Letters for the week of Nov. 28 

On Snakes and Fire; Aquarium Age and Carol Queen

Whipsnake Whiplash

Elizabeth Hollander reports EBRPD staff claim "burning has slowed to a halt because it is feared that the fires may have a detrimental effect on the endangered Alameda whipsnake," ("Head 'Em Up, Move 'Em Out!" November 14). This is another example of EBRPD staff playing fast and loose with the facts. The statement directly contradicts information contained in the spring 1998 edition of California Wild magazine. The article "Alameda Whipsnake Hanging on by Its Tail" by Gordy Slack (http://www.calacademy.org/calwild /spr98/habitats.htm) contains the following excerpts:

"According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), fire suppression poses an even more immediate problem. Left to itself, ignited by lightning, the snake's habitat burns periodically every five to thirty years. These fast-moving, relatively cool fires clear out the brush and other flammable material which, if allowed to accumulate for greater lengths of time, fuel much more severe and destructive fires. Periodic burns also maintain the relatively open habitat whipsnakes need to make a living.

"Throughout much of its range, there is now so much fuel that to just let habitat burn would be the undoing of the snake, and probably a lot of other wildlife, too. But some management agencies are hoping to employ controlled burn techniques to revitalize whipsnake habitat. The East Bay Regional Parks District, for instance, plans to begin a burning regimen this year that should create a patchwork of scrub and chaparral of different ages while reducing the threat of catastrophic burns. The whipsnake should appreciate that, says herpetologist and consultant Karen Swaim, who conducted telemetry research on whipsnakes in Tilden Regional Park. Swaim found that though whipsnakes primarily reside in rocky upland scrub and chaparral, they also slither into a variety of other habitats including adjoining grasslands and open woodlands, which they use for foraging and courtship."

The park district should institute a program of real scientific research into the effects of grazing and burning on park lands. Looking to the future, burning might also be the most viable tool in combating the problem of Sudden Oak Death Syndrome (SODS). The question is why won't the EBRPD fully and completely study these issues?
Ralph Kanz, Oakland

Two Down, One to Go

It's good to see other readers jumping to the defense of Ralfee Finn's astrology column - and it's even better to see it enlarged to a slightly more readable font than in the November 7 East Bay Express. Thank you for that.

Also, thanks for returning the events listings to a day-by-day format. This is substantially more useful to us readers (as well as to the presenters of the events, who are hoping to draw people). There is one other reversion to how-it-used-to-be that I want to urge upon you: Bring back "Queen of Hearts" and retire "Savage Love." I dutifully read one more of Dan Savage's columns this week, to see if my previously formed opinion should be adjusted. Happily, he was "being nice," so that I wasn't so assaulted by his tone. Nonetheless, he manages to write a sex-advice column wholly devoid of love - callous, insulting, and assuming the worst about people. I feel sullied by reading it.

In contrast, Carol Queen's columns offered me information on and a sensitive perception of some sexual activities that I might otherwise have labeled "perverse." Her writing much better reflects the Bay Area's willingness to increase knowledge and understanding of minority (or frequently concealed) sexual desires and behaviors without degrading those who pursue unusual but consensual sexual activity. I find no lack in this world of the meanness, cruelty, and harshness Dan Savage dishes out. I miss the openness and heartfulness of Carol Queen.
The personal is very political.
Darien De Lu, Oakland

I Think That I
Shall Never See
an Article as Lovely
as the One About Me

Congratulations on a really well-written column for my Dreams and Mirages art exhibit ("Art of Exile," November 7).

I must confess that usually, when articles or reviews are written about my work, I'm less than impressed (unintentional misquotes, factual errors, etc), but this was a wonderful surprise and a breath of fresh air. Thank you!

It was written like a poem.
Bravo!
Khalil Bendib, via the Internet

Was That Gemini or Gemwi?

I want to praise the music and theater coverage as fascinating, incisive, and entertaining. The entire paper is right on!

However, and I believe equally important is "Aquarium Age" by Ralfee Finn. Her essays in October were profoundly wise and I continue to look for her column each week, as do many of my friends, teachers, colleagues, and students. Nevertheless, we would like you to give her full print status - tired of using magnifying glasses!

Thanks again for a great paper.
Phil Phillips, Walnut Creek

You Should Have Seen His Other Dreams

I cannot believe you actually allowed a joke about the resistance and concentration camp torture to be published in your weekly newspaper ("Slow Wave"). Are you aware that the rest of the educated world not only knows about the heroic behavior of the resistance during WWII but also honors them? I reread the "joke" several times to ascertain that I had not misread or misunderstood. I am appalled you would publish a cartoon that makes light of concentration camps. Did you know that six million people died there? To joke about the death of one person is wrong. To joke about the death of millions is unspeakable.
Mickey Kroon, Virginia

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