One of the nice things about being an American is that part of our birthright is the right to be as ignorant and insulting as we wish to our public figures, whether they be presidents, mayors or judges.
This right we owe to our forefathers' anger at the repression of free speech by the British Crown. Our ancestors had no legal right to speak against the government or its representatives, and the British used criminal prosecutions for "seditious libel" to control dissent until the Zenger trial. We now have the First Amendment to protect us.
So it is that I wonder about Judge Bacon's anger over those students' letters [News, "Harsh Sentences," by Steve McVicker, December 8]. Her anger was misdirected. She should have been angry at the school and/or teacher for not informing the students of the restraints under which she operates or for not explaining the legal system better. She should have been angry at the students for being ignorant or for not asking questions first.
They may have been wrong to "take that tone" with her in that case, and it certainly sounds so. But for her to say, "Don't take that tone with me or with any other public figure" is the same thing as saying, "Don't be an American."
If you can't stand the heat, get out of the frying pan -- and public figures certainly live in a frying pan. I would suggest that the judge learn to laugh at ignorance; her anger may only have made it worse.
George A. Butel
Bibles to Loan
In response to Martha Failing's letter ["No Cash for Camels!," December 22]:
Jesus also said that the poor shall always be with us; $150 won't end world hunger. Not even Houston hunger. One family, yes, but for how long? One month -- there is a deeper problem than that.
So the church should forget about its main mission -- spreading the news of Jesus Christ? This was the church's gift to the community -- whether poor or rich done once a year. We can give to the poor anytime -- and most churches do. How about you? Maybe you should read your Bible. If you need one, I've got extras.
I now understand why you advertise in every issue looking for a music critic. Edith Sorenson's review of Jerry Jeff Walker [Critic's Choice, "Two Shots of Jerry Jeff," December 22] was downright pathetic.
Her attempt to claim Jerry Jeff isn't really country was ridiculous and uninformed. It is the kind of review, however, that one would expect from a culture that thinks the West was won by Pace Picante Sauce commercials, where everything from New York City is cause to string somebody up and Pure Country is a Hollywood movie and an album by some guy in starched Wranglers who has never in his highly successful career recorded a song he wrote. (Sorry, George. Pace, by the way, was recently sold to a New Jersey company.)
Any true country music fan knows geography doesn't count for much. Ian Tyson hales from Alberta, Canada, Roy Rogers from Cincinnati, Ohio, and Hal Ketchum from Greenwich, New York. Besides, any real fan would also know Jerry Jeff is not from Oneonta, but Austin, Texas. It was Ron Crosby who came out of New York. And yes, Jerry Jeff has covered others' songs, just like Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt and other singer/songwriters have. He's also written many songs which have been deservingly successful and countless others which should have been. And ma'am, everybody in Texas knows who wrote Redneck Mother, a fellow by the name of Ray Wylie Hubbard, and the song is the lament of a hippie who just got his ass kicked by some stupid redneck, not a redneck anthem. And speaking for a host of sober Jerry Jeff fans, these are not drinking songs.
Edith, go listen to Stoney or Dust on My Boots again. And Houston Press, good luck finding a new critic. Lord knows you need one.
Editor's note: According to The Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Jerry Jeff Walker, birth name Paul Crosby, was born in 1942, in Oneonta, New York.
You found John Frusciante's artistically genius creation Niandra Lades and Usually Just a T-shirt to be lacking [Sound Check, "Post-Christmas Clearance," by Brad Tyer, December 29] and I found your research/ intellect on the composer to be just as, if not more, "crappy," to use your own wording. Let's count your mistakes!
Number One. John Frusciante was not the Red Hot Chili Peppers' third guitarist, he was their fourth. First they had Jack Sherman, who played on their debut and Freaky Styley. Then he was fired and Hillel Slovak took over. After Slovak's overdose they temporarily hired Blackbird McKnight. Then Frusciante joined the band. So you see, he was their fourth guitarist.
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Number Two. John Frusciante did not play with the Chili Peppers at Lollapalooza. He quit the band on May 7, 1992, in Japan, about a month and a half before Lollapalooza began. There was a huge confusion about how the band could possibly find a replacement before the big event. Don't you remember any of this? Where were you during the summer of '92? Since you probably have no idea, let me refresh your memory: they settled for Arik Marshall, the band's fifth guitarist.
Number Three: The album Niandra Lades and Usually Just a T-shirt sounds like it was recorded on a 4-track because it was. Is that a crime?
For a music critic you obviously don't know that much about musicians in the field. Before printing another mistake-ridden feature, why don't you try to read about the band/artist you're cutting down? Maybe you should spend an hour listening to someone who's smarter than you. You just might learn something.