The Popcorn's Never Worth It
I found Peter Rainer's Lost World review very disconcerting [Film, "Spielberg's Lost," May 22]. If I wanted to read a dissertation on the life and times of Steven Spielberg, I would have picked up the Time magazine mentioned in the review. The information and examination regarding Mr. Spielberg is irrelevant to a specific film review -- particularly the length at which Rainer chose to focus on the director's career choices, age, place in society/culture, etc. Just tell me if the film is worth $6.75 and a bucket of popcorn. Put the critique somewhere else in the publication.
Sanchez Si! Wagner No!
I would like to clarify a couple of the points made recently in your May 22 Insider column ["Stop the Music," by Tim Fleck]. The music of Wagner is shunned by many people -- not just Jews -- not because Hitler was a fan of that composer but because Wagner himself was an anti-Semite; he advocated the forced conversion of the Jews. It was this as much as his fervent nationalism which made Wagner a favorite of the Nazis. Many Jews marched to their deaths at Auschwitz to the strains of Wagnerian opera.
On another note: While Houston is fortunate in having a mayor and City Council who are extremely supportive of the arts, none of them is a stronger supporter than Orlando Sanchez. While I do not know all the details of the recent communications between the councilman and the Da Camera Society and do not believe that art should be judged by the politics of the artists, I have always found Mr. Sanchez to be
quite open-minded and reasonable. I suspect there is more to this story than is immediately apparent.
While it's technically true that the funding for Da Camera passes through the Cultural Arts Council of Houston/Harris County, Houston's largest arts organizations are exempt from CACHH's peer-review process, a process which for 20 years has served to insulate arts organizations from political pressure. Last summer, at the behest of several of the major organizations, the city restructured the funding process so that the level of funding for those companies is established by Council. It should be noticed that Councilman Sanchez was then (and I assume is now) a supporter of the peer review process.
Castro No! Austin No!
The article against the Cuban-American community published in the Houston Press's issue of May 8 [Static, by Hobart Rowland] is unconscionable and highly derogative. The interviewer and Jim Austin, president of the Houston International Festival, tried to trivialize the long tragedy of the Cuban people, oblivious to the fact that the Cuban people have been suffering for almost 40 years the most bloody dictatorship in the history of the hemisphere. Tens of thousands have been put to death by Castro's firing squads or died by torture in their dungeons, and many more have died in the Florida Straits trying to escape from the Cuban hell. We expect a minimum of human decency when dealing with the Cuban Holocaust.
In the article, Mr. Austin alleges to oppose censorship -- as usual, the perpetrator blames the victim. Mr. Austin, who has censored and discriminated against the Cuban musicians exiled in this country [by] banning them from participation in the Houston Festival, is trying now to mislead the press and the public opinion. To add insult to injury, Mr. Austin tried to ridicule the legitimate concerns of the Cuban-American community during an interview with the Press, while demeaning the quality of the Cuban exiled musicians, many of whom have excelled and are much more recognized worldwide than the Cubanismo group. Based on these facts, it seems to us that Mr. Austin's prejudices against the exiled Cuban musicians must be politically inspired.
Most of the 20,000 Cubans living in this area came to this country in the pursuit of freedom and respect for human rights, which have been trampled by Castro's Stalinist regime. However, we are not going to allow anyone to scorn the dignity of our whole community. We believe that Mr. Austin owes an apology to the Cuban-American community.
I ask in all fairness that you publish this letter unedited.
Editor's reply: Actually, "fairness" does not dictate that we publish your letter unedited, but we did so anyway. And in all fairness we contacted International Festival president Jim Austin, who said he has no idea what you are referring to when you claim he has "censored and discriminated" against exiled Cuban musicians.
Lose the Accent?
Come on now, do you really think it ridiculous that the DA's office would try to track down an employee apparently intentionally inflicting emotional pain on a co-worker? [The Insider, "Special Crime," May 22].
I realize it may be difficult for you to understand how painful it can be for those of us carrying around more body than is currently fashionable to be subjected to ridicule. To many, including you, it may seem being overweight is simply a matter of "self-control" or some such nonsense. Never mind the growing evidence that different body types are natural, that obesity has its roots in genetics and that constant starvation in the name of achieving some ideal is more unhealthy than girth.
I do understand because I have fought that battle for years. Some things we can't change.
Because of that understanding, I'll resist the temptation to suggest you fatten up your skinny butt, grow a complete head of hair and lose the accent. After all, without those attributes you might not have developed such a sharp wit, keen sense of humor and very clever style. That's why I try to always read your entire column.
And, having said all that, I'm glad to note that while there has apparently been some success in official efforts to limit Cuban entertainment, the availability of Cuban food prepared by Cubans remains unchallenged.
Wishing you many second servings,
Another Dennis Langer Success Story
I would like to respond to a letter written about the Dennis Lange article ["Lange's Way," by Hobart Rowland, March 27]. It was the one stating that Dennis Lange was so detrimental to the career of Toy Subs, a Houston rock band [Letters, "Dancin' with Mr. D.," April 24]. Though I don't remember the exact wording, I remember reading that the music was uninspired and lacked those beautiful harmonies of the past -- a bright future gone sour.
I am the lead singer and one of the main writers of Toy Subs. Though I am sad that you don't like our music anymore, I understand and have no problem with it. All I want to do here is clear some things up.
First, Dennis Lange has been responsible for booking Toy Subs' cover band (in which we play other bands' music for money), and that is it. He has nothing to do with our original music. We went to him. He has booked over 1,000 shows for us in the last five years and has given great advice when asked. I believe he has given musicians the ability to make their living playing music. It is the musicians who have the choice to squander their talent by getting lazy or overbooked to the point that they don't have time to write. I have seen plenty of that, and it is not Dennis's fault.
Second, the choices and changes we have made are ours. Nobody has made them for us. Let me tell you what we have done in the last few years. Star Search did nothing for us in 1991. We got to go to L.A. and make a little money. No record deals. We were talking to a few labels independent of Star Search, but no dotted lines. After three years of playing Fitzgerald's, etc., we weren't getting anywhere. Trips to Austin and Dallas were unsuccessful. This is when your letter said we were good. I felt differently.
We were too pretty. I wanted us to be the Beatles meets the Replacements. That was really out when grunge broke. So we decided to change gears. We started playing cover gigs in order to make a living, get the band really tight and get comfortable on stage. We could constantly try out our new songs in front of people, and they had to stand up to the other bands' songs we played. We soon found that we were reaching a much larger audience than before. Despite the lack of label interest, we still felt we had something special. So we stopped waiting. We saved money from each gig (and still do). We bought a PA, and in the last three years built our own 24-track studio in our rehearsal space. The gigs hardened the band and we got better in the studio.
By 1995, Brian Garcia joined us to round out our production team. We recorded the CD Vim Fuego. We have sold over 1,000 copies at gigs alone. Last year went by and still no labels or radio, but we were winning Best Cover Band in the polls. The vote was not for our "covers," I believe. These were our new fans supporting our originals.
Then, late last year, David Sadof and Steve Robison called to say The Buzz 107.5/FM would like to add "Dr Bre" from Vim Fuego to their playlist. It is still there today. They have asked us to open the show on the main stage at the Buzzfest at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion on August 31. "Dr Bre" is in rotation now in several cities in Texas and we are about to do a big promotional push. Subs are getting set to record a new full-length CD this summer once we return from our second trip to Japan (thanks to Dennis Lange). I'd say Toy Subs are just getting started.
Jamie Jahan Daruwala
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