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Actors Equity

Posted 3/8/2006

I want to say thank you to John Barry for such a wonderful article on auditioning in the Baltimore area (“Casting About,” March 1). He actually helped me finally understand why my daughter, Kelli Wright, quoted in the article, was happy when she wasn’t asked back for a third year at the Juilliard School. I was devastated, but she kept saying, “Mom I need to live life. I need life experience!” Sadly, most of the richest actors in the world have never stepped into a classroom, and their faces have made them millions. For this reason I have more respect for theater actors who pursue a dream with little financial security.

I support my daughter because I know how it feels to turn on Washington, D.C.’s channel 4 and see anchor Susan Kidd and think back to the day in high school in East St. Louis, Ill., she told me to pursue my dream of being a journalist, but I chose to join the Army. To my fellow military veteran mentioned in the article: You go, boy! Living with the feeling of failure because I didn’t pursue my dream hurts worse than losing any part, I promise.

Sharon Wright
Baltimore

Entering the Gates of the Demonic Kingdom

Once again, Brian Morton has written a wonderful column that clearly reveals reasons why most intelligent Americans should not trust Republicans (Political Animal, Feb. 22).

In my humble, Afrocentric feminist opinion, the evangelical Republican movement is about maintaining white-power control in America. I believe the gatekeepers of the evangelical movement have told their conservative white middle-class and delusional black members to be missionaries for a political movement of white-power intimidation. These white people do not care about justice for all liberals. White conservatives want to emotionally violate, or annihilate, the mental status of people who do not believe in their brand of pro-life abortion, or kingdom-dominated politics of failed and overconfident political solutions that are not people-friendly.

Let me make it clear, the conservative wing of the Republican Party is destroying the foundation of democracy for all participating citizens.

It was shameful and demonic when George W. Bush chose Dick Cheney as his running mate. In my opinion, that act of selecting Cheney gave Bush the right to enter the gates of a demonic kingdom. As a result, the future days of President Bush might be one in which he might secretly wish he was no longer president of this country. Be careful who you associate with spiritually, economically, socially, mentally, and politically. Some of our own relationships with people can be dangerous for us and to us.

In his essay titled “Democracy” E.B. White wrote:

Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half of the time. It is the feeling of privacy in the voting booths, the feeling of communion in libraries, the feeling of vitality everywhere. Democracy is a letter to the editor. Democracy is the score at the beginning of the ninth. It is an idea which hasn’t been disproved yet, a song the words of which have not gone bad. It’s the mustard on the hot dog and the cream in the rationed coffee.

As a hearing-impaired black woman of 64 years old, I pledge allegiance to fight the good fight against the evangelical bigots who use the scriptures of God to give white power to a dwindling population of white people.

March is Women’s History Month, a celebration for all women. I live to say, “whatever state this black woman is, you gonna love me.” No signing. Speaking.

Larnell Custis Butler
Baltimore

Neighborhood Threats

Hopefully, your recent coverage of East Baltimore biotech park redevelopment area (“Moved and Shaken,” Feb. 22) will garner Helen Curbeam and Betty Walker (two public-housing tenants who have fallen through the project’s safety net ) some much needed liberation. In addition, hopefully the resident group—Save Middle East Action Coalition (SMEAC)—will rediscover its objectives and transform itself into an authentic resident liberation group rather than a “savior group.” Why?

Most savior groups perpetuate a “welfare-type” existence dealing with neighborhood outreach. You look up one day, and left-winging liberals are no longer absentee landlords, but have become “absentee leadership” for the people they are supposed to be “saving.” Whereas, liberation groups lean more toward authentically empowering the populations they serve through dynamic leadership activation from within indigenous ranks.

SMEAC leadership, i.e., Marisela Gomez, Betty Robinson, and Lisa Williams, needs to consider liberating residents from carpetbagger politics within their own group. That is unless these folks are really the vanguard of “the new developments’” resident board. For SMEAC has brought in consultants from Columbia, Owings Mills, Hamilton, and Bolton Hill who later end up running for election to the resident board.

As a resident of Middle East, I don’t quite “get it”—bringing in volunteer consultants (to work with primarily the elderly, undereducated, and basically socially despondent residents) who end up in key positions like the resident advocacy groups’ board. It’s one thing for “liberal outsiders” to assist and consult disadvantaged populations. It’s another thing for these folks to bring in their relatives and professional friends as board members to a “supposed” resident-driven group. Seems more like co-option of a resident agenda, to me.

