Letters for the week of February 11-17, 2004 

How can you sleep at night? How could you hail Monster? How did you miss Wushu West? How can SYDA justify its claims?

"The Qigong Kid," Feature, 1/28

Regressing to the Middle Ages
What's hardest to believe about Justin Berton's wretched article is that, in seven pages, Berton couldn't find space for even a single quote from a skeptic. You'd expect at least a token interview with James Randi or Robert Park, or a fleeting mention of double-blind tests or the similar scams that have defrauded countless people before. Instead, Berton simply writes as though Galileo and Darwin had never lived -- explaining without irony that "[i]n Eastern philosophical circles, skepticism or ideological challenge can be viewed as negative energy, and are therefore unwelcome." How can you print this and sleep at night?
Scott Aaronson, Berkeley

"Ten Minutes in Five Days," Theater, 1/28

Don't discount the fifth day
Great article on the PlayGround short-play program. Unfortunately, the title is wrong. Jim Kleinmann is a fine director and program director, but at arithmetic, not so good. He always tells the audience we have five days to write a play. Actually, we have four -- from Friday afternoon to Tuesday afternoon -- making the accomplishment of writers like Evelyn Pine all that much more impressive.

This last month, four days just wasn't enough for me. A fifth might have done it!
Martha Soukup, San Francisco

"Wessiiiide," Close 2 tha Edge, 1/21

That's not a mixed CD
First of all, I wanted to thank you for giving West Coast Bay Area DJs (and mix-tape DJs) some light. Your article on T-Ski was excellent. I agree with him faithfully on issues such as the bay getting no love outside E-40 and Too $hort. Also, I strongly agree with him on the MP3 DJs who make it hard for DJs such as myself to do the real meaning of a mix tape (CD). It strips the culture and it strips the art form.

Also to build on what T-Ski was saying, I hate when there are cats out on the block claiming they got mixed CDs, but it's just a bunch of songs on compilation. Mix CDs are for DJs, not for bootleggers. But the people buying the CDs don't know the knowledge of it until a DJ tells them, "Hey, that's not a mixed CD, they didn't use two turntables," so I just wanted to commend you. Let's keep it Yay Area, and since KMEL doesn't support its local audience thanks to the Clear Channel Network slave-wave grippers, us Bay Area DJs are the only channel to Bay Area talent. And it's getting bigger, so we are on our way with or without commercial radio airplay.
DJ Tek-Neek, Oakland

"American Girl," Film, 12/31

Monstrous
Motivated by Gregory Weinkauf's glowing review, I saw Monster and I was disappointed to say the least. Director Patty Jenkins shamelessly rips off Boys Don't Cry in several scenes (the seduction at the skating rink is the most glaring example), and Charlize Theron's much-acclaimed "breakthrough performance" is nowhere near the stellar performance that Hilary Swank delivered in Boys Don't Cry. It may be a "breakthrough" for Theron, but it's little more than unrelenting anger for two hours -- and that is something that is not that difficult to do. Ask anyone who's gone through acting school or has experience in theatrical productions; acting angry and lashing out at the world is one of the easiest choices to make onstage.

There's no depth at all to Theron's performance, whereas Hilary Swank gave you a complete character with whom you could empathize at every moment. When she fell in love, it was tender and convincing. The "love" between Theron and Christina Ricci begins and ends as a superficial interaction between two extremely dysfunctional people.

In spite of the trauma that the character portrayed by Theron underwent in her past, at no time did I feel sympathy for her. There was almost no character development that would help to "explain" why she chose to descend down a psychopathic vortex. Even in her attempts at becoming "normal," as in her job interview at a lawyer's office, she was so out of control I wondered why the attorney talked to her for as long as he did.

In Boys Don't Cry, as in Shakespeare, Brandon Teena's death occurs because of the repression of the society she lived in. It was an unavoidable fate outside of her control. Toward the end of Monster, when Theron kills a man who is not a trick but sincerely wants to help her by paying for her food and shelter, I only wanted her apprehended so the madness would stop.

Monster could be used as simple-minded propaganda for the Religious Right, confirming a suspicion that lesbians prey upon innocent young women and desire to murder all men.

I stayed to watch the final credits roll up -- witnessing yet another rip-off from Boys Don't Cry -- and saw that Charlize Theron was one of the producers of the movie. A self-styled way to get an Oscar nomination?
Mike Palmer, Berkeley

"Complete Guide to Martial Arts in the East Bay," Resolution Guide, 1/21

Woe is wushu
Your self-proclaimed "complete" guide to martial arts in the East Bay omitted mention of the school of one of the foremost proponents of Chinese wushu in the world, Ms. Patti Li's Wushu West (WushuWest.com). It has been in operation for more than a decade in Berkeley and has trained numerous grand champions during that time. Patti Li (Hao Zhi Hwa) is a former teammate of Jet Li on the Beijing Wushu Team and holds many honors and records from her time as a world-class competitor in China.

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