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Fine, Now Go After the Right

Posted 1/11/2006

Thank you, City Paper, for Gadi Dechter’s tireless pursuit of the pesky (now former) Sun columnist Michael Olesker (Media Circus, Jan. 4). I hope you are all proud of your success at removing yet another liberal voice from that paper. One or two more, and it can just merge with The Washington Times.

Now, honestly, was it really necessary? The Sun’s been dumping its liberals right and left of late, and I’m sure that it’s quietly overjoyed to have you helping with its dirty work. Accurate reporting is essential in your business, of course, and if (as it seems certain) Olesker abused his sources by not citing them, he needed to be called to task on it and, perhaps, it is just as well that it cost him his job. At the same time, I’d guess that if a conservative writer at The Sun were caught in similar misdeeds, that paper would take measures to save his or her reputation, and you’d have a fight on your hands. Long story short, Dechter went, in my opinion, for the “slam dunk,” damning a writer for whom the writing was already on the wall. I’ll be impressed when you succeed at taking down one of the right-wing screamers, thank you very much.

Thad Paulhamus
Baltimore

 

Bash Back

I am writing in response to Leo Williams’ letter in the Jan. 4 issue of City Paper (“No, But There Is This Thing Called ‘Bashing,’” The Mail). This ignorant/intolerant man makes the statement, “Homosexuals are largely responsible for one of the deadliest epidemics in history.” That’s odd. I know a number of people who blame the government for the same epidemic. Aside from this ignorant statement, Mr. Williams asks if homosexuals have ever had to have voter-registration drives or been barred from jury duty because of who they are? To the best of my knowledge the answer is no.

However, Mr. Williams goes on to ask, “Have homosexuals ever been lynched or had their homes and churches burned to the ground by hate groups?” Hmmm . . . have homosexuals ever been attacked by hate groups or been attacked at all for that matter? YES, you moron. Anyone who wants an eye-opening education can go to www.MatthewShepard.org. This is just one tragic example of what is still going on in today’s society.

Mr. Williams ends his letter by saying that stumbling blocks are put in the way of homosexuals in society because of what he calls “normal human nature.” Unfortunately, I have to agree with Mr. Williams on this point. Only because fear and hate are, indeed, a part of human nature.

Brian W. Jewell
Essex

 

Don’t Miss Our Next Thrilling Episode . . .

While I applaud efforts to help ex-offenders avoid becoming re-offenders (“Offensive Treatment,” Mobtown Beat, Jan. 4), certainly someone somewhere should have reconsidered this line: “ . . . the center’s employees can’t guarantee that an ex-offender won’t have an episode while on the job.”

Excuse me? “Have an episode”? Like an epileptic fit, or breaking out in hives? I believe what you are referring to is “commit a crime.”

“Have an episode,” passive voice, implies something unpredictable and unavoidable that strikes like a bolt from the blue. “Commit a crime,” active voice, correctly points out that the “episode” is a deliberate choice and an intentional one.

Let’s be clear here: We’re talking about committing a crime, not having an episode.

Robert Taylor Jr.
Baltimore

 

Dem Bones

It was a pleasant surprise to see a tribute to my colleague John Ostrom in “People Who Died” (Feature, Dec. 28). When I was a young fellow, dinosaurs were still seen as archaic reptiles that had long gone entirely extinct and had nothing to do with birds. In the late ’60s and early ’70s, John observed that the anatomy of dinosaurs was more compatible with their energetics and growth being more like that of birds and mammals than reptiles, a hypothesis that has since been verified by multiple lines of evidence. Where John really made his mark was in 1973 in Nature, where he proposed that birds are flying dinosaurs the same way bats are flying mammals, the direct ancestors of birds having been a set of small, flesh-eating theropod dinosaurs. This was based in part on his research into the very birdy sickle-clawed dinosaur Deinonychus (the raptors of Jurassic Park) in the ’60s, as well as restudy of the first “bird,” Archaeopteryx. This idea, too, has since been confirmed by an enormous body of new fossils and research.

Just a few weeks ago a paper in Nature showed that the best-preserved Archaeopteryx specimen to date—they’re still digging them up in quarries in Bavaria—is even more dinosaurian in form than previously realized, so the first bird was a wee sickle-clawed dinosaur with wings (the feathers are preserved). Equally amazing are some similarly small sickle-clawed “raptors” from China, which have fully developed wing feathers on both the arms and the hind legs of all things. That is something even John never predicted.

Based in part on John’s ideas, I started illustrating small dinosaurs with feathers in the ’70s, a practice that remained controversial until the feathered specimens started showing up in China about a decade ago. Much of my overall scientific research has stemmed from his thinking. It is difficult to conceive of where dinosaurology would otherwise be today. A third of a century ago, those who researched dinosaurs were a mere handful; nowadays it’s hard to keep up with all the research.

