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Blue Man Groupie

Posted 1/28/2009

I worked with Jim Hall for over 24 years at the Baltimore City Planning Department and wanted your readers to also be aware of and appreciate his singular professional talents as an urban designer and city planner ("Feeling Blue," Feature, Jan. 21). From graphic design skills to understanding the importance of community master planning and historic preservation, Jim was the consummate behind the scenes advocate for excellence in the revitalization of Baltimore City.

Al Barry

The writer was Assistant Planning Director for the city from 1987 to 1995.

Radio Doesn't Have to Suck

"It's plain to see that radio still sucks." We've been through plenty of WYPR-FM stories already, but the passage of time since Marc Steiner's firing has only proved the points Brian Morton makes in his Political Animal column of Jan. 21.

WYPR has some very intelligent programs--and "personalities," as they like to ridiculously call them--as does NPR, but you'd think that, as the only half-way intelligent show in town, they could tolerate some in-depth muck-raking or probing, beneath the surface reporting--and occasional criticism--as City Paper does.

A story like the one on Mayor Dixon is a good example: The media covers it for a week or two and then drops it until the next big moment--there's no in depth coverage or interviewing in between.

Clearly these "personalities" are not going to change their station--they're on its payroll! But they have more power than they think they do.

In a city like Baltimore, radio could do so much more to educate, as Marc Steiner still does on Morgan State University's WEAA-FM. Stations that refuse to do so should be sent "packing" the way of the dodo, in my opinion.

We need to try to help venerable venues like The Sun, or WBAL-FM, or WYPR to actually reflect Baltimore and the state before they all go under. And one way to do it would be to support WEAA, City Paper, and, if you turn to TV, Democracy Now and public access.

So that I don't appear too negative, there are a couple of good things I can say about the mainstream media: The weather is sometimes pretty honest. As to the right-wing talk hosts? They are at least honest in all their crabby bitterness and cynicism. NPR can never do anger.

Dave Eberhardt

So I read in City Paper someone thinks radio sucks. They wrote a whole column about it. Well then let me ask who's to blame for the sucky state of radio? It's obvious--listeners are! We put up with a lot of grief. In capitalist America, we pay for and knit the wool we pull over our very own eyes!

So what do we do to change the sorry-ass state of radio? The very same thing we do to change any bad situation! We organize to change things. Don't like the fact your favorite talk-show host has been booted off the station he helped get back on its feet? Organize to get him back. Don't like the fact there are only a handful of spoken-word artists on a station that calls itself "the voice of the community"? Organize to force the station to have more spoken-word played on the station. Don't like the same songs played on the radio all day? Organize and force the program director to expand the playlist. Tired of right-wing talk shows dominating the AM dial? Look, suckers, you should have seen this one coming, now you have to organize to get your voice heard. Look, if every listener who had a beef against one particular station got three friends to tell three friends and so on, each radio station on the dial would have to listen to all the listeners. WYPR-FM has a core of dissatisfied listeners organizing to change things. Why couldn't we do it with WCBM-AM?

Organize. Make calls to the station manager; tell this person in simple polite terms just what ticks you off about the station. Call the sponsors of a show and say politely that you don't like them sponsoring the show. Imply or state outright that you could be part of a boycott of their products. Organize informational picket lines where people would agitate on bullhorns and pass out leaflets explaining to people why they were there. Organize and force Congress to bring back the Fairness Doctrine.

Every right-wing talk show host hates the Fairness Doctrine more than Satan hates holy water. Why? Because if the Fairness Doctrine were applied, all sides of an issue could be heard. Right-wing talk radio doesn't want any views expressed but theirs.

It's a rough row to hoe. But it's the only row we've got! Get organized.

Alan Barysh

Baker Facts

Your recent "Quick Sketch" on the Baker Artist Awards (Art, Jan. 21) needs clarification and corrections on two important features the of the Awards: The Baltimore's Choice will award $5,000, however, it will be $1,000 to each of the top five artists who are selected by popular vote. The three Mary Sawyers Baker Prizes winners will be selected through a private jury process and awarded $25,000 each.