Hopefully, SMEAC can revisit its initial integrity and redirect its energies toward authentically empowering the residents in the next phases of the development area. Provide residents with leadership development opportunities that reintroduce residents to assuming responsibility for their own needs, and those of their families and neighbors, by practicing what SMEAC accuses everyone from Johns Hopkins University, East Baltimore Development Inc., the city, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation of not doing. INCLUDE THE RESIDENTS!

Nia Redmond
Baltimore

Let me get this straight: A “sweet old lady” now bakes sheet cakes for drug dealers who continue to blight and destroy what’s left of her East Baltimore “neighborhood.” An unimpeachable civic organization like the Annie E. Casey Foundation is mistrusted and accused of complicity in the “destruction” of this so-called neighborhood. Vices are now virtues, virtues are now vices. This, folks, seems to me the extreme pendulum swing of liberalism and individualism gone so far left that it defies any kind of logic or sanity. Wake up, Baltimore, and wake up, City Paper! Instead of presenting the two sides of this issue in a fair and balanced way, why don’t you take a stand for sanity and logic and come out and support the East Baltimore Development Inc. effort for what it is: the last great hope to keep this city from imploding. But what do I know? Maybe things will get better when the heroin dealers get all fat and happy from their sheet cakes.

Rich Espey
Towson

Squeezably Inky

Hey, I say keep printing the moronic, homophobic letters of Leo A. Williams (“No Separation of Church and State,” The Mail, Feb. 22). They come in handy when I run out of Charmin.

Richard B. Crystal
Baltimore

Car-Carrying

Baltimore isn’t alone in a having a large car-free population (“Dude, Where’s My Car?”, Mobtown Beat, Feb. 15). Thirty-eight percent of Philadelphia households don’t have a car. The number is 37 percent in Washington, D.C. The reason that many of these households don’t have cars is because of the cost. The American Automobile Association estimates that, given the costs of insurance, maintenance, gas, and depreciation, it costs 56 cents a mile to run even a compact car. Even if one only drives 10,000 miles a year, that can still add up to 20 percent and even more than one-third of a poor family’s household budget. Those jobs in the suburbs would have to pay an extra $5,000-plus per year to cover the cost of getting there. Most of the time they don’t.

The answer isn’t to scare people with Hurricane Katrina-like scenarios or to subsidize insurance or give away free cars. The answer is to improve transit, now. The answer is to adopt tax and development policies that put the city on an equal footing with the burbs. The answer is economic integration. Keep attracting more middle-class people to the city while protecting the people who already live there.

Cities are resurgent everywhere for a reason. The price of oil (and the political instability around it) and a crumbling auto industry don’t paint a rosy picture for people and places completely dependent on cars. It’s certainly not the future we should be planning for.

Jim Resta
Philadelphia

I can sympathize with any city resident reverse-commuting to the increasingly auto-centric counties. But I disagree that making car ownership accessible and affordable will be cost-effective or will work better even than our less than ideal status quo of public transit. In the late 1990s the state of Maryland, in the process of ending “welfare as we know it,” devoted around-the-clock shuttle service to more than 150 former welfare recipients attempting jobs. In this program, Bridges to Work, the object was that many of these 150 would “graduate” (i.e., make enough money regularly and dependably) to car ownership. Of these 150 only four ever graduated (i.e., bought cars), meaning that it was not even remotely cost-effective.

There are logistical problems as well with increasing car ownership in Baltimore City. Most transit users making reverse commutes into the job-rich, carchitecture suburbs currently utilize the bus, which has to travel in lanes of traffic with cars. Increasing the proportion of car ownership for those making reverse commutes will simply ensnarl more commuters.

The logical thing to do is to invest in more synergistic public-transit systems like the light rail and subway that do not utilize the roadway. Your reporter only acknowledged New York’s transit system, but there are more close by that are superior to ours. Philadelphia, Boston, and even Washington have trains and subways that actually get people where they want to go. I know waiting for a Red Line east-west light rail is like waiting for Godot.

But there are actually people who are intentionally carless, choosing to live in the city because it wasn’t built exclusively for cars. That’s why we like it here and pay extra taxes and insurance instead of living in a numbingly boring cul-de-sac where the cars outnumber the people. A critical mass of carless-by-choice individuals moving to the city will happen only if there are transit systems that allow people to live without cars. Places as diverse as Milwaukee and Dallas found that economic development was created by start-up public transit.

