By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Keep on truckin'
Hooray for someone to finally speak out about truck drivers ["Highway Roulette," December 31]. I have driven in Dallas for 10 years and have always noticed how dangerous some truckers are, seeing near-accidents on a weekly basis during my commute. It wasn't until September that I realized how devastating their impact can be (literally). I was involved in a five-vehicle accident on my way to work on a beautiful, clear morning. A 18-wheeler rear-ended the car behind me, pushing that car into my brand-new car, and then pushed both cars approximately 150 feet until my car hit the concrete median and an SUV, which in turn hit another vehicle. I sustained several injuries, and my car was destroyed. Of course the truck drove away undamaged, while my car was taken to a junkyard. I would like nothing more than for Texas to impose tougher laws on the trucking industry. I believe that if tougher laws were imposed there would be fewer injuries and fatalities on Texas highways. All one has to do is listen to the traffic reports and hear how often the word 18-wheeler is used to realize why our highways are so dangerous. I remember sitting in the police car after my wreck as the traffic report came on: "injury accident involving an 18-wheeler on 183...don't get on the highway." I thought, "Oh, that is me." This type of accident is so common on our highways. Large trucks cause major delays, accidents, and pollution that could all be alleviated with a little more regulation and enforcement.
I enjoyed Ann Zimmerman's narrative about the greedy, misdirected, selfish, and obviously criminal behavior present in my industry. However, though I believe her report accurate, I perceive it as an indictment of the whole based upon the actions of a few. There are bad apples everywhere, and we have some of the worst, believe me, I hear them on the CB constantly. I don't have the data handy (but neither do you), and I can't even begin to guess how many trucks are on the road at any particular time, but I'll bet there are enough to make the overall incident percentage somewhat less than one might perceive from your article. The AIDS reference is particularly offensive, alarmist, and ridiculous. If you factor in elements beyond driver control such as the occasional unpredictability of those with whom we share the road, abrupt weather changes, etc., it becomes smaller.
Undoubtedly it's a problem, a serious one on any scale, but the vast majority of us do a good job and do it legally and safely. The playing field is dividing and becoming more high-tech as the industry behemoths devour their competition.
And, you know what? They won't stand for illegal or unsafe drivers--they don't need the headache. No professional business, regardless of size, does. The equipment's getting better and safer every six months; everything improves but the pay.
My sincere condolences to the families mentioned. I see these things all too frequently over the road, but I believe conditions are improving.
Joe Bob unplugged
I can still remember reading my first Joe Bob Briggs ["Joe Bob in Bloom," December 17] review in the Dallas Times Herald. At first, I thought, he must be kidding. By the end of the review, I knew he was kidding. So I always "got" Joe Bob. I assumed from the start that it was written by the only staff reviewer with the initials J.B. I knew Bloom had talent enough to write Joe Bob, but my suspicions weren't confirmed until sometime later when the Dallas Observer ran a story about a film festival held here in Dallas. The story said that John Bloom and Stephen King were keeping company together at the festival. It also reported that Joe Bob Briggs had loaded his truck full of beer and had driven to Maine to bring Stephen down for the festival. It seems that the reporter also accepted, without question, that Joe Bob was unavailable for comment because he was out getting food or whatever. Any disappointment I felt over the reporter missing the real story was eclipsed by the knowledge that the secret I felt I shared with John Bloom was still safe. The secret made his reviews and all the letters of outrage he received by those who didn't get it all the more funny. It also made the Herald's "outing" of John as Joe Bob all the more sad. Still, I got the feeling that there was a good chance John could turn the situation to his advantage if he wanted. I'm glad he's proven all my assumptions about him correct so far. I've been curious about John Bloom for a long time. But since my interest never verged on obsession, I thought I'd always have many unanswered questions about him. Your article managed to answer most of them. Thanks to Jimmy Fowler for an insightful, well-written feature.
Congratulations on your 1998 Utne Reader award for excellence in the Newsweekly category [Buzz, December 24]. Your paper is a beacon of light in this city, and it is a delight to see your great work recognized by a magazine like the Utne Reader. Keep on keepin' on.
