Letters for the week of April 26-May 2, 2006 

Don't cap Wayne Coyne's future. Hugo Chávez is a heroic leader. KRS clarification, Jacka condemnation, and enlightened birth is still rare.

Overtaken & Overwhelmed," Music, 3/15

The fearless freaks
I wanted to point out to Nate Seltenrich that [Flaming Lips singer] Wayne Coyne's mother recently passed away, and he says a lot of the lyrics on the new album are wrought from an extreme dissatisfaction with the Bush regime. Sure, a lot of it probably stems from aging, too. And, yes, they've expressed an interest in not touring, etc. But, I believe he and the rest of the band are committed to continuing their explorations into what they can do musically for some time to come. Please don't put a cap on their future quite yet. Listen to the album a couple dozen times and you'll probably start to appreciate how really good it is.
Leslie (last name withheld by request), Moraga


"Raspberry Beret," This Week, 3/22

¡Viva Hugo!
I find Nora Sohnen's March 22 preview article of "Now-Time Venezuela" deeply disturbing. She is correct that my cycle of exhibitions is in solidarity with the Venezuelan revolution and that one of its aims is to correct misrepresentations in the mainstream media. But her spin on this implies that the revolution needs to be rescued from an "unhinged" leader. The truth is that Hugo Chávez is nothing short of heroic, and is absolutely essential to the Bolivarian revolution.

Given the ignorance of Ms. Sohnen, who uses her article simply to replicate the views of the mainstream media, one can be grateful for the valuable time that President Chávez devotes to setting the record straight. On "Aló Presidente" he speaks to people directly — with great clarity and informativeness — about the aims, impediments, and enormous successes of the Bolivarian process. These are successes for which he, together with the Venezuelan people he listens to and struggles for, is in a great measure responsible.
Chris Gilbert, Berkeley


"You Must Learn to Shaddap," Close 2 tha Edge, 3/22

Cooler heads prevailed
In Eric Arnold's recent article on my conflict and resolution with KRS-ONE there was mention of Muslims from the "Compton Mosque." I did not intend to refer to a specific mosque in the Compton area; I meant to refer to Muslims in the greater South Central Los Angeles area in general. Tensions were indeed high. Praise be to Allah (SWT) that cooler heads prevailed.
Adisa Banjoko, San Jose


"Pimp My Life," Music, 3/22

This is news?
With all the really talented and creative musicians in the Bay Area who actually play instruments, sing, and compose uplifting music, why keep promoting the same old inane clichés of the dumbed-down rap culture!?! Who really gives a shit if Jacka emulates the same ugly stereotypes of millions of other wanna-be thugs or ex-criminals? He's "cagey, thick-skinned, and cold-blooded" but "in his tenderest moments" he uses his hackneyed rhymes to purge his inner demons, all the while "pimping his ghetto background" to sell insipid raps. This is news?
Paul Burton, Oakland

"Mango and Cash," Water Cooler, 3/29

We're not there yet
I was excited to see the Water Cooler article. I expected that the high-tech births that have become prevalent in the last fifteen years might be "outed" as a cause of a higher cesarean rate and more maternal and infant morbidity. It is true that many babies and their families have benefited from the new technologies. One of the major problems in this age of technology is that of fully informing parents about the recommendations that are often "pushed" on them by physicians, friends, books, and childbirth classes.

The concept of natural birth, which Kathleen Richards claims many mothers want, has been given lots of lip service but little true support from the medical community. Many doctors and nurses, as well as supporting family members, have almost never seen a totally natural birth. This means that if the mother and her doula or midwife describe a desired "birth plan" it may seem scary and dangerous! Why would anyone NOT want an epidural? Why would waiting until 42 weeks to go into labor be okay? Why would the mother want the wet, "messy" baby on her chest right after delivery?

There are good reasons for all these choices, and there are many mothers and partners who DO want this plan. But they need supporting members of the hospital to be there with them, making it happen. (This assumes a healthy mother and that the baby hasn't problems in labor.)

The author's idea that we have gone from the era of twilight sleep in the '40s to enlightened natural birth in 2006 is far from the truth in this country. The research done in the last twenty years has shown the benefit of unmedicated birth, no episiotomy, skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby, breastfeeding within the first thirty to sixty minutes, nutrition with real food during labor, and walking during labor. However, there has been little effect on the vast majority of hospital practices or medical personnel. Even fetal monitoring, which is such a norm today, has not been shown necessary in women having a normal labor at full term! But you would not know that to look at a labor and delivery floor today in this country.

The movement which began in the '40s and '50s to humanize the birth process in hospitals is still strong, but hasn't had much to celebrate recently. In England, Scandinavia, Germany, France, and other "developed" countries, there has been a more balanced approach. Midwives often do the majority of the births, there are water births available in many hospitals, women can eat some foods during labor, and walking around is encouraged. The attitude is that birth is a normal process, and should be allowed to proceed as such until proven abnormal.

Our mothers and babies deserve the best of both worlds! When technology is truly needed, it is wonderful to have the excellent doctors and technology in the Bay Area. But the families need better information as to the risks and benefits of everything done to the mother/baby in labor, and to be given genuine choices about her care.
Lorie Brillinger, CNM, Berkeley

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