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Don't Lump Bragg

Posted 1/16/2008

Please spare me the "cheap grace" of including the name of Rick Bragg in the same sentence as Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass ("The Wire: David Simon Repeats, The Wire's Sun Is Not the Real Sun," S/HIT List,, Jan. 10). The latter two disgraced their profession by deliberately fabricating stories. Bragg simply practiced a longstanding New York Times tradition of having a "stringer" do some on-site reporting for the author of a story. Bragg is a first-rate reporter and writer. To suggest that his integrity has been tarnished is ridiculous. He is one of the most widely respected writers in our country.

Peter McVeigh
Oreland, Pa.

Cat, a Tonic

In response to Rose Baumann's editorial comments about "Fuzzy Logic" (The Mail, Jan. 9):

I would have appreciated hearing dissenting views such as hers in a forum where they could have been compared, point for point, with those of Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) advocates; more specifically, at the Baltimore City Council public hearing for Legislation File 07-0753 dealing with feral cats. If there were dissenters present, none spoke.

I encourage interested readers to do their homework. At first reading, Ms. Bauman's arguments appear (as she stresses) rooted in "ratiocination," but, upon investigation of the finer points of TNR, one may deduce another opinion. TNR may be counterintuitive, but the principles and principals behind it are not unsound and illogical. TNR is a step in a series of many that will lead to a more balanced approach in addressing the pathology inherent in the dilemma of the burgeoning number of companion animals.

Contrary to Ms. Bauman's pointed observations, advocates of TNR do not define the systemic nature of the problem as "simple." Likewise, the TNR movement is not only about the protection of "fuzzy" creatures. In truth, this approach is as much about people as it is about cats. It's about people working together to achieve balance and effect an evolution of societal views (focusing directly on the connection between disregard for human responsibility and the overwhelming number of homeless animals on the streets. Fuzzy logic?)

Advocates recognize that TNR is a Band-Aid. But, Band-Aids serve a purpose. Ms. Bauman stated she is a nurse, entitling her to a modicum of implied professional credibility and, more importantly, experience with Band-Aids. Forgive the metaphor, but, when examining and treating a "wound," bleeding is always addressed first.

That said: No real TNR advocate ignores the "festering abscess" of an ever-increasing feral cat population. There is recognition of a deeper societal dysfunction that must be addressed in order to "fix" the status quo, but, first steps first. TNR advocates are taking responsibility for their views and stepping up to practice what they preach. Compassion and passion come in many forms and strengths, and, in actuality, they exist in those "low-income" neighborhoods Ms. Bauman mentioned.

Give TNR a chance. It may take some years to determine TNR's impact on the city, but allow it to empirically prove or disprove itself. Hey! If it doesn't work, one can always say, "I told you so." There can be a certain satisfaction in that. Meanwhile, Ms. Bauman, my sincere thank you for your efforts on behalf of the animals and the people of Baltimore.

Andrea Kriss
Glen Burnie

I trapped a cat, a black male Persian, that roamed my neighborhood. He was taken to the vet, given shots, and neutered. The vet advised me to release him as he was an older feral. Well, I did. Now neutered, he has been living on my porch. I fed him. It took another year to gentle him to where I could pick him up. Just before Christmas of 2003, with bad weather approaching, I brought him inside. After about three months of hiding behind the furniture (he used the litter box) he came out and joined the "family"--two other "rescued" cats and a formerly "stray" dog. Now he is the sweetest, most loving cat I have: laps, bed, brushing, the works. It just takes time, patience, and love.

Jane Fischer

Neo-Pinups Not New

I was surprised by the treatment of the revival on pinup as a recent phenomenon ("Our Corsets, Ourselves," Feature, Jan. 2). Starting in late 1999, I had the pleasure of working with one Kara Mae who was quite ahead of her time. She produced the Viva Vavoom! burlesque reviews staged at the Ottobar, networked with many models and performers across the country (including scream queen Julie Strain and dancers Amber Ray and Dirty Martini) to work here, and had a dry run of a zine devoted to pinup and retro culture called Stars and Garters. Though no longer active, she still maintains a blog and web site and remains a major pioneer of the local scene.

I was gratified about the mention of Suicide Girls, although I feel that comparisons to it and the pinup genre are like rotten apples to sweet off-the-tree oranges. The May 2006 issue of the feminist pop-culture mag Bust featured a stinging exposé of the site and its many controversies. For myself, I have peers in the business, like Lithium Picnic, who are under siege by relentless dubious lawsuits brought against them by SG. You have done a service by highlighting this in context, and I and many others do appreciate it.

Thomas Izaguirre

Butler Did It

One point in Anny Hoge's fine review of my book Maryland Voices of the Civil War ("The Civilian Front," Books, Jan 2) deserves clarification. President Abraham Lincoln did not send troops to occupy Baltimore in the spring of 1861. Gen. Benjamin Butler of Massachusetts did so, marching his men into the city during the night of May 13; they made camp on Federal Hill and threatened to bombard the city at the first sign of a secessionist. Lincoln and General-in-Chief of the U.S. Army Winfield Scott were furious at Butler's unauthorized action and relieved him of command (though the troops remained). That Lincoln ordered troops into Baltimore at that time is one of the enduring myths of Maryland's part in the Civil War that the original documents in my book may one day dispel.