Gregory Paul
Baltimore

 

A Rich Man

I am a casual reader of City Paper, mostly for the entertainment listings and to giggle at the personal ads. Only occasionally do I take the time to read the articles.

I realize this is not ringing endorsement of your paper, but I truly do look forward to it. This time, however, I found myself somewhat intrigued by the “"a href="v">People Who Died” article. I read a few and was just about ready to lay the paper down when I saw the “And It Deep, Too!” headline. To this day, that same ol’ reference is uttered over and over in the men’s room, and always gets the expected halfhearted chuckle.

As a young white kid growing up in the county and doing my share of smokables, my friends and I were huge Richard Pryor fans, always playing the albums and laughing hysterically. Probably the funniest stuff I had ever heard, regardless if he was joking on us white kids or not. Truly funny stuff. Barry Michael Cooper’s article brought back many memories of listening to Pryor, and his personal recounts were extremely well-written.

Whether Mr. Cooper reads this or not, I just felt moved to write for the first time ever to City Paper and thank him for reminding me how much fun it was to listen to Richard Pryor.

Mike Cimino
Baltimore

 

Every Frame is Art

The opening thrust of Violet Glaze’s review of Brokeback Mountain (Film, Dec. 28) is a swipe at the alleged dawdling of the film’s beginning: “We all know why we’re here. If we wanted scenery, we’d be watching Rio Bravo at home.” It’s an amusing jibe, as long as you haven’t seen Brokeback Mountain—or Rio Bravo, for that matter. The latter film actually takes place entirely within the confines of a frontier town, with a few mountain peaks just visible over the rooftops. I could write Glaze’s comment off to carelessness, like her claim in an interview on WTMD (89.7 FM) that Brokeback’s action occurs a decade earlier than it in fact does. But as with much of her critique, a subtler misconception is at work. Like its classic western predecessor, Brokeback Mountain does suggest a great deal more than it shows, yet it shows enough to loom as large as the Rockies in a reflective mind.

In truth, not a single shot of that opening sequence—or, indeed, of the entire film—is inessential. Every seemingly mundane detail pays off with interest; e.g., our two heroes’ different feelings about their ration of baked beans metaphorically sum up their whole relationship. What’s more, the explosiveness of their first coupling, which even Glaze applauds, would not be half as compelling without that tantalizing buildup. If Glaze can’t appreciate this, perhaps she should rent the inevitable porno parody, Bareback Mountain, for her home-viewing pleasure and leave the beauties of the current film to those with a less glazed gaze.

To be fair, Glaze does have a few perceptive and even eloquent things to say, particularly about Heath Ledger’s canyon-deep performance as Ennis Del Mar. Even so, she chides him (as well as the excellent Jake Gyllenhaal, who plays his beloved Jack Twist) for looking “happy to kiss a girl” when the opportunity arises, conveniently ignoring how that reaction would be all too apt for these internally homophobic characters, not to mention how quickly their relief turns to disappointment and despair.

Worse, Glaze reports that “entire scenes begin and end without any clarity about what’s being implied,” which is critical code for “I wasn’t paying attention.” Particularly mystifying to her is Ennis’ pummeling of some lewdly heterosexual bikers during an Independence Day picnic. Even if Glaze missed the bikers’ whispered innuendo about Ennis’ relationship with his wife, which gives his traditionally heroic response a poignantly Freudian “twist,” surely the juxtaposition of his rage with the ineffectual yet both politically and sexually symbolic pyrotechnics of a fireworks display should have been enough of a clue.

But I suppose any critic who would assert, as Glaze did on WTMD, that Brokeback Mountain is “a repressed film about repression” is too in love with her own dissatisfaction to allow even a movie as potent as this one to penetrate. Jack Twist may wish he knew how to “quit” Ennis, but on the basis of this review, many others will soon be wishing Glaze would simply quit.

Bill Kamberger
Towson

 

Torture’s OK With Me, Pussies

First of all the Geneva Convention does not apply to terrorists (Political Animal, Dec. 21). The people that flew the planes into the towers and the Pentagon were not members of any army, nor did they have any uniforms; the same applies to prisoners in Cuba or any other camp. The people we are fighting in Iraq belong to no army. Also, the Bill of Rights would not apply, because these people are not American citizens. So I don’t know what the hell you could be talking about.

Second, making a dog bark at someone, putting panties on someone’s head, yelling at them, or shooting a gun in the air to scare them is not torture. I’m OK with water boarding, too. Cutting someone’s head off with a two-foot knife on the internet is torture!

The reason George W. Bush won the election is because John Kerry seemed to be weak on the terrorists. Liberals in general are seen as weak on crime and the war on terror, and you know what? They are very weak on both. No conservative gives a rat’s ass what John McCain says; he, too, is a liberal in my opinion.

