Letters for the week of February 28-March 6, 2007 

Readers comment on guru debunker John Reed, and Chris Thompson's column on the Fernando Botero exhibit.

"Don't Tread on Me," Feature, 2/7

Hmmm
Thank you for this very interesting article. I did the Google search of Kiyosaki that gave me John Reed's piece criticizing him; what an amazing read. I am only about 10 percent through it. I think John Reed is a genius.

I actually went to a real estate foreclosure seminar on Friday and a preview the previous week on a Tuesday afternoon, just like your story (my preview was in Concord, though). The seminar company is based in Florida and one of the teachers is from Utah. Utah and Florida, the two states you mentioned as having a high scam rate. Hmmm. I actually enjoyed the teachers very much — I just didn't have $3,000 to continue the weekend. Anyway, thanks again. I may buy one of John Reed's books; the guy seems very, very interesting.
Jason Ruderman, Concord

The Utah connection
You've written a great and informative article. In my work as an accountant, I have come across every possible variant on the "get rich through real estate" scams. I find twenty- and thirtysomething younger folks to be especially susceptible, possibly due to the inflated real estate market, and desperation to own a property — any property — acquired any way possible. And as a former literature major and sometime writer, I find Kiyosaki's writing to be execrable.

Anecdotally, I might be able to shed a little light on the presence of so many scam artists in Utah. I have been told by no fewer than three formerly devout Mormons that the state and the church are rife with frauds. Their opinion is that a lot of such activity occurs in Utah because Mormons are by nature trusting and naive, and susceptible to scams. There is apparently a rich vein to be mined in Utah, and according to my sources, LDS people have unquestioning trust in other church members. Over twenty years ago, I unknowingly attended a seminar with a friend. It was a presentation by a number of charlatans. I made the mistake of using my real street address to register, and I was bombarded with mailings from Provo, Utah, for at least the next five years.
Brian O'Neil, Alameda

"Sly and the Family Stone/The Collection," Hearsay, 2/7

Sly lives!
As reclusive as Sly Stone may have been, he's actually moving among us as a musically active sexagenarian. Shortly after granting me an interview (for both an LA Times article and an in-process biography), Sly, who's living in Napa County, appeared onstage last month at Anaheim's House of Blues with the Family Stone band led by his youngest sister Vet, who's based in Vallejo. And it looks like there'll be more gigs and a new recording, aside from Legacy's historical reissues.
Jeff Kaliss, San Francisco


"Botero's Politics of Mediocrity," City of Warts, 2/7

A cartoonish caricature
I wonder if anyone else is disturbed, as I am, by the installation of Fernando Botero's artwork at UC Berkeley. Why are we in the Bay Area so ready to believe that an artist who made a career painting cotton-candy pictures of pudgy women (like Russian dolls, as the article describes them) has now made a significant political statement? I guess this is how we reduce the moral complexities of the war in Iraq to the blatancy of partisan politics.
Eben Dodd, Oakland

Complicity with torture
"Snarky" is too kind a word to describe Chris Thompson's deeply reactionary attack on Fernando Botero and his Abu Ghraib works. This assault on the artist, on the professors who brought his work to UC, and on the audience moved by these paintings amounts to complicity with torture in the guise of "art criticism."

As Fernando Botero said in an interview with Revolution newspaper at the UCB opening: "You cannot stay silent when something like this goes on, and let only the politicians and the newspapers take care of it. The artist is also a human being and is concerned and reads the paper and has feelings. And our thing is to express ourselves. An artist expresses himself to communicate. If you hide this, then art doesn't exist. Art exists in the minds of people. Otherwise the art is nothing; it's just a piece of canvas."

A renowned artist has dared to put before us, in canvas after canvas, the unspeakable reality of torture in our time — larger than life. The paintings command us to consider, have we done all we can to oppose this, to stop this? The images strike us to our core: upsetting, unsettling, dark, blindfolded agony with crimson drops of brilliant color. Is this important? Isn't art, as art, supposed to disrupt, disturb, and explore the key questions of the day? No, says Good German "art expert" Mr. Thompson, who dismisses and decrees the exhibit "bad art." Mr. Thompson applauds the US museum censorship of Mr. Botero's works without explaining why these painting have graced the walls of museums all over Europe. I guess those Europeans don't know good art like Mr. Thompson does.

To viciously single out for attack those who publicly and sharply speak out against torture at this time in history when the most powerful government in the world not only tortures, but has justified and legalized torture, is unconscionable. We need a hundred artists like Fernando Botero. Bravo Botero!
Reiko Redmonde, Revolution Books, Berkeley


"Size Matters," This Week, 2/7

Not so small
Thanks for publicizing the February 8 event at Builders Booksource in Berkeley, a book signing for our book, Little House on a Small Planet. Many people attended, no doubt thanks to your announcement in "This Week."

All publicity is good publicity, but if we may we'd like to correct a detail in your listing, regarding a distinction of importance to us. The Small House Society does not specifically nor exclusively promote "extremely diminutive dwellings" or specify "two hundred square feet" (your words). Instead, we are "A Voice for the Small House Movement" (our words). That movement includes movie stars who have proudly downsized into 3,000 square feet, families of five happy in an Arts and Crafts bungalow, multifamily housing in a variety of forms, and yes, also more extreme examples, such as people on houseboats and in trailers with just a few hundred square feet around them. Size is relative, and mainly we promote discussion about the ecological, economic, and psychological toll that excessive housing takes on our lives, and what some of us are doing to live better.
Shay Salomon, Small House Society, Iowa City, Iowa

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