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Down With Erotica

Posted 2/20/2008

Dear Free Will Astrology Man:

You must be crazy, Mr. Brezsny, if you think I would recite that claptrap garbage! I am sick of the "erotic" poets who insist on forcing their wet dreams on the rest of the world (Free Will Astrology, Feb. 13). When I have sex or masturbate, I do the world a favor and keep it in the privacy of my home. There is nothing wrong with sex. Consenting adults should have the right to do this in private. I am not shouting this drivel from the rooftops.

And while we are on the subject of Neruda, was he in Chile when the democratically elected socialist government was overthrown? Why wasn't he writing poetry to inspire people to resist the fascist coup attempt? If I read poetry out loud, it will be Langston Hughes, Amiri Baraka, Bertolt Brecht, Erica Huggins, Nazim Hikmet, Roque Dalton, or my own stuff. I am not masturbating in public

Alan Barysh

I Was There

This was a very good, informative, and detailed article, and brought back to me many personal reportorial memories of those days, when I wrote for some of your predecessor publications, as well as for the Baltimore Afro-American newspapers and Baltimore magazine as a political reporter and feature writer ("Late Bloomer," Feature, Feb. 6).

In 1972, I first met and then covered Alabama Gov. George Wallace and, indeed, attended the only two events of his in the Free State that were entirely free of any violence, one being at Baltimore's Fifth Regiment Armory, where he sheltered behind cast iron-clad plates that armored his speaker's podium. Indeed, on the very day that he was shot at Laurel, I was covering and then interviewing the late former vice president and then U.S. Sen. Hubert Humphrey at Reisterstown Road Plaza. That summer, I met South Dakota Sen. George McGovern--then the Democratic nominee for president--in the editorial offices of the Afro, where he and I were the only two white men present. I covered his first vice-presidential running mate--the late Missouri Sen. Thomas Eagleton--at Loyola College, and his second, Sargent Shriver, at the annual October Fells Point Fun Festival. In May 1976, I published the cover story "The Aftermath of the Wallace Shooting: A Maryland Medical Success Story" in the Med-Chi Maryland State Medical Journal.

That same month, as related by Tom Chalkley, then-Gov. Jerry Brown of California won the Maryland primary against former Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter, but not--as Mr. Chalkey states--because of then-Gov. Marvin Mandel. That honor went to then-Baltimore County Executive Theodore Venetoulis, who decided to send three emissaries to Sacramento beforehand to induce the Californian to enter the Maryland race. They were: the late David Hutchinson, brother of current Maryland Zoo director Donald Hutchinson, John Kousouris, and John Tuchton. They convinced Brown to come, and David Hutchinson ran and won that campaign, not Mandel. At the time, I was working with Hutchinson in a volunteer capacity as public-relations director for the later ill-fated Baltimore County Fair. Venetoulis pulled Hutchinson off the fair and gave him to the Brown campaign for the duration, handing Carter his only lost primary. The fair's loss was Brown's gain. It is also my contention that had Brown entered the primary process in January instead of May, he'd have defeated Carter for the nomination. I continue to marvel at how modern writers seek to rewrite history as it actually occurred, and as I witnessed it!

Blaine Taylor

Nice Juxtapose

I liked the way your letters editor segued from Carol Ott's hopeful assessment of the transitioning of Pigtown into Federal Hill West and Michael S. Eckenrode's more visceral take on the bleak reality of much, if not most, of the rest of Baltimore that hasn't been blessed, cleansed, and sanitized by the wave of yupster upgrading, upscaling, and gentrification (The Mail, Feb. 6). At least Mr. Eckenrode knows where the fault truly lies, and it's not with the city's "lack of support." The fault lies with the very people Ms. Ott and her cohorts are hoping to displace. After all, "the city" isn't trashing and endangering the streets of Pigtown or anywhere else. It's the decidedly more downscale residents and passers-through who can't seem to conduct or behave themselves.

