October 10 Letters to the Editor

Dear Marfa friends and family,

Ballroom would like to share the news that we will be bringing our partnership with Marfa Myths to an end. The festival has been a huge success for us, but it’s time to refocus on our mission to commission new artworks and spend time going deeper with projects like Graham Reynolds’ Marfa Triptych, and rafa esparza’s recent bust: indestructible columns. Supporting and producing more artworks and performances like these, and spreading the love with concerts and projects throughout the year, is aligned with our roots, our resources, and our vision for the future. Marfa Myths will make a formal announcement regarding the future of the program in the coming weeks but we felt that it was important to let locals know first.

From its start as a one-day show at El Cosmico with five bands off of the Mexican Summer label, Myths evolved into the wildly imaginative and far-out festival that it is known as today. The uniqueness of Myths was due in large part to our partnership with Mexican Summer, as well as the extraordinary local partners, venues, audiences, and collaborators. Ballroom always worked hard to remain conscious of Marfa’s community and to keep the experience connected to this place we call home.

Ballroom is incredibly proud of our partnership with Mexican Summer and the program we built and grew together. We have shared so many beautiful experiences over the past six years, hosting over 90 bands, collaborating with more than 20 local partners each year, and producing 5 special zines with submissions from our talented communities near and far. We hosted 4 recording residencies with Marfa Recording Company; a painting residency with Connan Mockasin, which resulted in new paintings donated to Marfa Public Library; a woodworking residency with Cate Le Bon, thanks to the generosity of Wrong Marfa; and several exhibitions at venues across town with our artists in residence.

It’s incredible that we were all able to come together each year and bask in the wild imaginations of artists like Pharoah Sanders, Roky Erickson (RIP), Annette Peacock, Wire, Connan Mockasin and Dev Hynes (our first Myths recording residency), William Basinski, and so many more. Some of the Ballroom staff favorites were seeing Dungen live score The Adventures of Prince Achmed at the Crowley Theater; Suzanne Ciani filling the Arena at Chinati Foundation with her mysterious oceanic tones, and soaking up the sun with Emily Sprague’s healing sounds echoing throughout the Block at Judd Foundation. We will never forget Helado Negro’s Young Latin and Proud performance before Tom Zé–the king of Tropicalia–took the stage; and Connan Mockasin, the Myths mascot, always surprising us with a strange new project. There was also that amazing afternoon at the Crowley Theater with the queen of synth, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, accompanied by visuals from Rose Kallal and shorts from Marfa Mystery Channel on the big screen. Then there were the dozens of legendary bands that played the Capri (Wire, Perfume Genius + Weyes Blood, Jenny Hval, Deerhunter, Cate Le Bon, and so many more). I, personally, will never forget Jess Sah Bi & Peter One filling the Ballroom courtyard with so much cosmic love and sunshine.

We offer our sincere thanks to Ballroom’s family of supporters and to everyone who made this dream real. First and most obviously, an extra special thank you to the visionaries at Mexican Summer for dreaming up this wholly unique festival, and deep thanks to our partners Marfa Recording Company, The Capri, Nicki Ittner, Visit Marfa, The Chinati Foundation, Judd Foundation, Marfa Studio of Arts, El Cosmico, Wrong Store, The Hotel Saint George, International Woman’s Foundation, Lost Horse Saloon, the Well, Crowley Theater, Ashley Rowe, the City of Marfa, Frama, Marfa Book Company, Sentinel Marfa, Marfa Public Radio, Freda, the Marfa Visitor Center, Big Bend Brewing Company, GEM&BOLT Mezcal, and so many more.

With this heartfelt gratitude, we look forward to what is on the horizon. See you here and everywhere.

Sarah Melendez

Programs Director, Ballroom Marfa

Marfa, TX


Dear Editor,

On behalf of Judd Foundation, I want to thank everyone who attended our sixth annual Ranch Day at Casa Perez this past Sunday. It was a beautiful day made possible by a number of people. I would like thank all of the wonderful participants in Ranch Day, including: Dr. Patricia Moody Harveson and Michael Stangl of Borderlands Research Institute for sharing their knowledge of the mountain lions of West Texas; David Branch for his Honky Tonk tunes; and Kaki Aufdengarten, Mark Scott, Jon Coleman, Katy Rose Elsasser, Adam Bork and Alison Scott of Convenience West for their delicious food.

