Letters for the week of December 7-December 13, 2005 

We, the proud residents of "traditionally blighted" Fruitvale, want to know what sort of nonsense you people are spewing.

"Tea for All," Billboard, 11/9

A fervent objection from your "blighted" readers
We were so happy to see the coverage of one of our favorite Fruitvale neighborhood spots in the Express. There has been many a day that our family was grateful to be cared for at Deep Roots with tea and handwashing and warmth after a long school/shopping/church/walking day. But when we checked online to see when Word Life night was, we were HORRIFIED to read the description of Fruitvale and Deep Roots in the online Calendar section: "One product of the recent gentrification wave in East Oakland is the rise of the 'urban teahouse' -- a portal for bringing middle-class health consciousness and holistic chic to traditionally blighted communities."

"Middle-class health consciousness"? With the median income of Fruitvale being about $33,500, I wonder if the writer left the BART station.

"Holistic chic"? Most places in the world view the association of environment and personal health as necessary for maintaining the health of the community. The fact that this worldview is an essential part of the Fruitvale mental landscape (and why Deep Roots is so appreciated in the neighborhood) is probably because of the number of immigrants in Fruitvale that maintain traditional values.

"Traditionally blighted communities"? I don't know what tradition or communities the writer is referring to, but maybe next time the writer should actually talk to Fruitvale residents about their traditions and communities before making such broad, arrogant statements about our communities and the businesses that we support.
Aracely and Enrique Estrada, Oakland

"Orishas Rap," Scenes, 11/2

Music of the people, for the privileged few
Orishas did actually play in the Bay Area before, at Storyville, before the second album dropped, I believe. I was visiting from Honolulu and stoked for the chance to hear Orishas live; the show was listed in the paper. Got there only to find out it was a private party. Which, when you're talking Cuban hip-hop in SF, is just ridiculous ...
Jeela Goldberry, Honolulu

"Hello, He's Not Johnny Cash," Movies, 11/16

And you're not Roger Ebert
Mr. Wilonsky wants to be a film critic and a writer and director of country-music films! What's wrong with you anyway? Wanting to rename and rewrite a film you obviously have such little respect for that you don't even attempt to describe a single shot in the actual film work so ably done by James Mangold.

I, for one, loved the way, right from the opening scene, the camera pans an entire isolated prison exterior on a dark overcast day and all we can hear is a beat which seems to rumble right up from the cement and dirt ground surrounding the prison. Then the perspective shifts to two tense prison guards, shifting nervously from one end to the other of their guard tower. We get to look over their shoulders as they scour the prison from above. They seem to be watching for an escape attempt or an imminent riot. All the while, that eerie beat grows louder, until the camera goes inside to show several country singers on a stage in front of a full house of prisoners all on their feet in the cafeteria stomping with their feet and slapping table tops in sync with the band as it does a warm-up heavy beat introduction for the star of the show ... and where is he?

The camera finds him in the prison wood shop. He is not heading for the stage. Instead, he seems transfixed over a shut-off table saw. The sound of the prison crowd and their heated beat only continues to build as the warden tries to humor the country singer to soften the prison rhetoric of his songs. A flashback enables us to understand the full implication this prison woodshop scene has for Johnny Cash. And we learn the important influences of why Cash is able to write those words in his songs, which speak so soulfully.

Contrary to Wilonsky, I feel that Joaquin Phoenix gets Cash's stage mannerisms down amazingly well. He is also effective in giving us just a taste of that earthy combination of shy farmer boy and sexually urgent songster that made so many of us love Johnny Cash's style. Reese Witherspoon does an equally convincing June Carter. Both these folks give award-quality performances. Wilonsky should do himself a favor and see this film without pen and pad in hand, just go, dig the music, the film, and country music history.
Del Lewis Sonsteng, Pinole

Our recent story about an Oakland classroom teach-in on behalf of death-row inmate Stanley "Tookie" Williams ("Teachin' Tookie," East Side Story, 11/23) erroneously referred to the electric chair. In fact, California uses lethal injection to execute prisoners.

And due to production errors, an uncorrected version of last week's item about a state worker suspected of e-mailing sexually explicit photographs from her computer at the Richmond office of the State Department of Health Services ("Doggy Style," Bottom Feeder) mistakenly identified the woman as a state employee instead of as a contract worker. Rachel Swan's review of Pitbull's new remix album (Hearsay) lost its last two lines. The full review is readable online.

Finally, our capsule art review of the show "Bubble Trouble in Doubles" at the Rock Paper Scissors Collective in Oakland ("On the Wall," 11/30) erroneously swapped the names of the artists. The coloring picture installation is by Mayumi Hamanaka, and the gun installation is by Taro Hattori.

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