The irony of the two letters is that the only solution to both their gripes is either the removal of the offending lessers or the cultural co-opting of them. You see, Ms. Ott, even though you've invested eight years in bettering your adopted neighborhood, your nemeses seem to be your less than fastidious neighbors and their families, who have been there for 80 years. In short, madam, you moved into one of the most hard-core working-class neighborhoods in town, one that is barely holding on, and apparently those who aren't "the residents" either haven't been able to class-up to your level or have no interest in doing so. Maybe, just maybe, they're satisfied with their simple though squalid lot in life.

David Harrison

Trans Fat Ban = Nanny State

This is in response to the comments about City Council Bill 08-0034 (Food Service Facilities--Trans Fats) (Councilmania, Feb. 6). I for one would give it an F. It's pure nanny-statism at its worst, and apparently Edward Ericson Jr. heartily endorses it.

It may be that some people consider fries with cooking oil instead of trans fats to be "good." Apparently, many other people don't consider it a good enough substitute for trans fats even despite cooking oil's supposed health advantages. If they did, trans fats would have been discontinued long ago. Who is Mr. Ericson to say that something tastes "good enough" for everyone else?

The way Mr. Ericson puts it is especially disturbing. He knows very well that many people enjoy eating trans fats, as shown in how he describes New York and Philadelphia's trans fat bans: "the world has not ended." That's the kind of tone one might use to a child for whom one is refusing to buy an ice-cream cone. Well, gee, by that same token the world didn't end all these years when trans fat was legal there, either. And at least no one (I presume) has ever forced you to eat trans fats.

Mr. Ericson believes the good people of Baltimore have an obesity problem. Maybe they do. Is the next step requiring every apartment house or employer to have an on-site gym? How about cutting back bus service just to force the people to walk more? (After all, poorer people, who are more likely to be obese, also tend to ride the bus more.) We know now that people who don't get enough sleep tend to get fat . . . do we require everyone to keep sleep logs to document that they got their recommended daily allowance of seven or more hours of sleep every night?

Let's face it: While some of us clearly live healthier lifestyles than others, most of us cut corners in one way or another. That's largely because, contrary to what Mr. Ericson seems to think, it's not entirely science. Yes, we know about the bad effects of, say, trans fats or lack of exercise. The next question is whether those bad effects outweigh the good effects. That's a subjective decision that each individual can only make for him- or herself.

I don't know what Mr. Ericson's personal habits are, but I'm sure he would like some tolerance for the ways in which he deviates from the ideal. How about setting the example? If Mr. Ericson feels not everyone is well-informed enough about the hazards of trans fats, it's not like he doesn't have a bully pulpit to try to persuade each Baltimorean to phase them out of his or her own life.

Bottom line: Yes, people will, even after learning the facts, persist in doing certain things that are not healthy. It's their perceived benefits that they're comparing to their perceived costs. It's their lives. Let them live them as they choose. The hearing on Bill 08-0034 is set for March 4. Whether you come out for the hearing, call or write your representatives on the Baltimore City Council, or do anything else, tell them to vote for free choice. No one needs any politicians to get trans fats out of his or her own life.

Jeffrey Deutsch
Severna Park

Edward Ericson Jr. responds: I'm sorry Councilmania's tone offended you, but your claim that the evidence against trans fats is "not entirely science" is wrong. Studies have discovered that trans fats are worse than the saturated fats they replaced in frying and prepared foods: They not only elevate bad cholesterol in the bloodstream but also lower one's levels of good cholesterol--a double whammy. (There is an exception called CLA trans fats, but that's not relevant to this discussion.) The science was done at, among other places, Harvard University's School of Public Health. It is not disputed, except by lobbyists and shills for the corporate food conglomerates, for whom trans fats are much easier to work with, and cheaper, than healthier alternatives that taste exactly the same. It's worth noting that even under the City Council ban you'll be free to enjoy all the trans fat your heart can stand--in the privacy of your own home.

Getting Along

I just wanted to offer you high praise for your "Family Values" feature on Jan. 30. It was extremely well written, touching, and enlightening. I, too, come from a family of mostly Republican/conservative types whom I don't see eye-to-eye with on many issues, but it made me think of them differently and want to have my own sit-down dinner with them. I'm sure they, too, vary on many issues.

Thanks for sharing. I loved it.

Greg Rienzi

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