Judd Foundation is grateful for the opportunity to open Casa Perez to the tri-county residents through the generous support of The Brown Foundation and a grant from the Texas Commission on the Arts, and in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Lastly, thanks to Judd Foundation’s staff for making this event a success, and in particular Randy Sanchez, Rico Roman, Jessie Dominguez, Jonathon Lujan, Tara Hornung and Christopher Mackie for all the work they do to care for Casa Perez throughout the year, and Jeff Matheis and Caitlin Murray for organizing the day each year.


Rainer Judd

President, Judd Foundation

Marfa, TX


Dear Editor,

Trumpism or Redemption?
As harsh and stinging my words, I have no joy documenting that President Trump is suffering from a malignant narcissistic disorder. Pray never to have had his loveless childhood, a criminal, demanding authoritarian father and absent mother. He was groomed for failure behind the illusion of all money is supposed to represent.
Between sympathy for him and the nation’s well-being: where’s the bus? He’s going under! Sound cold? It’s known as “tough love.”
His supporters, corrupt cabinet secretaries, White House staffers and GOP Congressional enablers tried getting something from or out of an association with him. Trump’s authoritarian handbook blamed society’s vulnerable and marginalized.
To supporters, he pandered to lost dreams and hopes with a bouquet of lies. To the upper 1%, that agenda further tilted economic scales creating Gilded Age II inequalities. It continued dismantling financial, environmental and worker protections regulations – for profit before people – of important social concerns while appointing Federalist Society radicals to lifetime federal judicial positions in order to ‘legalize’ acquisition and expansion of pirated booty.
To Putin and foreign despots praised, Trump’s the “f’n moron” his first Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, found him to be. He’s easily manipulated by those dangling peer acceptance and adulation desperately craved. No scheme; foreign or domestic, is too unethical to satisfy the demands of his wounded psyche.
Everything Trump touches dies. His is a Shakespearean tragedy of epic proportions which won’t end well for the nation. Nor the quiet, scheming VP, if assuming the presidency, and those involved in the Ukrainian scandal are identified; such as AG Barr, removed from government and evidence pursued.
The Loyal Opposition to Trumpism continues to perform a vital service. Those in the Administration; with a public consciousness and ability to offer sound advice or resist illegal impulses, resigned or were fired.
Meanwhile, his and the nation’s suffering are in the hands of the Congressional GOP and rightwing media. Excelling at keeping on message, watch the pro-Trump spin machine move into high gear.
But all the king’s horse and all the king’s men couldn’t help Trump’s presidency from degenerating into the unhinged Captain Queeg (of The Caine Mutiny) in the October 3rd news conference with the Finnish President. Compassion is putting a critically mad dog out of its misery, not allowing it to suffer. Don’t take this the wrong way. Violence isn’t the solution!
Trump presented an inventory of wrongdoing longer than my career prosecutor (retired) average daily caseload. His cheering MAGA supporters ignore the 12,000+ lies, moral and political failings which have accumulated geometrically.
His base has suspended belief. Against the laws of probability and weight of human experience, it was always someone else – not their serial liar and career-grifter hero. He’s never responsible for a negative outcome.
But what to say about following someone right off the cliff leaving this nation hovering in a constitutional crisis? A stain from his grease crayon is on their hands.
We need to hear this. There are many dedicated public servants in government. His unprincipled ways are anathema to them; including several whom are Trump appointees in key positions. Therefore, expect leaks – such as the Whistleblower who claimed Trump tried to interfere in his IRS audit – to cascade into torrents of revelations of corruption.
Whistleblowers serve the Constitution’s due process mandate; keep it alive instead of becoming a faded memory of meaningless words. That’s juxtaposed to Trump’s vision of a nation, much less a world, which revolves around his narcissistic, authoritarian self, serving his endless needs without a hint of criticism.
The overwhelming weight of evidence shows Trump betrayed his Constitutional responsibilities to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Knowing that, “What do we value about the entirety of the American experience, warts and all?” Then ask: “What are we prepared to do legally?” Constitutional remedies exist – impeachment by the House with Senate conviction and removal from office.

“These are the times which try men’s souls. The
summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis,
shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands
by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”
– The American Crisis, Thomas Paine

It is, as it always has been, up to us. We simply must do a much better job. Trumpism poses the risk of becoming an indelible mark through the heart of constitutional due process. Time conveys how our nation’s political and moral redemption will fare.

Rev. Barry Abraham Zavah
Editorial Assistance from Alicia Trillo

Alpine, TX


Dear Commissioners and Judge Guevara,

By now you have heard from your constituents many obvious reasons to do all that you can to deny C3 of their wish to bring 20,000 (or more) people to our town.

