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Letters for the Week of February 6, 2013

Readers sound off on the Richmond soda tax, Amour, and Nick's Lounge.

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"Race-Baiting in Richmond," Feature, 1/23

A Class Issue

What is progressive about a group of middle-class liberals deciding what is in the best interest of working-class people? None of these progressive activists did their homework. The biggest health hazard to working-class people is stress. Stress is what working-class people live with from birth to the grave, and the worst examples of that stress are found in the minority communities of Richmond. The liberals, by their own admission, did little or nothing to engage the black community, the target of the regressive sugar drink tax, in partnering with them on the issue of regressive taxation. Blame the beverage companies all you want for dividing the Richmond community, but the truth is Richmond defeated the tax by a two-thirds vote. Please, don't suggest that the people who voted against the tax were fooled; they were not. The only people in Richmond who were fooled were the liberals who thought they could succeed in passing a regressive tax on a working-class community. A regressive tax is a class issue.

Charles Smith, Richmond

The Ugly Truth

I want to thank Wendi Jonassen for exposing the ugly truth of the politics in Richmond. Great reporting!

Susie Davis, Richmond

Sickening

This is good reporting. It was sickening to see the money that the beverage industry and Chevron pumped into the Richmond election. It is a shame that the soda tax lost, and a shame that Corky Booze decided that his ticket to fame was being a constant irritant to all his colleagues but Nat Bates, who is obviously bought and paid for by our neighbors at Chevron.

Bruce Kaplan, Richmond

Not Exactly Accurate

My goodness! To assert that it was big business that turned this issue into a racial one is one-sided and not exactly accurate. I recall when the city council was deciding whether the issue was to be put on the ballot when, after a representative of the bottlers had finished speaking and had left the room, one member of the council rebutted him and asserted that if you did not support their measure then you were guilty of wanting to kill little black and brown babies. And the Express thinks that it was the bottlers that were playing the race card?

This article also skews the idea of where the tax was to go. The ballot measure never dictated where the money was to go and I think you all know this. There was an advisory vote but there was nothing that directed where the money was to go. And this was one of the arguments that sank the measure by a margin of more than two to one.

This article comes across almost as if it were written right out of the RPA offices. And since the RPA is pushing so hard right now to reclaim its dominance over the council with the appointment of one of its key people — Eduardo Martinez — this is that wedge issue they talk about all of the time that can split the people. (The soda tax and Chevron: a pair of litmus tests where your views will decide whether you should be allowed to continue to live in Richmond or whether you should be subjugated by those running the city.) This time they want to split the white progressives living in the border parts of Richmond from those living in the heart of Richmond who may not appreciate what the RPA has done for/to them recently.

If you look back at the fight for and against Measure N, few people argued about the science. What they argued about was who this tax would apply to (certainly not most of the people living in the Annex, the Marina, the Point, Carriage Hills, and North Richmond, who most likely do their grocery shopping outside of the soda tax zone) and who elected these people to come into our homes to tell us what we will be allowed to eat and drink.

If you want to write about racism in Richmond, there's plenty to write about, but this was a poor excuse of an article that really just glossed over the issues of substance. It has that same "fair and balanced" feel to it that we see from Fox News, except this seems to be coming from the other side of the spectrum.

Don Gosney, Richmond


"Family Matters," Movies, 1/16

In Defense of Amour

(Editor's Note: This letter contains spoilers)

I think you've misinterpreted Amour. Rather than first characterizing the auteur as "very cold" and "very cruel," and then reading the film through such a predefined lens, it would be more effective to look at the film itself. To do otherwise is to run precisely into the problem of Auteur Theory — if Haneke, for instance, were characterized as a "very warm" and "very kind" filmmaker, would that change the makeup of his films? Or, for that matter, were he to have gone on the record with his intentions — which you seem to surmise from your analysis of his character — why should those intentions determine what we make of the film? As D.H. Lawrence noted many decades ago, it's better to trust the tale than the teller.

A careful examination of the film yields many insights that effectively counter your claim that the film is "a bitter, pitiless piece of work." To begin with, in one of the very first scenes, when we first (briefly) see Emmanuelle Riva's corpse, there are small flowers strewn everywhere. These are the flowers that, as we discover only near the very end, her husband went out and bought and then carefully cut in the kitchen sink — one of the last acts we see him perform and one which is, furthermore, an act of love or, more precisely, a series of gestures that display his love for his (now dead) wife.

I think it's safe to say this film is somewhat of a departure from Haneke's earlier work, precisely because he invests his characters with a degree of compassion previously unseen. Whereas the "George" and "Anne" of Caché hardly have a single moment of meaningful communication, much less sincere emotion, in Amour one is given many such moments — perhaps more than at any time in any of his previous films. Such scenes can indeed cause confusion if one attempts to view the film through the lens of either a predetermined conception of Haneke (as cold) or in light of his previous (colder) film; however, on its own terms, I think it's possible to read the film's title sincerely, not ironically, and to see the film not as "pitiless" but, indeed — strange as this may seem, coming from the "glacial" Haneke — as a profound expression of a man's sincere love for his dying wife.

Ajay Gehlawat, Berkeley


"Nothing Fancy at Nick's Lounge," Last Call, 1/9

Outrageously Good

You missed one important feature of Nick's Lounge. On Sunday nights from 8 to 11 Randy Moore's Jazz Trio is on stage with great jazz and a devoted following. As the night progresses local talent shows up and sits in, making this a riveting jam session. The band really swings and the improvisations are to die for. Please come check it out and then revise your review!

Usually the place is packed with those in the know. Admission? A one-drink minimum covers you for the night. Put some money in the tip bar for the band — they are outrageously good.

Marc Halpern, Oakland

Correction

Our January 23 Legalization Nation, "Pivotal Pot Meeting This Weekend," misspelled Brownie Mary Rathbun's last name.

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