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Niets te Danken

Posted 4/28/2010

Thanks for your Bike Issue (April 21). Yes, what is really needed to move Baltimore from among the top 50 bike-friendly cities to the top 10, or better, is active advocacy by us bikers for safer, smoother bike routes and more parking facilities. Wonderful Mary Pat Clarke notwithstanding, nobody can advocate more effectively for us than ourselves!

Even though I've been biking in Baltimore for 38 years, disappointingly I meet only two of Michael Byrne's recommendations for getting around our city: "a shitty paint job" and "a fucking helmet." I am now seriously considering "an egg" and "locking skewers"--especially the latter.

Finally, with a son living there, I periodically visit and bicycle in Amsterdam. Pedaling on the Amstelveenseweg, I swell with pride, knowing I'm in biking's big league! From experience, here are my prerequisites for bike riding in Amsterdam: 1) nerves of steel (as motorbikes come roaring from behind), 2) good brakes, 3) ability to ride through narrow spaces (i.e. double-parked trucks), 4) 360-degree vision, 5) instant reflexes, 6) ride holding an umbrella, 7) ride holding hands, 8) ride with three infants on board, 9) ride with your girl/boyfriend sidesaddle on the back, 10) have two real good locks.

Again, dank u wel for your bike issue.

Herman Heyn

Martial Law for Baltimore?

The first time I heard the phrase "Stop the killing" was when the late U.S. Rep. Parren J. Mitchell staged a rally in 1972 that I covered as a white reporter for The Afro-American newspaper. It didn't work then, and it won't now. 

While I can empathize with the sentiments expressed in the letter by Mary L. Washington ("When Will the Killing End?" The Mail, April 21), these will not reverse the current trend, which began in 1968. Having met and talked with Police Commissioner Bealefeld recently, I support his current efforts, but they are not enough, and his force needs more help. The mayor needs to request of her political ally the governor that he send Maryland National Guard troops and Maryland state troopers to patrol the streets of Baltimore on a regular and permanent basis, if need be. If this means declaring martial law, so be it: The governor has that power, and should exercise it. To assert that we are better off this year because the murder rate is lower than it was at this time last year would be laughable if it weren't so lame, pathetic, and sad, especially for the victims and their families. That should not be our gauge of success! Destruction of these criminals with bullets, bayonets, and rifle butts should be.

History shows quite clearly that any society that will not defend itself will fall--and deserves to. Failing to take adequate measures by responsible civil authorities will ultimately result in vigilantism--on that score, history is also very clear. Both the governor and our Catholic archbishop are on the wrong side of the death penalty issue as well. They seek to "accommodate" the very element that would destroy them both if it could, and will, if left unchecked.

Blaine Taylor

Talking Timbuktu, Hearing the world

The proposed narrative of the roots of American blues in Geoffrey Himes' analysis of Ali Farka Toure's guitar style ("The Malian Blues," Music, April 14) is appealing in its simplicity, and as an apologetic reparation for all that our country stole from the African continent for centuries, however I submit that a more thorough review of music history yields a complex portrait of mutual cultural influence and cross pollination.

I recently read an article describing a music performance style that was popular in France in the 16th century where a composer would inscribe the words "notes inegales" before a series of eighth or 16th notes, which the performer would then play with alternating rhythmic emphasis--long, short, long, short, etc. This style of playing seems to have migrated, with so many other aspects of French culture, across the Atlantic and down the Mississippi to New Orleans, where it was incorporated into jazz and blues and known as "swing." This distinctive feel has since caught on in many cultures around the world; it's so natural that it's ridiculous to suggest that it has one pure source of origin, but the suggestion that it may have come from France came as a great surprise to me.

Before technology made diverse cultural experience available (albeit in a compromised form) to all, America was a unique land of culture clashes that yielded fresh musical styles that are, I believe, more universally appealing than anything that came before. These styles have lived long enough to influence any musician who travels and performs as much as Farka Toure. To fully appreciate the depth of his recordings we should acknowledge the awesome multiplicity of paths of musical influence.

Walker Teret

Correction: Last week's review of Miguel's Cocina and Cantina (Free Range, April 21) mistakenly referred to "the late Blue Agave." Blue Agave is still open at its Light Street location, though Miguel's Michael Marx is no longer the owner. City Paper regrets the error.

Our story on Annex Theatre's live adaptation of Fantastic Planet (Feature, April 14) misidentified bandleader Dan Breen as Dan Green. City Paper regrets the error.

Editor's note: Next week: Film Fest Frenzy, our annual guide to the Maryland Film Festival.

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