Who Are You?
As a reader since the very beginnings, I was delighted to learn that the Express is returning to local control. Your early tradition of vigorous community-centered journalism was never quite extinguished, but I found my interest waning over recent years. Now I am paying attention again, and I wanted to make one small suggestion: Bring back the contents listing! The paper is stuffed with ads. Readers need to be able to navigate; if not, I at least tend to get frustrated after about three minutes of rifling back and forth, and just put it in the recycle pile. You don't want that; your advertisers don't want that! In a related vein, you might have a proper masthead again. I have forgotten, for instance, the name of the editor, despite his having made the welcome announcement of the ownership change. And I am both a writer and a former editor, so I have an unusual interest in such things. If the paper is to recover its local personality, we need to know who you folks are!
Ernest Callenbach, Berkeley
And What is What?
The Express' lack of a table of contents is a mystery to me, and a great disservice to your readers. I know that the editors and publishers of the Express are competent, so I can only assume this is a deliberate decision. Perhaps you think you can charge more for advertising if readers are forced to manually search Express pages to find what they want? I would surmise that this policy could actually hurt advertising revenue, since circulation could decline as more people like me get frustrated and walk past the Express rack to pick up a competing weekly paper. As you redesign the paper under your new local ownership, I hope you'll restore this most basic reader-friendly feature.
Roger Kohn, El Cerrito
Readers will find in this issue a table of contents and masthead, both of which have appeared infrequently in the past year due to space limitations.
Last Call at Arnie's
Thank you, East Bay Express, for voting Arnie's Time Out the best bar for a bender! I think you captured the Time Out perfectly, especially by saying, "Arnie's is one of the last gravel-parking-lot roadhouses that pulls off the look and feel of rough-and-tumble with grace and a sense of family." Unfortunately, that atmosphere you described will be a thing of the past now. Arnie's was sold to new owners last week who do not intend to keep the bar or its loyal patrons for over 30 years the same. It is quite sad because many people think of it as a friendly, good-time place they call their second home. To all of you who did get a real taste of Arnie's, you're lucky, because there are not many places like it left. And for those who did make it their home for so many years, thank you for all of the great times and memories!
Shannon McNamara, Tracy
It's About the Music
I'm a regular reader of your column, and though I enjoy it, I've never felt compelled to respond in any way until now. That's probably because I find myself both agreeing and disagreeing with what you're saying. I hope the barrage of vitriol I suspect you'll be receiving from the "non-reading punx" isn't too bad.
I'd detected a sarcastic attitude toward punk in your past articles, and I have to confess that I think a lot of it is well-founded. I was pretty active in the East Bay scene growing up, and with hindsight, I realize that being punk was a really big laugh for us. We thought we were really pulling one over on the hoi polloi. We had our own bands, own clubs, own labels (this was Berkeley in the mid-'90s). It all got ruined once someone in our circle started taking it seriously, and then the joke was on us. I see this happening to kids today.
However, having once been fifteen myself, I can kind of understand the "punx don't read" sentiment. Not because I'm for illiteracy or because I'm a champion of book burning, but because younger kids don't want writers, let alone pseudo-academic, grown-up writers, telling them what punk is. Because when it's all said and done, when you get through all the piercings and leather jackets and skin-tight jeans and MySpace haircuts, it's about the music. Can you imagine how much more Matt Diehl could get away with if he'd written a song instead of a book? Kids don't want it narrated for them in multiple pieces of paper filled with words. They want it fast and furious, much like adolescence itself, I guess.
And they certainly don't want esoteric non-punk theorists like Lacan and Derrida deconstructing their DIY ideation with stuffy, academic observations. By the way, I appreciate your citing of those two. But perhaps Herbert Marcuse would have been more appropriate. I think it was Marcuse who said that whatever you can throw at capitalism will be sold right back to you. I know it lacks the twofold quality of binary oppositions, but if criticizing the delusions of resistance is what you're aiming for, then I think it's much more effective. The charm of DIY is that it's completely doomed. Rebellion, or at least the notion of rebellion, is a guaranteed fucking money pit.
Anyway, I don't pretend to know what punk is, but if nothing else, I do know that for a lot of young people, punk as a paradigm and not as a style provides a means to put forth ideas without compromising with the power structures that gave you something to gripe about in the first place. At the risk of sounding totally cheesy, Tim Armstrong said it better than any intellectual could when he said, "When I got the music, I got a place to go."
Jack Doran, Oakland
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