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Not About O.J.

Posted 10/22/2008

First, before I jump on Vince Williams' bandwagon (Social Studies, Oct. 15), I must say, R.I.P., Johnnie Cochran. No discussion of O.J. Simpson can be complete without discussing how Cochran saw the bigger picture when he dominated this case. He exposed crooked cops and a very racist society. I have no doubt in my mind Johnnie knew it wouldn't take long for Simpson to be back in a courtroom. Simpson loves himself. I just wish there were more Cochrans for the "truly" innocent black men in jail.

Now, Vince, amen amen amen. I knew from day one Simpson was guilty, but watching an office full of white females (I worked on Fort Meade at the time) make racist remarks and burst into tears when the "innocent" verdict came down made me cheer he walked! Like you, Vince, I was very mad black people who are murdered, kidnapped, etc. didn't get this same sympathy from these ladies. Watching them break down evened all the supremacy I experienced working with these ladies. For me, it was about supporting Johnnie Cochran. I could care less about Nicole Brown Simpson or her companion. Before the Oprah Winfrey crowd letters start, no, they didn't deserve to die! I sympathized with the Brown Simpson children. But I've never met a black person who thought he was innocent, either.

O.J. Simpson, you were convicted by a jury of your peers!

Sharon Wright
Baltimore

No C&C

What was up with that review of Di Na Ko Degg (No Cover, Oct. 15)? It wasn't a bad review, in terms of Michael Byrne saying the album was bad, but the guy didn't even listen to the album. He made note of the length of the album, but Di Na Ko Degg is a double album. In the recording industry, an album is 40 minutes/10 songs minimum; an album with over 16 songs and 70 minutes is a double album. He also said I had samples from music that I didn't sample (C C Music Factory). That actually is a problem, because someone could try to sue me over a sample that I didn't use. All the credits were in the insert; he could have just read the insert and prevented that error.

I would have accepted a poor rating on a genuine review, but he made no analysis of songs or concepts. It was like he reviewed a movie and only spoke about the special effects and wardrobe. I am very disappointed, simply because it seems there is no true critical analysis of the work. I expected some discussion of the actual song concepts; out of 23 songs, had there been an analysis of one out of every four, he would have at least discussed six songs. I am not looking for accolades or empty praise--"Labtekwon is Baltimore's Mos Def." I expect a review to give consumers a summarized analysis and opinion of the actual work. It seemed he spent more time writing the review than actually listening to the album.

I am very disappointed that there are no true critics of hip-hop music at City Paper. The review wasn't negative; it just didn't have any substance relevant to the specific album. I definitely need a retraction about the C C Music Factory sample comment. That was my sister Tyra Young singing on that song, and it was in the actual credits. That review is an example of pretentious and poor journalism.

I am disappointed in City Paper, where quality was once a standard whether the review was positive or negative. I would rather have someone take a week and listen with true scrutiny, not skim over the first five tracks.

Labtekwon
Baltimore

Music editor Michael Byrne responds: I apologize for the misidentification--the sample does sound a whole lot like C&C Music Factory. As for it being a double album, I think the net effect is the same: It's a lot of music, and that was worth commenting on. Regardless, I can assure you that due time was spent with the album and the allegation that I only "skimmed the first five tracks" is incorrect, particularly given that those first five aren't discussed in the review.

This Is Your Brain on Drugs

Your otherwise excellent review of Roland Griffith's work ("Sacred Intentions," Feature, Oct. 8) only tangentially addresses an important issue; I hope this letter can help drive an implicit point home. There was an entendre in a quote from Bill Richards: "We have to move beyond the concept of getting high and seek to become more mature human beings." From the view of one studying addiction, your story gave exciting potential small mention. To explain further, I need to lapse into neuro-ese; forgive me, I know what I do.

The hypothesis-testing pre-frontal cortex--located just above our eyes--is able to modify the behavior of the striatum. The deep, striatal "lizard brain" in turn alters neuronal activity in the thalamus. The thalamus is centrally located; it communicates with just about every area in the brain, and can increase the probability for any area of the brain to become (more) active. By activating appropriate areas of our brain--areas trained by previous associations--we can predict the outcomes of events; we create logical, rational patterns to describe our world.

To ask an addict to give up their addiction--the very thing that defines them--is irrational; it requires the brain to assume new associations. Recovery is a change to a way of life that they may not know. Indeed, the addicts I have interacted with in Baltimore "know" they "deserve" what they are going through--as if someone without a badge were punishing them. Serotonin agonists could help us learn the striatal control mechanism of the thalamus and, thus, partially, the control of association. Unfortunately, only slow-acting serotonin modulators (think: SSRIs) are available. This renders any PET or fNMRI study into a joke; fast-acting serotonin agonists (think: most hallucinogens) would allow us to perform same-day comparisons. It must be said: The experimental caveats are formidable. However, I must add: There is much potential, in this newly available tool, to understand and cure maladaptive associations.

Andrew Byrne
Baltimore

Bag That Quarter

As a close supporter of environmental issues (I drive a Honda, recycle, take public transportation to work), I am dismayed at the debate in the City Council to impose fees on plastic trash bags (Councilmania, Oct. 1). I know, it sounds like an oxymoron, but allow me to explain. The plastic bags that they want to charge 25 cents for are the very same bags I reuse to dispose of my household trash. They are the same bags I use to carry my lunch in for work. In other words, I find multiple uses for those potential environmental killers other than toting my groceries home. This stops me from purchasing those big, black trash bags (of any brand) that companies are constantly manufacturing, thus cutting down on environmental pollution. I am certain that others find ways to reuse supermarket bags as well. And if they don't, I suggest they do.

So, it is my hope that the City Council will reconsider the issue and allow those of us who use plastic trash bags responsibly to continue to do so without punishing us with a fee.

T.C. Galltin
Baltimore

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