In short, liberals want to take our guns, raise taxes, and keep the races at each other’s throats. The Republicans like Bush are not conservative at all, and have grown the government way too big, so really both parties are bad for the country and neither seems to give a shit about the middle class or about downsizing the government. Also, neither wants to do a thing about illegal immigration. How can we have a department called Homeland Security with wide-open borders? It’s an oxymoron.

You are also wrong about the economy; more people own their own home now than ever. And these are by far the best times ever for blacks in this country—they make up a large part of the middle class and own more homes than ever.

So once again you are wrong, Brian Morton. You libs keep crying about torture, talk about how our soldiers are Nazis and Genghis Khan, and most of America will see you for the soft on terror, soft on crime pussies that you are.

John Irwin
Baltimore

Reform Tha Police

I was truly shocked to read that the Baltimore City police officers broke into David Scheper’s home without a warrant and without identifying themselves (“Breakin’ All the Rules,” Mobtown Beat, Dec. 21). It is only luck that Mr. Scheper, thinking this was a home invasion, did not shoot a police officer, and that the police, seeing him with a gun that he got to defend himself and his friend, did not shoot him. Mr. Scheper, a longtime city resident with no police record at all, was left with damage to his home, loss of cash the police took and haven’t returned, loss of pay for days lost defending himself in court (the charges were dismissed), not to mention, adding insult to injury, having to clean up pizza boxes that the police left behind after they took a break from ransacking his home to have a bite to eat.

Presumably while they were ordering pizza, they took time to get a search warrant, which arrived two hours after the search started.

I generally support the police, who have a thankless job with low pay and less cooperation from many communities. But the mayor’s office and Baltimore Police Department owe Mr. Scheper the return of his money, compensation for lost wages, compensation for repairs to the damage they caused, and an apology for the warrantless invasion of his home. It’s the responsible thing to do.

Judith Alexsalza
Baltimore

Sustainable Effort

Russ Smith’s column titled “Tourist Trap”(Right Field, Nov. 16) criticizes the city for a $500,000 contract for a new slogan. Russ implies that Baltimore is fine the way it is and doesn’t need a new slogan. He feels that the money would be better spent on projects that could broaden the development renaissance outside of the downtown area. A smart slogan could effectively rally residents around the city’s strong points, and focus efforts toward a cleaner, safer, more profitable city.

If Baltimore wants to be a savvy destination for tourists and conventioneers, it should seriously consider promoting sustainable urban development. “Baltimore, the Sustainable City” is a strong slogan that shows Baltimore is in touch with global concerns and innovative urban redevelopment. A sustainable urban environment in Baltimore would be a major tourist attraction.

A sustainable slogan would help commit the city to a different, lasting urban renewal. Imagine a city renaissance that included revived fisheries, healthy oyster beds, and swimmers in the bay. Think about the jobs and tourism that scenario would bring. That is a Baltimore worth believing in, and that is the promise of sustainability.

Sustainability means clean waterways and new life for the bay. It means green roofs on houses to reduce the heat-island effect in the city and preventing erosion. It means more efficient, cheaper heating and cooling for residents and city buildings. Sustainability means innovative building trades and new manufacturing industries for the future, with new job growth and better pay. It also means more research and development, drawing more federal and university money to the city.

A sustainable slogan is also a political olive branch. Baltimore’s population of environmentalists would rally behind it. A Harris Poll reports that 69 percent of conservatives agree that protecting the environment is a political priority. As energy costs rise, sustainability will become increasingly popular across political lines. A sustainable Baltimore will bridge the conservative South and the liberal North.

Baltimore hosted the National Green Building Conference in 2003 and will host multiple U.S. Green Building Council conventions in 2006. The Maryland Department of the Environment lives in the Montgomery Park building, which won the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Phoenix Award for excellence in brownfield redevelopment. A $900 million sewer improvement program is underway to protect and restore important city streams like Herring Run. The Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network is building linked green spaces around the city to protect the bay. Baltimore supports a thriving group of sustainable companies like Green Home, Emory Knoll Farms, the Sustainable Design Group, Biohabitats, and the Furbish Co. Baltimore is moving toward sustainable development; it just needs a little help.

Russ Smith closes his column by saying that Baltimore’s leaders have fallen “into the spider’s web of ‘global repositioning’” spun by companies like Landor.” Today cities do need repositioning toward sustainability. Baltimore residents who agree can sign a petition at http://charmcitygraphics.com/petition and help Landor Associates decide on a slogan that can really help the city.

Christian Coulon
Baltimore

Correction: Due to an art department error, last week’s Whose Responible (Mobtown Beat) bore the wrong location. The correct location is Boston Street and South Luzerne Avenue.

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