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Kristen Haney, Walnut Creek
"Beautifying Albany Beach," 6/8
Let It Be
I like the wild feel of the park as it is. I am worried that it will, ironically, become a less inviting place once the "makeover" is finished. It is a quirky, quiet, peaceful place. I like the art and the ambiance. Change may be inevitable but it doesn't always mean for the better.
Sarina Seaton, San Francisco
"Yelp and the Business of Extortion 2.0," 2/18/09
Yelp's a Mystery By Nature
It is the nature of an industry that has a secret and complicated algorithm to leave many questions unanswered on how it works. Since this algorithm changes often, and since each search partly depends on human interaction, it is easy to assume that fraud is at play. The best thing to do if you are a business owner is to follow the best practices guidelines of Yelp's marketing department in order to make sure you are doing the best possible thing when faced with negative reviews.
Marco Castillo, San Diego
Stop! Hammer Time!
On a recent, long-overdue return visit to Oakland and Berkeley, I enjoyed reading the Express. During the 1960s, I had attended Oakland City College (now relocated from its original location on Martin Luther King Jr. Way and renamed Merritt College).
Just as Oakland has its Jack London Square named after the popular writer, it occurred to me that it would be nice to have one of your streets or parks named for another accomplished artistic son "from the Oak Town." How about honoring MC Hammer with a street or a park? Perhaps Lake Merritt could be renamed "Lake Hammer." All over this country, there are streets, avenues and boulevards named for Dr. King. Oakland could score another first with an "MC Hammer Avenue."
Laurence Wiig, Hillsboro, Oregon
Defending Social Security
In the World of GOP newspeak, Social Security and Medicare are called entitlements. The Republican noise machine would like you to believe they are welfare programs doled out to us undeserving, ungrateful peasants by the largesse of the Mama State.
Check your annual Social Security statement to see who is really paying the bills. After paying into the system for 40 years it amounts to a six-figure number you have paid. How do Republicans and the Tea Party get welfare out of this?
The hefty amounts we pay in are obligations and the $1,000 a month we receive back from Social Security is definitely not welfare.
The Republican Party is using the bait-and-switch trick to cover up the money they've squandered on senseless wars, tax breaks for the wealthy, and the corporate welfare they so eagerly promote.
The GOP's off-the-wall comments hold no validity and are only an affront to the millions of American workers who pay for every cent of Social Security and Medicare they receive.
Ron Lowe, Nevada City
Don't Blame the Venue Owners
As a working and mildly successful jazz musician in Philadelphia, I want to thank you for pointing out what seems to be the current state of music in America. However, I am not sure you covered the full scope of why things are as they are. The article did come off a little against the owners, and while there are many devious, scummy owners out there, I do not think they are a majority. There was mention of the club owners being small businesses and not patrons of the arts. I was not sure what you meant by this. They are in business to make money, not lose it. They are not patrons of the arts. They may be personally, but they should not be considered as such when they are the one owning a business. I think the real problem for the musicians in this article is they never should have named the community the Fillmore Jazz District.
This concept and problem is nothing new to me. It is part of the reason I decided to go back to school to be an English teacher (and as it stands now, yet another poor decision/investment). It is also the reason that I have taken a lot fewer gigs and removed myself from the scene somewhat. I have to agree with many of the club owners. Why would you pay someone to play at your restaurant or club (most often as background music, which can easily, and in my opinion, be much more enjoyable if a Sinatra or Ahmad Jamal CD was playing) if you weren't going to bring anybody into the club to make them any money? It makes no sense to ask the club owner to pay $300-$400 when they are only making $500-$800 on a weeknight, which I believe is truly what they are making. There are many factors that have gone into this decline. First and foremost, the musicians have done themselves in. Most people who do the restaurant gigs are just doing them for money (which is the point), but they look like it. They look unenthused and they do not take the gig seriously. Watch a group playing jazz at a restaurant and see how long it takes them to come up with another song after one is finished. Notice how uninspired their solos are. Notice how intros and outros are poorly planned and even more poorly executed. Heaven help if a less accomplished singer is on it.