Paul R. Schlitz Jr.
Baltimore

Eating Your Own

Upon initially reading the article regarding the plagiarism investigation of Sun columnist Michael Olesker (Media Circus, Jan. 4), I found myself irritated. Now, over a month later and still reading about this, I find I can no longer contain my disgust. How is it possible that this has become a scandal of such unprecedented proportion? So much so that, not only is it still news, it has resulted in the “resignation” of one venerated journalist and put countless others under strict review. Now, it seems, examples such as this one have spawned a fresh crop of software programs, targeted at the media, designed to ensure that each written word is checked, measured, and posted for review against the information in some souless database, like an Orwellian spell-check for the Free Press (Media Circus, Feb. 15). I’m sorry . . . WHAT??!! How is this even remotely acceptable? The whole thing boggles my mind.

This brings me to the original issue here, which is, of course, plagiarism. Specifically that of Michael Olesker. While, admittedly, I am not a regular Sun reader and therefore only marginally familiar with Olesker’s work, it is less with the specific allegations, and more with the principle of the situation itself, that I am concerned. I feel that this entire fiasco is ludicrous.

Plagiarism, in definition, is “a piece of writing that has been copied from someone else and is presented as being one’s own work.” In light of that definition, I will wholeheartedly agree that the deliberate use of another’s words or ideas, with the intention to deceive readers as to the nature of their origins, is abhorrent. However, as someone who has had a book in her hand from the time she was old enough to hold one, I also recognize that to find an idea expressed, within the realm of literature, that is completely unique to itself (in terms of concept, content, form, and execution) is not only a rarity, but a near impossibility. While ideas may well be infinite, words, most certainly, are not.

That is even more profoundly true with regard to accounts of historical and factual information. On any given day at 6 p.m. I can turn on my television, scan the local news programs, and find that each one is reporting the same major news stories in a remarkably similar fashion. Thus is the nature of facts. There are only so many ways one can recount factual events without eventually twisting words in such a manner that they are no longer accurate, and the account is no longer factual. This is the limitation that narrows the window of poetic license in journalism. It just does. To single out any writer for the similarities between his wording of factual events and another writer’s account of the same events is ridiculous. To then go so far as to call that plagiarism is to split hairs in the worst possible way. It brings to mind images of carrion birds fighting so ruthlessly over scraps of a leftover corpse that they end up tearing themselves to shreds. It is political pettiness and it undermines the entire field of journalism. Moreover it gives software companies like iParadigms, who have detected this weak spot in the infrastructure of the American media, an avenue to capitalize on it. That frightens me. What frightens me more is to think that they might be succeeding. I pray that in the near future those of the media will be able to wake up and take a collective whiff of the coffee on this one.

Writing, in and of itself, is an art that should focus on the sharing of words, ideas, and information, not the ownership of them. It seems to me that writers and journalists everywhere would do better to consider that.

Michelle Manili
Baltimore

Military Retirees Aren’t All Rich

I read your biased article against the proposed military retiree tax break and find that you lump all military retirees in one basket (“Soldiers of Fortune,” Mobtown Beat, Feb. 8). First of all, not all of us retired as officers. Most retired as noncommissioned officers. I, for one, am in the latter category. My monthly retirement is $1,118—hardly the “average” amount you mention in your article. I am currently working full time in Maryland and paying my share of federal and state income taxes.

If you want to propose a more even-handed tax break, eliminate the state income tax on retired enlisted military and give the retired officers a graduated tax based on their much higher retirement income. But I feel that after having served for 22 years and paying federal and state income taxes on the paltry amounts I earned during that time, a tax break from every state in the union is appropriate. Alabama has never taxed its retirees, and I believe that it has a higher percentage living there than here in Maryland.

George R Payne, U.S. Army (ret.)
Havre De Grace

Edward Ericson Jr. responds: Your idea seems reasonable, but it runs counter to the bills before the legislature, which will hand out tax breaks to the retirees precisely because they are relatively well-off and so are less likely to use state services. Last year a proposed amendment to exempt officers’ retirement pay from the tax break doomed the bill because the bill’s proponents would not agree to it.

Correction: Our March 1 story about “pro-gun progressive” Sebastian Sassi (“Armed and Liberal,” Mobtown Beat) misidentified him as a Democrat. Sassi is an independent.

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