In addition, the awards are not a "joint venture" between the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance and the William G. Baker Memorial Fund; the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance is administering the site on the William G. Baker Memorial Fund's behalf.

Please let your readers know that the voting and nominations will be open until 5:00 p.m. on Feb. 1. The nominations are impressive. The range of artwork is awesome. Everyone should visit the site and vote. Even those who have voted should try to earn more votes. Because the Baker Fund places a high value on exploration of the art and the artists who have nominated themselves for these prizes, the system has built in rewards for exploring different artists, commenting, etc. so visitors can earn more votes--even vote for their favorite artists more than once--if they choose.

Thanks for the nice story. We will be announcing all the winners in mid-March.

Nancy Haragan
Executive Director, Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance

Watch What You're Calling Genocide

After reading Patrick R. Lynch's letter ("The Genocide of Our City's Youth," The Mail, Jan. 14), I feel compelled to remind everyone that the term "genocide" has a very specific meaning. The term was coined in 1944 by Raphael Lemkin to refer to the mass extermination of an entire group of people. Due to its association with the Holocaust and the later unfilled pledges of "Never Again," the term possess a great deal of emotional power that when properly and appropriately used can mobilize (in theory) popular opposition to genocide when it does occur.

Tragically, that emotional power has been eroded by the repeated and inappropriate use of the term of "genocide" by people such as Mr. Lynch to describe such things as unpopular American wars, street crime, and the adoption system.

While I sympathize with Mr. Lynch's anguish over Baltimore City's crime rate, definitions exist for a reason particularly. This is especially true of genocide.

Matthew Hood

Dixon a Victim

I just finished reading "Bad Stuff About the Mayor" (Mr. Wrong, Jan 14). The end of a sentence that moved my heart to a loud "Amen" blessing was this: ". . . so until the mayor is guilty as charged, I think she should be allowed to focus on her job of the mayor, without all the chitchat about the indictments."

As an Afrocentric feminist who has never met Sheila Dixon, I am a great fan of the mayor, and I strive to be as smart as she is and a servant to all the people of Baltimore, because Mayor Sheila Dixon understands the vision she wants all communities to become, economically and spiritually.

As a black woman, I think the charges against Mayor Sheila Dixon are about the ultimate meanness of racism, and gender institutional racism of alleged crimes to take a "bitch" down from the high tower of administrative government.

If black male politicians and black community leaders, businessman, lawyers of the dollar ministry, and educators do not support Mayor Sheila Dixon in her moment of need to survive a conspiracy against her, I will not vote or support their cause and vote them out of office or a job.

As I believe it, before you try to get a hold of my neck, I've already thought of how to break your fingers to show you that Larnell Butler is not an inferior woman, and I'm ready to save all my sisters (black) birthed out of this nation.

Larnell Custis Butler

Offender Offensive

Reporter Chris Landers is to be commended for his well-written and meticulously researched article ("Exiles on Main Street," Mobtown Beat, Dec. 10), which proves beyond any doubt that a new law mandating residency restrictions for convicted "sex offenders" would prove to be as disastrous in the Baltimore area as it has been everywhere else it's been tried.

H.L. Mencken wrote that the main purpose of politics in America is to scare the public "by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." With the Drug War generally conceded to be a bust--even by many of those charged with doing the busting--the "sex offender" has emerged as our current favorite bogeyman. (I put "sex offender" in quotes because many of those currently imprisoned for sex crimes have, in fact, committed no crime at all--I am a personal acquaintance of one such victim--while others are guilty only of harmless "offenses" such as consensual teenage blowjobs.)

Landers' piece is correct in suggesting that those convicted of this type of crime have a re-offense rate that's surprisingly low. Too bad the same can't be said of politicians who propose and often pass worthless laws that help no one (aside from those employed by America's prison-industrial complex) while making us all less free. Recidivism is close to 100 percent for these crooks, and that scares me far more than any phantom strangers with candy.

Jon Swift

Editor's note: Last call for Free Valentines; get 'em in by Wednesday, Feb. 4 to make our Feb. 11 edition. Submit yours now.

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