Here is yet another: Bobcats. And coyotes. And jackrabbits and cottontails. Deer. Foxes. Badgers. Oh – and elk. And pronghorn. Skunks and pink red racer snakes. And hawks and eagles and falcons and owls. And slow but beautiful desert tortoises.

And countless other wild creatures who live here and sometimes cross the roads.

Be ready to see many, many more dead bodies of animals along our highways after an onslaught of twenty thousand (or more) people.

Mary Baxter

Marfa, TX


Dear Editor,

In 1965, when I entered the U.S. Navy, I took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. Every member of the armed forces and every federal official has also taken that oath. I take the oath seriously such that I must now call for the removal of Donald J. Trump from office for his extraconstitutional actions, some of which may be considered high crimes and misdemeanors.

The President has evidently never read the Constitution, nor had it explained to him by his lawyers. His ignorance of the Constitution’s limits on executive authority and his ignorance of the rule of law, despite the fact that he has been involved in thousands of lawsuits before becoming President, is astounding.  He acts as if those limitations do not apply to him and that he has dictatorial power to do as he wishes. As he has said, Article 2 of the Constitution gives him unlimited power.

I don’t think it is necessary here to list the extent of Trump’s malfeasance in office. That has been well covered in the press and media. I find it extremely discouraging that those in the president’s political party have been so silent on this issue when so much is at stake – to wit, the continuance of constitutional governance in this country.

As Benjamin Franklin is reported to have responded to a citizen as he departed from Constitution Hall after the document had been drafted, “a republic if you can keep it.” As a student of history, Franklin knew that every preceding republic had failed only to be taken over by dictatorial power. It’s time for all good men and women to come to the aid of their country and insist upon the impeachment and removal from office of Donald J. Trump.

Thank you,

Joel Gormley

Alpine, Texas


Dear Editor,

The September 19 Sentinel contained a letter from Gregory Romeu of somewhere in Presidio County criticizing my letter of September 1 about the mass shootings in El Paso and Odessa. He called it a “rant” and that those who write letters to the editor were “whining about their friends and family being slaughtered.” Instead, we should revert to attitudes of previous generations: “They dealt with it,” he said. The following is my response.

First, I try my best not to rant. I attempt to submit compelling arguments based on logic, facts and accepted norms of behavior. If large numbers of readers perceived my September 1 letter as a rant, then I failed to make the compelling argument that was intended. However, I consider it possible, if not likely, that some readers may be so entrenched in their own opinions and attitudes that they are unable to consider the points being made and reject them out of hand without due consideration. I confess that is something I have done on occasion, though I try not to.

Though Mr. Romeu’s letter was (I think) a repudiation of gun laws, several paragraphs were about the death of his brother in 1969 caused by a drunk driver. According to MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers) even today every 51 minutes someone in America is killed by a drunk driver. I quit drinking in 1983 after several years of enthusiastically participating in the bar drinking, drive home drunk crowd.

I also followed the news when someone was arrested for drunk driving accidents or deaths.  Back then (circa 1969) the general attitude was: people drink, they drive drunk, they cause accidents, they sometimes kill others, so what, it happens, suck it up. Those attitudes were not significantly challenged until 1980 when MADD was incorporated. More stringent laws slowly followed, but after 39 years they are still inadequate.

Take, for example, the Affluenza Kid, Ethan Couch, who in 2013 at age 16 killed four people while driving drunk. His punishment: one year in a high dollar country club treatment center, paid for by his wealthy parents. It’s notable that the sentencing judge resigned shortly thereafter.

Compare his sentence with that of Crystal Mason, an African-American woman who just last month was sentenced to five years in prison for attempting to vote in the 2016 election. If Texas had an attorney general worth a fraction of his salary both of those sentences would be thoroughly investigated.  (OK, there’s my rant for the day.)

Back to gun laws, Mr. Romeu mistakenly claims that for “200 years this country and its citizens carried their own firearms freely, openly or concealed, their choice.”  According to a 2014 article in the Houston Chronicle Texas’ first ever gun control law was “a bill passed in 1866 that banned bringing guns onto a plantation without the owner’s consent.” Then in 1871 “the Legislature first outlawed the carrying of pistols outside the home” declaring: “If any person in this state shall carry on or about his person, saddle, or in his saddle-bags, any pistol…he shall be punished by a fine of not less than twenty-five nor more than one hundred dollars.” These laws or variations of them apparently remained on the books until 1995 when the Texas Legislature approved a concealed carry law, according to the same Houston Chronicle article.