Could it be that the Department of Public Safety scandals and the lack of indictments have any bearing on Coggins' cold feet for the judgeship ["The man who would be judge," December 31]? Seems to me that the Dallas Observer has missed the real story.
It's only rock and roll
Observant ones: Alternative newspapers and their writers never cease to amuse--God love 'em. But occasionally they topple over the top so awkwardly, they're laughable. In particular, I'm referring to your lists of the supposed top albums of the year ["Listen up," December 24]. Your writers, and Robert Wilonsky in particular, have seemingly fallen into the trap of trashing anything and everything that's popular in favor of "high-brow'' artists such as Jets to Brazil, Rufus Wainwright, and (who could forget) Neutral Milk Hotel. Unfortunately, these are performers most of your readers, particularly those of us who live in cultural meccas such as Abilene, will never have the opportunity to hear or purchase. In trying to be anti-establishment, your writers are actually the anti-establishment establishment hired by every other alternative newspaper in the land.
I'm not suggesting Jewel's latest effort should be in the top 10. But Jewel is a fairly benign singer-songwriter. Should we really hate her so much that we'd rather see her living "in her car at the bottom of a river,'' as Mr. Wilonsky suggests? (And wouldn't she have to be Aquaman's offspring to accomplish that feat anyway?) And while Bruce Springsteen's Tracks was hit-and-miss, it wasn't really a "muddled disappointment at best.'' Remember, these are songs that didn't make the cut the first time, and only the most diehard Springsteen fans are going to shell out $60 for the box anyway. It's unlikely many of them were disappointed.
I guess what I'm trying to say is, breathe deeply. Everything's going to be all right. Jewel and Alanis and Garth won't be the end of American pop culture. Chill out. It's only rock and roll.
Abilene, via e-mail
Barenaked Ladies, Liz Phair, and Madonna are on your worst albums of the year list ["The crit and shap poll," December 31]. Who are on your best albums list? 'N Sync, Backstreet Boys, and Third Eye Blind, maybe?
While I loved your essay about Deep Ellum, I was totally appalled at the poor Web presentation for the photo essay that accompanied the story ["Out of the rubble," December 10]. Yes, I know, you guys think it's really cutting edge and all that, but it looks really bad when loading. That putting up a separate window for the photo and another for the text, well, it's a real time waster! I click on the photo essay, and two things pop up, and then I have to try to figure out how to see the next image, and I finally find that tiny > and click on it, and then the next photo and next text boxes take so long to load. Well, sir, I just gave up. I have no patience for poorly designed pages. Think of Web page layout as a classic book--photos and accompanying text. I suspect that you had more than enough page space in the story itself to include all the photos, which would have made your story so, so good! My advice? Don't try to do an MTV video on paper, because it just doesn't make it cool.
Ihor W. Slabicky
Cold on Heat
If you can't take the (Horton) Heat, get out of the business? I don't think so. Congratulations, Mr. Wilonsky, on raising yourself above the lemmings ["Homeward sounds," December 31]. As a former music critic for the now-defunct Dallas rag FM Magazine, where unfavorable opinions or reviews were not printed, I am refreshed to hear the Dallas Observer differentiates between ad space and critic space.
Price of a review
I wanted to say thank you for the concise review of the Prince of Egypt ["The greatest story never told," December 17]. After reading your review, I can wait for the video release, so I can use the fast-forward option.
Out of sync
I totally agree with what you said in your 'N Sync bashing article [Music Listings, December 24]. I personally am tired of these bands who make major bucks just because some teenage girls think the lead singer is hot. I hate how every one of these bands is exactly alike, and how they do the exact same songs but change one word and then put the lead-singer's picture on the cover and go plat. Thank you for this article. I only wish that 'N Sync realized they were doomed from the beginning and stopped while they were behind, but of course they don't, so we all have to put up with listening to them until they crash and burn like so many five-guy pop bands before them.