Letters for the week of February 2-8, 2005

A gangsta-tat misunderstanding; The French were first terroir foodies; and "terroir" is Orwellian anyway; Out with Zinn -- put Diamond in.

“American Me,” Calendar, 1/12

Encouraging ignorance and bigotry
In reference to the writer’s version of the Vietnamese art collective show, thank you for the distortion and subtle racism in so many different ways. To call an artist you have never met, talked to, or learned about, how do you call him a “thug tattoo artist”? Who are you? What do you know about the history of tattooing? Is it acceptable and condoned by your periodical to encourage ignorance and bigotry?

We in the skin art trade do sincerely thank you for your latest rendition in keeping the current stereotype alive and well fed. Actually, those of us with some intelligence encourage this attitude; it keeps the idiots and closed-minded away from us. Life is easier when the stupid stay away.
Dave Flowers, Guru Tattoo, San Jose

David Downs responds
I got that info from the event’s own promoter, Ly Nguyen, who said the guy was a “gangster tattoo artist that’s done a lot of work in San Jose. A couple of my friends have gotten tattoos from him and we wanted to include him.” Three phone calls to reach the Guru Tattoo artists were not answered or returned.

“The O Word,” Feature, 1/5

The French term terroir means “land, place, region” with connotative overtones of soil and rurality. That it was first applied to food by an Oakland restaurateur is laughable. Les Recettes du Terroir des Maîtres Cuisiniers de France was published in France in 1984; an English edition by Blenheim House appeared in 1987. The recipes, chosen by France’s premier chefs, are nothing but traditional provincial recipes, organized by province, with text describing provincial climate, crops, cultural practices, etc.

The term seems to have undergone wonderful changes in the pens of the Knolls and the Express. But who knows what the French may have done to it in the meantime as well.
Jeffrey M. Dickemann, professor of anthropology emeritus, Richmond

Terroir: Newspeak for co-opted
I think Rick is wrong to make up a new word to get around the technical law which has become inequitable. Since he was part of the problem in creating this bureaucratic monstrosity, and responsible for the co-optation of a simple English word that denotes traditional nonindustrial farming practices, he ought to bear the burden of standing up to the stupid jerks who dare to violate OUR constitutional rights of free speech.

I run a small community garden. We go to the farmers’ market and sell “organic” produce to raise money each year for parties and the like. So, the end result of early organic farmer “pioneers” is that some government flunky in the form of a “market manager” comes up and tells me I can’t say the word “organic” because of the “professional” standards. We “unprofessional” vernacular microfarmers are thus coerced and cowed by semifascists, spawned by the greed of organic farmers themselves to “corner the market” on organic products.

Rick, by making up filthy words which I will not even utter, you are now contributing to the formation of an Orwellian “Newspeak” or “Uniquack.” I would ask to you atone for your error, go down to the market, and speak plain English. And when the eco-Nazis come to arrest you, I will be there to personally defend all of our rights to free speech, which has been unintentionally fostered by the “institutionalization” of a traditional way of life — organic food production.
John Quintero, Hayward

“If at First It Fails the Kids, Try, Try Again,” Cityside, 1/12

It’s all about climate
I would like to suggest a book for the BHS Ethnic Studies class, called Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond. This book uses geography and biological diversity to explain the different rates of social and technological development observed in human populations in the world today, and his explanations are a great antidote to racist theories. Reprinted below is a quick review from Amazon.com:

“Jared Diamond convincingly argues that geographical and environmental factors shaped the modern world. Societies that had had a head start in food production advanced beyond the hunter-gatherer stage, and then developed religion — as well as nasty germs and potent weapons of war — and adventured on sea and land to conquer and decimate preliterate cultures. A major advance in our understanding of human societies, Guns, Germs, and Steel chronicles the way that the modern world came to be and stunningly dismantles racially based theories of human history.”

While I have the highest regard for Howard Zinn and his book, A People’s History of the United States, the book does not address the subject of the class, which is ethnic studies. Zinn’s book deals more with the politics of US imperialism, and if used in an ethnic-studies class without a world overview, it would give the false impression that whites are the major perpetuators of war, genocide, and racism. I would encourage Diamond’s book because of its objectivity and ability to enlightening the reader to the basic causes for the vast variability in human society.
Name withheld, Berkeley

“Like Clichés on Acid,” Down in Front, 1/5

Quirky is out. Jazzy is in.
I have ceased to read most of today’s rock criticism, since so much of it is nothing but a sloppy string of verbiage. My own list includes “quirky,” which I have sworn off forever:

Quirky: annoyingly goofy and/or clever. Sounds like They Might Be Giants, only not They Might Be Giants.

I shall continue to be guilty of using “angular,” “lush,” and “soundscapes,” however. Also “jazzy,” which I think means “features unusual drumming.”
Sara Bir, Albany

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