Mr. Romeu then commented on the “22,000+” gun laws on the books, a number I’ve been curious about for a while, so I researched it a bit. Somewhat surprisingly it does appear that there are more or less that number of gun laws if you add all city, county, state and federal ordinances together. But the number mischaracterizes what the laws actually address.

A large number, if not a vast majority, of those laws address things like the definitions of what a rifle, pistol or shotgun actually is; how long a barrel can be; what are legal for hunting; what calibers or shot size are allowed; who can manufacture, sell, distribute or repair guns; what types of bullets can be used; where guns may be discharged; permits to own; ownership requirements; noise suppressors and on and on. You get the idea. Lots of nothing.

Finally, the challenge.  Mr. Romeu stated: “I will await your (presumably my) answer to my primary question: Which anti-gun law(s) would have prevented ANY of these senseless slayings?” (Again presumably, all killings by gangs, miscellaneous miscreants, as well as the mass murders.)

Okay, just last week a woman in Florida was arrested for possessing 24 pipe bombs and a cache of pistols and other weapons. A year ago a White Nationalist, Coast Guard Lt. Christopher Hasson, was arrested with 15 guns and an email stating, “I am dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on earth.” How many lives have been saved just by getting those two off the street?

There is a great line in the 1995 movie “The American President” that almost fully expresses the problem we have today. It refers to “some groundbreaking piece of crime legislation, like a mandatory three-day waiting period before a five-year-old can buy an Uzi!” In recent decades Republicans and the NRA have managed to either eliminate or water down any meaningful legislation that would or at least might prevent many of the gun related deaths that are now occurring. I’ll cite one example: bump stocks. Prior to the 2017 Las Vegas shooting where 58 people were killed and 422 wounded only two states had banned bump stocks. California’s ban went back to 1990, so it’s not likely no one knew of the potential dangers of the stock. Experts agree that if the Vegas shooter had not used a bump stock the carnage would have been much, much less.

“One death is a tragedy; a million deaths are a statistic,” Joseph Stalin said.  Mass shootings in America have unfortunately become statistics––until they occur in our own backyards, like El Paso and Odessa. Those who are okay with this new “normal” can continue to oppose common sense gun legislation but be aware you are in the minority, even among Republicans.

Laws are essential to a functioning society. Adequate gun laws must be included. And if Texas ever requires gun registration, I’ll take my guns and go stand in line.

Fred Gossien

Terlingua, TX


Dear Editor,

In the last issue of the Sentinel, an article contained the usage of the word dampen that deserves comment. Not being the language police, I am not criticizing the usage, and the meaning was perfectly clear. But investigating the meaning of two similar sounding words can lead to some interesting thoughts.

To damp—this word means to quell, slow down. In the physical sense it means to convert energy to another energy state (heat). The shock absorbers on a car do this—they take the energy bouncing back and forth between the springs and the mass of the car and convert it to heat, thereby stopping your car from bouncing around like a boat when you hit a bump.

To dampen—this word means to moisten or apply water. You can dampen your face with a washcloth. If you’re talking about fire, then this could mean to quell, since if you dampen a fire enough, it will go out. But that is not its primary meaning, but I’m sure this remote connection as a figure of speech has helped add to the confusion.

Damp (adj.)—this means slightly wet or humid, as in “It’s damp outside.” Has nothing to do with the verb to damp.

Probably Anglo-Saxon words all, I would guess, but here’s where it gets interesting: the energy conversion associated with the verb to damp refers to a conversion of energy of a more available form to a less available form. This leads us directly to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, that so far has not been broken. Energy tends to go from a low entropy (available to do work) to a high entropy state (less available to do work), in a closed system. Work has a very specific meaning in physics, I should mention. The Earth is a quasi-closed system, a serious point as we witness our love and belief in technology, with all its benefits to humans, gradually change that system. It’s quasi in the sense that we do get a daily dose of low entropy energy from the sun, and generally that’s the reason given for the evolution of life seemingly working against the Second Law. But humans have had a chain of energy supply beliefs in recent centuries, from coal, to petroleum, to nuclear, and now to direct solar as our power supply, that always seemingly promised liberation from the Second Law, à la evolution, but couldn’t deliver. Is that the way it’s going to be?

Anyway, I don’t mean to damp anyone spirits, just to throw a little cold water on the blind belief in technology and science automatically being able to “solve” everything.

