Letters for the week of March 5-11, 2003

Perhaps your writers ought to: Visit the Ashby Flea Market, consider the real school problem, get in touch with their true feelings.

“Flea Killers,” 7 Days, 2/12

Ditch the stereotypes and open your eyes
Your dismissal and trivialization of the Ashby Flea Market is thick with racial bias and chokes the consciousness of responsible journalism. Your unfair warning to the public about the flea market being “colonized by Afrocentric tchotchkes and Rastafarian messiah triptychs” is untrue and offensive. Ashby Flea Market has historically represented consumers and proprietors from all around the world. Characteristically, it might be one of the most diverse places to shop in the East Bay.

I think it is important to do your homework if you’re going to make an assessment of something — especially if it relates to culture. Maybe you ought to visit sometime.
Lena-Nsomeka Gomes, Oakland

“Name ‘Em and Shame ‘Em,” City of Warts, 2/5

The real problem is inadequate resources
Chris Thompson has a reputation as a hard-hitting, take-no-prisoners journalist. Deservedly so. He writes his mind, and tells it as he sees it. All well and good. There is enough blame to go around, as he amply chronicles, in the Oakland Unified budget debacle. No school board member should allow the district they are entrusted with to face state receivership, and superintendents should check regularly for the handwriting on the fiscal wall.

However, what is suggested but not pursued in Chris’s article is the fact that Oakland Unified’s test scores have shown remarkable improvement since Dennis Chaconas assumed the superintendency (after all, isn’t that the state mantra … test scores, test scores, test scores). All parts of the Oakland community have up to now with near and unusual unanimity rallied behind and supported Chaconas, and there was over the past two years a palpable feeling that Oakland Unified had turned the academic corner, and was headed in the right direction.

The question, as I see it, is this: how do local school districts improve test scores and student achievement, pay teachers and other staff a salary that allows them to buy homes and raise families in these expensive Bay Area communities, and provide student, administrative, and teacher support and resources, both during school and before and after school, on a California per-pupil allocation that is not even in the top half of the states in this nation?

Dennis Chaconas and the Oakland School Board did everything they were mandated to do by the state in providing an improved education to the students of Oakland and a pay level to teachers and staff that was and is necessary to attract and retain quality staff. The real issue in my opinion is that we, as citizens, parents, teachers, and members of our communities, cannot have it both ways: we are dooming our schools to either academic failure or state receivership.
John Selawsky, vice president, Berkeley School Board, Berkeley

“This Woman’s Work,” Music, 2/19

Gertrude Stein would not approve
Oakland-lovers do both themselves and Gertrude Stein a disservice when they misunderstand and thus bemoan her “there there” comment. Like Danyel Smith, Stein could be described as a local girl who moved away to pursue her destiny. Stein writes lovingly of Oakland — and provides a complex historical portrait of the region — in sections of The Making of Americans. The “there there” comment, which is so often taken out of context, appears in one of her memoirs in which she recounts visiting Oakland after many years living abroad. The comment has much more to do with analyzing the workings of memory than with judging Oakland itself.
Elizabeth Treadwell Jackson, Oakland

“Psychic Gothline,” Music, 2/12

Ian would have liked it too
Perhaps the best reworking of a shitty interview I’ve read. Your initially reverential discussion of the band’s music did not have me prepared for the last graph. Needless to say it was a fantastic twist. Good work.
Chris Parker, Lafayette, IN

Maybe he just needs to let his emotions out
I like to eat shrimp tostadas and read the Express every Friday night. After reading Garrett Kamps’ article about Interpol or Ian Curtis or Joy Division or psychics or Carlos Dengler (I got confused) I actually felt some Garrett “Kramps.” Maybe it was from the tostadas. Why can’t Kamps just say he likes a record and list some redeeming qualities? Instead he reflects upon the majority of critics’ obsession with the Joy Division-Interpol-post-punk sound theory. Boresville! Then without haste, Mr. Kamps proceeds to write a similar article. Shame on you, Garrett! Be strong! If you like a record, just say it. We will never love you until you learn to love yourself. Never mind the psychic hotline banter angle! (Or were you trying to make word count quota?) As you said in closing, “the band can write the fuck out of (insert trivial historical reference adjective) song.” Finally some honest emotion revealed. Garrett had a breakthrough! Good job.

Mr. Kamps, it’s that easy. Do you feel better now? I sure do.
Charles Slomovitz, Concord

“Touching Our Private Parts,” Feature, 2/29

Maybe they just need to have better orgasms
I saw the Frank Moore show on January 31. It was wonderful, but I had to leave after the first hour due to thirst and the hot temperature. I think most people are afraid of artists who tell the truth about sex, and encourage others to do so. Truth will terrorize the liars and those who deny themselves and others full sexual pleasure and expression. UC Berkeley Art Department and that cafe are all idiots and censors. Sex is always a hot topic, no matter what. I recommend a bunch of full-body orgasms for all the prudes who wish to censor Frank Moore. I am amazed at the level of sexual ignorance and repression in the USA. Don’t they all realize sex is sacred and you should never mix guilt, fear, and censorship with sex? Frank Moore should be acquitted. He means no harm.
Linda Smith, Berkeley


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