Letters for the week of January 10-16, 2007

Readers comment on Frank Cordelle's Century Project and high-school noir.

“What’s Wrong with This Picture?” Feature, 12/6

Changing people’s lives
I just finished reading your story on Frank Cordelle and I found it absolutely fascinating and inspiring. The fact that he worked for so long on one project is truly remarkable. So many would have given up so long ago, and he kept going and doing whatever he had to do to get his work out there.

I teach photography to high schoolers and I will be bringing up his work in class so they can see how the work created by one man can change the lives of real people. Thank you giving him the publicity he needs and deserves.
Andy Williams, San Ramon

Deepest thanks
This magnificent article by Lauren Gard must be the most in-depth ever written about Frank Cordelle and his incredible Century Project. Ms. Gard describes with flair and conviction more about this work than anything I’ve ever seen. Anyone reading it is bound not just to be intrigued but to be radically enlightened. Ms. Gard has earned the deepest thanks from me and, I am sure, from many, many other readers.

Paul Rapoport, publisher, Bodies and Souls: The Century Project, Ancaster, Ontario, Canada

Real people, real photos
Thank you for publishing the wonderful article! I’m not familiar with this artist and his work and it’s wonderfully refreshing to see a publication unafraid to feature portraits of REAL people.

Kristene Markert, Berkeley

Compassion without smugness
I just wanted to say how incredibly touched I was by the Century Project. I’m 63 years old and “cute as a button,” or so they say, but no woman in this country ever feels good about her body no matter how beautiful she is. The price of consumerism. This book is so compassionate, so loving, that I just dropped it — the fear, the embarrassment, the self-loathing. At least for now.

That there is NO sexual predation or licentiousness (hard to believe, I know) in this book, that it was written and photographed by a man (which is sweet wonderfulness, really), and that it brings a loving compassion to women and their bodies, is an unheard-of event. He is the bodhisattva of true women’s freedom. Given how American women generally feel about their bodies — this is great news. And it doesn’t have that kind of smugness (yeah) that’s in the “womyn’s” books like Our Bodies, Ourselves — an incredibly useful book, but doing something else. Every woman in America should see this book.
Pamela Daley, New Smyrna Beach, Florida

There’s hope yet
I must thank you. I sat down feeling miserable and now, thanks to hearing about Frank and his wonderful collaborators … well, there’s hope for us yet!

Michael Morton, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

“The Method of King Jorge,” Feature, 12/13

Teaching tough
In today’s society it is frowned upon to have someone of such a manner in power and in control of our future … our children. It can be said that his atypical approach to educating our children is not only offensive, but is also nonconforming to the “traditional” educational techniques of how our children should be taught.

Let’s look at our priorities. What is most important in this case, as far as educational values for our children? Is the fact that Oakland’s second-highest-performing middle school by State API Testing is administrated by a primitive, almost juvenile approach toward educating his students is undeniably offending us, or is it that the rest of Oakland’s student population isn’t receiving the same quality education that Mr. Lopez and Oakland Charter Academy provide? Shouldn’t we grant our children an educational experience that inevitably provides tools for their future, and ours?

There is so much feel-good, warm-and-fuzzy educating going on that this issue raises a simple question. Why is our educational system NOT paying attention to what is working? Is Mr. Lopez some educational guru?

I am not saying that his techniques are anything but conventional. Someone raised in the streets knows what works in the streets. Call it a pimp, a dealer, or a principal: They know what is best for their merchandise. This valuable merchandise we speak of, our children, has evidently been profitable. “Nearly two-thirds of the school’s kids tested proficient in both English and math. That is roughly twice the district average, and an increase of more than 600 percent in two years.” So he uses profanity and knows how to serve up some good s*#! We are all making money because of him, these kids are finally going somewhere … to college!

Mr. Lopez offers them a realistic educational environment which mirrors their everyday life … tough and in-your-face! These children don’t live in an environment that promotes nurturing and compassion, whether educationally or socially. Leave that to your mother! Life is tough, so you must teach tough. Preparation for life’s hardships and everyday obstacles is a class within itself.

Don’t allow these children or any children to leave educationally impoverished. Teach respect, drive, passion, and reason to thrive against all odds. Live up to your potential, and do the best you are able to do. That is education! How many other schools statewide can proclaim the same results? Is he a king of his realm, his territory, his barrio? I wouldn’t say that, but Oakland Charter Academy students sure are!

My hat is off to the efforts of Mr. Lopez. He has obviously made the students of Oakland Charter Academy a highlight of their community.
David Banuelos, Sacramento

“It’s Soooo High School,” Movies, 12/20

High school noir
Brick was one of the most lyrical and stunning films of the year. As a fan of noir and deft writing, I felt the film pulled off its “gimmick” without apology. I’m currently teaching a hip-hop theater class in Oakland and am showing the film to my students so they can see how the “ordinary” world of high school can be elevated into an underworld teeming with terse detectives and simmering subplots. It’s also inspired me to write my own detective story that I’ll be shooting next year. Thanks for the review!

Jamie DeWolf, Oakland

“Intoxicating Opportunity,” Music, 12/13

Not fair
I thought this article was great, but it seems you’ve given credit to the wrong man. Mr. Fisher was in no way the creator of this project [Too $hort promoting cognac in Oakland], but it seems he allowed you to give him all the credit. Nowhere does it mention the local rep who has been the go-to guy for the entire event. It just doesn’t seem fair.

Roy Jones, Oakland

“Trouble in the Air,” Feature, 10/18

Counting the days
Thank you for your well-written article explaining the history and current situation with our nation’s air traffic control. I am a controller at Memphis Center with seventeen years’ experience. I previously planned to work this job that I love for as long as I could do it well. I now dread going in every day, and am counting down the days until I can retire. Thanks again for reporting the facts when the agency works so well at disseminating half-truths and lies.

Robert G. Beer, Memphis, Tennessee

“Hipster Invasion,” Feature, 8/30

Perpetrating gentrification
Thank you for printing David Downs’ article. I thought it was an articulate and rounded view of the tensions that exist in neighborhoods like Ghost Town and Lower Bottoms in downtown and West Oakland. As someone who has lived in Oakland for nearly fifteen years now and has seen the changes it has gone through, I really appreciated someone writing a story and talking to both black and white people about what’s really going on in their ‘hoods, and how hipster white “art kids” are the “buffer” that makes gentrification all the easier for the richer folks from Frisco to perpetrate.

Rona Fernandez, Oakland


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