Letters for the week of January 3-9, 2007 

Readers comment on wikis, the Fremont A's, that controversial cover photo, and the environmental practices of Laney College.

"Read the Novel, Then Update the Wiki," City of Warts, 12/6

The world of wikis
I must express my disappointment with one false note in Chris Thompson's otherwise informative article. Thompson states that Tim Ware "is coordinating the global Wikipedia project to annotate, categorize, and investigate every single detail in the novel." The title gets the terminology right; this sentence does not.

Wikipedia is a specific project, only one example of the software type known as the wiki. (To be sure, it is today the largest wiki in the world.) It was launched in January 2001, but wiki concepts and implementations had been in existence several years before that. Ward Cunningham, who invented the word, traces his software back to a HyperCard project in the late 1980s.

Wikipedia has its own community behaviors and official policies, some of which are not so appropriate for Mr. Ware's project. (Read the Wikipedia policy page called "No Original Research," and you'll easily imagine cases when the Pynchon Wiki will need the exact opposite.) The Pynchon Wiki contributors are still working out these issues, which is only to be expected since the "p-wiki" is such a new development.

It is exciting to see the wiki concept evolve beyond the "killer app" which made it famous.
Blake Stacey, Boston, Massachusetts


"Ecotopic Dissonance," This Week, 12/6

A tree grows at Laney
In your November 6 issue's "Ecotopic Dissonance" event brief, Rachel Swan writes that Laney College is a "place that isn't exactly known for environmentally progressive politics." If it's "known" or not, I can't say. But, in regards to whether it is, she couldn't be more wrong.

Throughout the Peralta Community College district, recycling programs are developing, vocational technology curriculums are being revamped, and "green" classes are sprouting. One look in the district's "Sustainable Peralta Initiative" Web site (Peralta.edu/sustainable) will reveal the many projects Peralta has in store for "green" and "progressive" classes. The Laney College Environmental Control Technology alone is working toward surpassing the country's industry standards in "green" building operations technology.
Angelica Carapia, Oakland


"I Like Eating," Cartoon, 12/6

I like I Like Eating
The food critic/cartoon/whatever I Like Eating is now the main reason I pick up the Express. Not the only thing I read, mind you. But it is the primary motivator for bringing it home.

I don't go to the restaurants reviewed because I'm agoraphobic, but I do recommend them to other people who do. It's the column, strip, or whatever that I like. It's not ... edgy. I hate that word. And I feel that the reviewer has actually been to the place described.

I'm really disappointed when I Like Eating is not in the paper. For God's sake, please keep it! And by the way, whatever happened to Bad Table? That was a fun column.
Geonni Gray Banner, Richmond

Editor's note
We didn't get enough contributions to sustain the reader-generated column Bad Table.


"Fremont A's," Feature, 11/29

There there
I really enjoyed the article re: A's moving to Fremont (shudder) but as I tell everyone who misquotes Ms. Stein: her reference to no there being there refers to her childhood home in Oakland being torn down and not to an absence of "place" in Oakland. This misuse of a noteworthy quote only serves to heighten the unfortunate misconceptions of our city. Thanks.
Stephen Laborde, Oakland

The five food groups
I do not look forward to $25 bleacher seats. I don't need a wifi area for laptops next to another freakin' Starbucks in a ballpark. I don't see the need for gourmet sandwiches or in-seat concession service. I need $10 bleacher seats and the five basic food groups: Hot Dogs, Popcorn, Nachos, Peanuts, and Beer. Oh, and sometimes soda. I will miss going to see the A's in Oakland.
Rob Ybarra, Alameda


"The Making of a Criminal," Feature, 11/8

An editing failure
As a frequent reader of your magazine, I believe it is my obligation to write this letter regarding your November 8, 2006 issue featuring what appears to be an enlarged mugshot of an African-American male on your cover. The image, along with the words in caps A SYSTEM FAILURE, was eye-catching to say the least, but nonetheless I found this cover highly disturbing and offensive. Despite having this feeling, I decided to read the article so that I could find justification for the cover.

I thought that the article was well written and that Cyrioco Robinson's story needed to be told in conjunction to addressing the system's inefficiencies. However, after reading the article, I still felt the image to be disturbing. As an African-American male, I perceived this cover as solely portraying African-American males for overall crime, while in reality all races and genders hold responsibility. Seeing as how African Americans have been negatively portrayed throughout American history, it has only been through strife and determination by progressive members of society that have made advances in ridding this perception. Instances such as this make it harder for those trying to promote civil harmony in American society.

I am currently a doctorate psychology student at JFK University and enrolled in one particular class that addresses multiculturalism. Therefore, I thought it would be best to see how others perceived this cover, so I decided to present this issue to my fellow colleagues. My colleagues consisted of Caucasians, African Americans, an Asian, and a South Asian American, and as expected, they all told me that their first impression of the cover was a thought holding a negative connotation for African-American males. Although I anticipated their response, I still felt uneasy knowing how many other people living in San Francisco Bay had the same thought and may not have even decided to read the paper, but instead judged it based on the cover. We discussed this topic in great detail and as we concluded I knew that I had to write this letter to you so that this issue could be brought to your attention.

Based off of your previous papers, I feel that it is safe to say that you did not intentionally mean to harm African-American males by printing this cover. Although this may be the case, the effects are still prevalent. Overall, your papers have been fair and just, which is why I enjoy reading them. To uphold the integrity and respect of your paper I wanted to write this letter, so that you may choose not to print similar racially demeaning covers in the future. I appreciate you taking the time to read this letter and I wish your paper success.
Bob Cummerlander Jr., Pleasant Hill

Thanks for inspiring
Hey, I was walking the other day to Eastmont Mall, getting on the bus on my to school, and I seen an East Bay Express paper that a young man was holding and I seen Rico's face on it and I snatch the newspaper out of the young man's hand. That was my reaction because I've never seen nobody that's from the 'hood's face on a paper unless they were wanted or they passed away. So, as I told the young man, I apologize, but this is my bru and I haven't seen him in a minute and I wanted to know what was going on.

But the reason why I am giving feedback is that because I known Rico for years, kind of around the time before he dropped out in the eleven grade, and I thought that he was not going to make it to 2006, but I'm happy that he's still here. I would walk to the store when I'm mad knowing that I will see him so he can crack me up, then I would have a good day. But I have to go to class now. Thanks for inspiring.
Mika, Oakland


"The Player and the Pilgrim," Music, 11/22

Give without getting
The one thing that either the writer or Saafir are confused about is, in the Koran, in order to redeem oneself for the sins you have committed (once you renounce your current lifestyle), you cannot give to those less fortunate with the intention of gaining anything. You should give of yourself selflessly because it is the right thing to do. Because it feels good, feels RIGHT! Not to "balance" the so-called "debt" you owe "God" or "Allah." One day (hopefully), you reach the point where you just give for no reason whatsoever, whether it's money, food, clothing, or just words of support. Someone asks (or doesn't, but you know they want to), and you, as a selfless person, act with all the compassion in your soul. And to not expect anything in return is truly a selfless act in and of itself.
Celeste Young, San Francisco


"21st-Century Innocence," This Week, 11/22

Exposing a taboo
Just wanted to thank you for writing such a great article. I sent a lot of people to the link to read it and there was a huge response from the women I am in touch with who have had similar infant losses. They were all very touched and moved that you would write about this "taboo" subject, and they were also very responsive to how you wrote what you did.
Tarra Lyons, Oakland

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