Dave Leet
Alpine, TX


Dear Editor,

On November 5, Texans will vote to approve or disapprove Amendments to the Texas Constitution. Ten Amendments will be considered and happily 9 of them are good, bipartisan proposals. However, a vote AGAINST (NO) is recommended for Proposition #4 and here’s why:

Proposition #4 is: “The constitutional amendment prohibiting the imposition of an individual income tax, including a tax on an individual’s share of partnership and unincorporated association income.”

  • The Amendment is not necessary because the Texas Constitution already prohibits the Legislature from imposing an income tax without a statewide referendum and requires that, should a referendum be approved by the voters, the funds from the tax must be spent on education. If Prop #4 passes, only another Constitutional Amendment could enact an income tax.
  • It is not wise for us now to ties the hands of future Texans to choose the more “progressive” income tax. Texas government is now funded through sales taxes, property taxes and fines/fees. All of those are more “regressive” taxes; that is, they place a higher burden on home owners and people of moderate and low income.  For example, low income residents pay sales taxes using most of their income because they have to spend everything they earn. The wealthy can stock away income unspent because their income exceeds their needs. Sales taxes also place a higher burden on businesses in Texas than in other states; a tax on high income individuals would help Texas businesses.
  • A claim is often made without evidence that Texas’ good economy is due to the fact that it doesn’t have an income tax. Our good economy, with millions of people coming to live in Texas, is more likely due to several other factors (like climate or abundant energy resources, quality higher educational institutions). Furthermore, other states with an income tax are doing quite well and have better public educational systems than does Texas.

Bottom line: Prop #4 is a giveaway to the wealthy individuals and hurts the rest of us. Prop#4 limits future funds for an educational system badly in need of improvement. Do vote, but vote AGAINST (NO) on Prop #4.

Mary Bell Lockhart

Alpine, TX


Dear Editor,

In regard to the public hearing held on October 2 about the proposed C3 Presents event here in our town and area, I am extremely disappointed that none of the three men who will have a heavy hand in helping to decide the fate of our town in reference to having this C3 festival were even in the room when citizens expressed their concerns.

Many citizens brought forth good statements and arguments against the event. Gary Mitchke, Dr. John Paul Schwartz and Sheriff Danny Dominguez should have been there, if for no other reason than to answer pertinent questions. One can only speculate as to why NONE of these men were there. It is not unusual sometimes for one person to be missing, but ALL THREE seems a little questionable. It was almost like they were advised NOT to be there.

It was in a proposal designed by those in opposition to the C3 event and given to the commissioner’s court earlier that these key men be there for the October 2 meeting in the school cafeteria. Yet, apparently, this was ignored, seeming to point further to the speculation that the public say has become irrelevant to the decision making for the outcome of this event, even though those of us who live here will be highly affected by all the actions and activities of this proposed festival.

Also, I want to point out that during the course of several different controversial issues which have come up in our county in recent years, when the county judge and sometimes commissioners are confronted with opposition or questions, they have commented that they must follow the instruction or advice of Austin lawyers, seemingly not to make Austin lawyers upset. Now, I suppose that these Austin lawyers that are always referred to are part of some official state oversight governing body for commissioners’ courts statewide. If this is the case, then why do we need a county attorney at all if we only look to Austin lawyers for the answer on every issue.

Next of all, who is running Presidio County anyway? The people who live here, or lawyers from Austin? Here is a sad fact. There is a lot of corruption in government on all levels in this country, and sadly, although I am a native-born Texan who loves my state, I have come to have little faith in some government officials on any level, especially Austin government officials.

If Austin lawyers are going to decide every issue for us here in Presidio County, why don’t we just have them come here and we address them directly, and dispense with our own officials? Let’s just get down to the disgusting reality of it all. I realize that there are basic state rules and laws for things, but who is to say that the Austin lawyers are always right, or that they have good intentions with their advice either?

Do you think an Austin corporation trying to muscle into every aspect of our lives here in Presidio County would be given favored rulings or unfair advantage by a bunch of Austin lawyers?

We need to follow the law alright, but we need to be sure our county officials are being advised correctly. It sometimes seems sketchy at best. And are our county officials ever going to be able to make decisions on their own from their own training? If not, then perhaps we need to elect someone with an actual law degree for county judge next time around who can be confident in their own decision-making process without running to Austin lawyers for the ultimate decision on everything.

Nancy J. Wood

Marfa, TX