean playing cover music. Just ask these groups how much they love to play "Mustang Sally" one more time.

Blues legend Ozell Roberts, who has played with Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and Etta James, has to play these cover songs to afford to buy his diabetes medicine. Even after this he can still be found at Shakespeare's Sunday jam session just to play for free for the love of music. Why must Houston musicians starve to do what they love?

All of the bands on the Showcase Stage, which I personally funded, are playing for free. All the stagehands and production crew members are volunteers. Everyone involved is here to let Houston musicians have a voice in their own town. We have a diverse lineup: from a 14-piece swing band to awesome jazz sax, to original rock, to blues legends. Maybe we didn't hit every category this year, but there's always next year.

I am as Houston proud as you are and have only one desire: to let the voices of Houston be heard!

Scott Essex

Down on the Gardens: You're right about your analysis of the Flamingo Gardens Showcase Stage. I was thrilled to read your article!

About two and a half months ago, I read online that Flamingo Gardens was looking for Texas bands to play at the International Festival. I immediately e-mailed the contact and, as requested, hauled ass from Katy all the way to Flamingo Gardens to drop off a CD of my band Old School. Next day, I heard from Chris "Flash" Shockley informing me that we could have a spot on opening day!

About three weeks later I was informed that we were being moved to the second Saturday of the festival. This kind of pissed me off because I communicate to music industry pros on a daily basis and now I looked like a dumbass. I e-mailed Mr. Flash and mentioned to him that I wanted a confirmed date so that this didn't happen again! I was nice but blunt. Flash wrote me back saying that I was not in the position to make demands (?).

After a heated discussion, the man gave me his word that we were going to play on the second Saturday at 4 p.m. We showed up in the meantime at the party for the bands playing on that stage, and I thanked Flash and Scott, the owner of Flamingo Gardens, for a great time. That's about all I said to them, and felt I was polite and very nice.

Later, Flash called to say he was booting us because I said something wrong to Scott. WTF? I tried to reach Scott, but Flamingo Gardens said he's never in. Flash eventually called me back, said it was his decision and that we were booted because he wanted a horn group to play.

Now, am I wrong in thinking this is totally bogus shit? Once again it shows that if you give a goober a little power, he will twist it and contort it with everything he's got. Flamingo Gardens Stage is not supporting the artists of Houston in the way it should have. Get the word out how bogus this event is to the indie music community!

Les Lewellyn


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