Charles W. Mitchell

Alice Coltrane, Musical Nun

Thank you for letting me know that Sistah Alice Coltrane has died ("Solar Sister," People Who Died, Dec. 26). What star are you, Alice Coltrane, burning in the night sky?

As I see it, death or the dying of an individual has become so ordinary that it has become a casual incidental indifference of "who cares." It seems a cruel happening when one dies, and very few people acknowledge a death nowadays. Now, it seems, nobody skips a beat when a person dies. Life must be lived. A space must be filled. Take a number and fill a slot. No dignity in dying.

In segregated times I would read the obituary page with great care. We black folks had our own black community newspapers, and black families took great pride in publishing the death with a photo of family members or kin.

Sometimes I would clip out the death notices. Famous people and neighbors were obituary articles I kept. Once, I wrote my own obituary, including songs I want people to sing at my funeral ("Angels We Have Heard on High" and "Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?").

Still today, I read the obituary pages of The Sun and the Afro-American. I read (try to read) each death of a person published. For some strange reason, I don't want the dead person believing nobody cared about his or her death, or life-existing memories.

Alice Coltrane was a genius who was not afraid to learn the textured musical terrain of other cultures. Her complicated aloneness was spiritual. Alice, to me, was a musical nun, as was her partner John Coltrane, whose musical compositions were "church sermons" that soothe the weary souls of people who lived with nothing, and hope did not want as company of people who had nothing.

The poet Lucian B. Watkins wrote a poem, "Star of Ethiopia." There is a line in the poem, "the peace at last when all is done." That is Alice Coltrane.

Larnell Custis Butler

Sewer Project "On Schedule"

In response to the article by Van Smith on sewage overflows in Baltimore ("Pardon Our Filth," Feature, Dec. 19), let me first state that there was clearly a difference of opinion on the approach taken by the city and that taken by a few others. Mr. Smith seems to be siding with the approach that we look at the sewer system as a tree and that we fix the smaller branches or twigs first. The problem with that approach is that the biggest environmental hazard comes from the trunk and the large branches. One break in the trunk does much more damage than all the smaller overflows combined.

Addressing the larger lines first is also important because of potential threats to the public separate from the leaking or flowing or gushing sewage. The collapse of a large sewer tunnel can and has brought down structures. One building was condemned at Park and Franklin during that sinkhole incident in 1997. That same line was a potential threat to historic structures on Cathedral Street a few years ago. The Herring Run spill of June 2003 was another major line that was undergoing reconstruction at the time. These big lines had to be addressed first.

This having been said, we also take very seriously the smaller sewer spills. We have been, and remain, in compliance with the consent decree. An overflow in a basement or alley does not necessarily equate to a violation. Keep in mind that we are essentially rebuilding our system and that the time frame is 14 years! We are only in the sixth year, and I truly believe that we have made tremendous progress on repairing and replacing our antiquated sewers. Construction can and has been seen throughout the city over the last several years, and more is on the way.

It is too bad that Mr. Smith was on vacation the day his photographer was shown some of the ongoing work; thus Mr. Smith only visited one construction location (Sisson Street).

We are on schedule, Mr. Smith. We share your desire to have our waterways healthy once more and we are determined that that will happen. We thank you for reminding the public of the importance of this work and we thank our partners in the communities and in the sewershed and watershed associations who help us pinpoint problems

Shirley A. Williams
Acting Director, Baltimore City Department of Public Works

Larry Scott, American Master

I first learned about the death of artist Larry Scott in the Nov. 21 City Paper ("Larry Scott, 1957-2007," Art). I was obviously shocked by his sudden passing, and also very saddened. Fifty years seems entirely too short a life for a talent like Larry, who obviously had so much to contribute to the world as a man, an artist, and an African-American. I may have not known him as well as Don Griffin, Jeffrey Kent, or Tony McKissic, but I count myself as one of the privileged people who had the good fortune to have met him and spoken to him about a half-dozen times. Maybe this does not qualify me to write about him, but I feel compelled to, especially when he perhaps unknowingly had such a great effect on my life.

As a visual artist, the journey of exploration, discovery, comprehension, and acceptance of the world around you is unending. The quest for seeking out possibilities is always present. And at a time when perhaps his ego could have easily reigned supreme, Larry offered guidance that was cloaked with grace, generosity, and kindness. By experiencing his refreshing and distinctively unique approach to life and art, I progressed in my life's journey. His gentle manner in dealing with issues that I presented to him always left me feeling better, no matter the circumstances. He had that "it" factor people talk about. It is sad that I continue to witness artists whose true greatness is not always realized until it's too late. But at the same time, I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to have been moved by this great man. He will be remembered as an American Master. Cheers, Larry!

Chioma Anah

Correction: The first part of our two-part series on Fred Brooks ("The Dealer, Part 1," Feature, Jan. 9) contains an error. After receiving an ominous call from Los Angeles-based drug-trafficking associate Raul Del Real in August 2003, Brooks himself called his employee Jason Getzes and told him to get out of L.A., rather than having an associate make the call, as we reported.

Editor's note: Got some love to share? City Paper wants to print your valentines in our Feb. 13 issue, for free. (Any we can't fit in print will go up on our web site.) We'd also love to print any photographs or art, although all submissions become the property of City Paper, i.e. you're never seeing them again, seriously. Use this form to send in your valentines or snail mail them to us in care of Free Valentines at the CP address listed at right. The deadline is 5 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 7. C'mon, show us your heart(s).

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