Letters for the week of January 31-February 6, 2007 

Readers comment on ads, wine crit, Billy Boy Arnold, and King Jorge.

"Gunslinger Girl," advertisement, 1/3

Can't have it both ways
On the inside front page of your January 3 issue you have a full-page drawing of a young child, blood-spattered and pointing a gun at us. It's pretty horrifying, but I thought, "Oh, well, they don't give a shit, they're just trying to appeal to young hipsters." But then a few pages later I find an ad endorsed by you for an organization called "ACT Against Violence" with the bold headline "WHAT A CHILD LEARNS ABOUT VIOLENCE A CHILD LEARNS FOR LIFE." It seemed a little hypocritical to me. I don't think you can have it both ways and have any credibility.
Mittie Cuetara, Oakland

"Tearing Down Terroir," Wineau, 1/10

Appreciate the finish, says wine curmudgeon
Let me first say I am not a wine snob. I am, however, an unabashed bitter old wine curmudgeon. I'm rabid for accuracy and can't stand uninformed (albeit at times innocent) pontification on the subject of wine. I say this because the following may appear as harsh but please understand I mean it only as constructive (and grumpy) criticism.

I appreciate your bringing to your audience the horrific assault the influence Mr. Parker has had on terroir by promoting what we both feel is only ripeness and grass as the prerequisite to great wine. However, you as a wine writer must have your facts down first. To say any wine from Aragon has been "Parkerized" shows a lack of understanding of terroir of this region. These wines have been big and alcoholic since the Romans first planted vineyards there centuries ago. Plus, it's Grenache. Grenache is a big wine, i.e. Gigondas, Priorat, etc. A critical understanding of the world's terroirs is essential in the fight against those who seem to be keen on destroying them.

Secondly, I'm amazed that a published wine writer would need a $7 Grenache of no great lineage to show the importance of the finish of a wine ("aftertaste" was your word). What!? The finish is second only to aroma in understanding a wine's greatness and before any criticism of any wine can be put forth an appreciation and awareness of this must be understood. When young, the greatest Burgundies can be tough, tannic, and not the most appealing wines up front, but it's on the finish one can flesh out the complexities rewarded with time. Fine young German Riesling is delicious and loaded with fruit at first sip, but its on the finish one receives the minerals and smoke lingering on and on that tell of its profoundness! Chateau d'Yquem is so great because of the broad swath of flavors it gives up for minutes after one has swallowed. So, if you are only now grasping the full importance of the finish please dedicate your tasting to the discovery of the full importance of this crucial aspect of wine evaluation. It really is Wine Appreciation 101.

Please forgive me if I sound like some snobbish wine geek. I'm not. I only want to make sure the fight against Parker is fought on the right grounds (against 15.3 percent alcohol Pinot Noirs but not traditionally fiery wines that can handle the heat) and that those who are with us understand what he doesn't: Wine is about the subtle nuances (finish being one of them) and not the power of the flavor itself.
Stephen Laborde, Oakland

"Harp Locker," This Week, 1/3

How about "legend"?
Needing to do some investigation on the harp players mentioned, I tapped into my mammoth Blues Who's Who collection of 571 biographies of selected blues artists. Looking first for Paul Oscher's name, I didn't find it. Rod Piazza and Rick Estrin — no luck. Even the "certified blues master" Mark Hummel and Kim Wilson, the headliner, were exempt. What I did find was a lengthy bio featuring William "Billy Boy" Arnold. After reading it, you can believe me, he was/is more than a "onetime Bo Diddley sideman." After teaching himself harmonica in 1947, he, eventually, worked with some of the cream of Chicago blues: Johnny Shines, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Earl Hooker, and Little Walter. I know this would give Mr. Arnold more extensive stature than being a "veteran Chicago harp player." How about ... a legend?
Lasana Taylor, Palo Alto

"The Method of King Jorge," Feature, 12/13

The problem with King Jorge
I read with great interest Jonathan Kaminsky's article. As a teacher, I appreciate the work being done in California schools to better the future for our kids. However, there were a number of serious problems that I detected with Mr. Lopez' style of leadership.

King Jorge is a dictator, pure and simple. His methods work because people who are in need will respond to bullying and unethical treatment because they are needy. King Jorge has simplified life to simple formulae: Do what I say and you will succeed.

The end does not justify the means. Somewhere along the line, this kind of dictatorship fails because the foundation is false and weak. Lest we build on sand, we must make sure testing scores are not the only factor we consider for a rich education. And about the faculty: Craigslist? You have to be kidding. Teaching credentials do not guarantee excellence, but they establish a minimum standard toward it. Using King Jorge's standards in evaluating teachers is just another notch in his dictatorship.

The concept that even the people who are "against" him can say that he did a good job in raising scores just begs the question. If the only standard that people can agree on is testing scores then we are indeed going backwards.

Hitler did a great job in stabilizing Germany's decrepit economy and national prestige. All of history's dictators, benevolent or otherwise, had strong points in their favor.


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