"The Best Films of 2003," Feature, 1/7
Who are these people?
Wow, you have six film critics! In your annual film review you listed their picks of the year, and I wondered -- who are these people? A cursory check reveals their opinions gracing the pages of your "sister paper" across the bay and in Phoenix, Dallas, Miami, Denver, Cleveland, Houston, and so forth, in almost identical articles.
Why should I care what Melissa Levine (for example) thinks unless I have developed a sense of her priorities and views about movies? I might as well ask six passersby what they think. This state of affairs isn't fair to the writers or to the readers. We need to have a relationship with each other.
Why don't you hire one local (East Bay) critic (or two) who can write well, and whose perspective and taste readers can get used to appreciating or disputing? That relationship is what makes reviews worth reading.
Michael Covino, an Express critic some years ago, could be annoying, but loyal readers enjoyed reading him (and sometimes cursing him out). We knew where he was coming from -- and it wasn't Miami.
David Herzstein Couch, Berkeley
Melissa Levine lives in Berkeley.
"Beware the Hippie Fire Drill," Down in Front, 12/31
What exactly is your role?
Dear Rob Harvilla, I guess you must not go to very many shows, since you waste so much space setting the scene about waiting in line. While essentially irrelevant to the event itself it does, however, reveal much about your own mindset and amply demonstrate you were more than likely the wrong guy for the job ... at least the review of this one before you even got in to the show.
A predecessor of yours, Gina Arnold, also had the same visceral reaction to "hippie" gatherings/music, and I don't think she gained very many friends along the way. Of course a critic's job is not to make friends, but to ... hmmm, what exactly is your role?
You do manage to make some very snide and sexist comments about Bonnie Raitt that are worthy of being categorized at best as dumb and more so as sexist drivel. As to Jackson Browne and his "smooth Old People Music" ... well, I seriously doubt you have ever put your money where your mouth is when it comes to social and political activism. Both artists have been jailed numerous times and put themselves on the front lines of things that are really important to the human race, and they continue to do so.
Steve Earle is great ... you got that one right.
What I think you again missed here and could have done the readership some real service but you reverted once again to trivialize was what this concert was about. For 25 years, the Seva Foundation has provided funding, support, and in-the-trenches sweat to people in need. Its efforts have restored sight (thru cataract surgery) to over two million people in India, Nepal, and Tibet. It has expanded its service to indigenous peoples in Central America in a variety of grassroots projects. Seva helped establish and fund the only Native American-run clinic whose goals are to help stem the extremely high incidence of diabetes among the native population.
You might have read the Seva brochure to better educate yourself before shooting from your skinny-ass hips. Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention: Seva was founded by a bunch of hippies.
So I guess you don't dig jam bands ... if that's the case, please stay away.
Marc Margolis, Oakland
"Queer Eye for the East Bay," Cityside, 11/26
Baggy pants are practical
Walking one day on the commercial block of Vine Street in Berkeley, I realized that the person right in front of me was Wavy Gravy, wearing everyday clothes. This was before his dressing-down by the local fashion police. He reached midblock ahead of me, where a small cafe had placed some nicely wrapped unsold sandwiches on an outdoor table, presumably figuring folks would take what they need and leave the rest.
Mr. Gravy did not pause, but in one swift movement he two-handedly took all, not some, of the sandwiches, and stashed them into the large pockets of his nonclown baggy pants. I thought I should call the mayor or something.
There's no special connection between the telling of this strangely true story and the letter detailing his haberdashery inventory, except to suggest that big, baggy pockets can be very practical whenever an icon gets hungry and low on graciousness.
(Not even "Nobody" is perfect ...)
Ariko Vair, by way of Goodlettsville, TN
"Al Sharpton and the Rise of Angry Liberals," City of Warts, 12/24
Saying whatever pops into his head
It is obvious that Al Sharpton is having the time of his life. Since he hasn't got a prayer of being nominated, let alone elected, he can say anything that pops into his head and an obsequious and sycophantic media can be relied upon to give the widest possible dissemination to his pontifications, no matter how absurd. At any meeting, he'll make everyone wait at his good pleasure and no one dare reproach him for it. At any public debate, he'll interrupt everybody, including the sainted junior senator from New York, and no one dare reciprocate. At the Democratic convention, he'll be one of the key speakers rambling on at length disregarding any time limits, and all the time he'll rub whitey's face in the dirt.
Leslie Dale, San Leandro