Letters for the week of March 17-23, 2004 

Kudos from the Purple One's legions of horny, international fans, and more on the plight -- and humanity -- of the mentally ill.

"Mourning the Prince Deficit," Down in Front, 2/11

Janet's mammogram
I recently surfed to Rob Harvilla's column about Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction." I wanted to let you know how refreshing it was to find Harvilla's unique, dead-on commentary regarding this "issue."

Jackson's flash, whether accidental or intended, exhibited the sexiness of a mammogram. As an artist, Prince persistently pushed the envelope, but the methods and imagery he used were just as hot for what they didn't show as for what they did. Harvilla is right. It's time for the Purple One to round up these brats and lead a class in "Titillation 101."
Aaron B. Pryor, Arlington, VA

Maybe when hell freezes
I work as a foreign news correspondent for the Netherlands in Seattle. I'm so glad you've taken this ludicrous debate into another, more truthful direction. Let's hope someone on network TV picks up on it.
Helene Schilders, Seattle

Waiting to inhale
This article was so beautifully put that I found myself exhaling very loudly. I agree with you totally. The last person you want at a sacred and erotic moment is the kind of girl or guy who would be sniggering in a corner.
Kirsten Beach, Harlingen, Netherlands

Longing 4 the purple one
It's hard to believe now, but Prince was mainstream. I was addicted to early Prince between the ages of fourteen and eighteen, which was roughly between Purple Rain and Under the Cherry Moon. He was my favorite artist and I bought all his records down to the earliest For You. I was virginally and innocently mesmerized. He captured so perfectly my sexual angst and longing along with the hunger for a genius figure: To be bathed in a talent so unique and personal that I could feel it was my own. That nobody else could get it the way I do. (This is strange, I suppose, since he was the biggest pop star of the time.) It's kind of sad that I don't feel that way about artists or music anymore. Yes, it's true, I'm jaded and even bitter. But maybe it's not just me (as your article seems to suggest). I've wandered far from the mainstream and don't even listen to pop music anymore.

By the way, another band that captured that feverish, adolescent sexual energy for me in a brilliant, personal way was Led Zeppelin. Other bands came close: early Van Halen, for instance. But from what you're saying it seems that those bands don't exist anymore. Is my America really dead? Is it coming back? After all, Prince and Zeppelin and even Van Halen never did a Super Bowl show. I mean, will I ever find another Prince in my life? It would mean a lot.
Dmitry Ozeryansky, Oakland

Gimme talent-on-a-stick!
Thank you for putting into words what probably most intelligent people are thinking. The promotion (and selling) of crap is at epic proportions. Never have there been so many with so little to offer in pop music. Real musicians and artists play instruments, as well as sing tunefully! As a real musician myself, the current plethora of nontalents speaks volumes on how easy it is to sell shit-on-a-stick!!
Andrew Reil, Houston, Texas

"The Lunatics Have Taken Over the Asylum," Feature, 2/18

We have feelings, too
I find Susan Goldsmith's recent article to be a biased, bigoted, and offensive exaggeration. In the quest to sell newspapers through sensationalism, persons with a mental illness again get stereotyped and thus get the short end of the stick. I challenge the factual accuracy in that article, and I assert that it promotes the dehumanization of good people who suffer from a bad illness. I have never seen mentally ill people in Spider-Man or other costumes. Mentally ill people are not constantly on the verge of attack. I know of mentally ill people who, believe it or not, have jobs! One of them is even a small business owner -- such as the author of this letter.

It is tragic that a doctor was brutally killed by a psychiatric patient. My heart goes out to her husband. Yet what about the deaths of mentally ill people caused by them being put in restraints, overdosed, or otherwise neglected? How many mentally ill people have lost their lives at John George Hospital? I'd like to see that statistic. By dehumanizing the mentally ill, it makes the next logical step easier, which is to take away our rights. We have feelings too.

It is an erroneous and dangerous assertion that safety for hospital staff is accomplished by taking away people's civil rights. It is erroneous and dangerous reporting when you portray any group of people as less than human.
Jack Bragen, Martinez

Acquainted with the dangers
Thank you for this excellent article. I'm an RN who once worked at a county psychiatric hospital in the Midwest and am well-acquainted with the dangers you described so well. I hope your article helps effect changes in the hospital and in our communities' levels of awareness regarding the issue of working conditions in similar facilities.
Jonathan Stewart, San Ramon

Help us curb the stigma
As California president of NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill), I want to compliment Susan Goldsmith on her well-researched, informative article about the dysfunctional mental health system in Alameda County. As a journalist, I know she has no control over the headline, as that is the choice of her editor. As a father of a person with mental illness, I want you to know that your headline stigmatized the mentally ill. Do you have the courage to help reduce the stigma and discrimination that the mentally ill have to live with?
Rev. Chet Watson, president, NAMI CA, Concord

Understaffing is one culprit
I am a registered nurse on Unit C at John George. I would like to comment that inadequate staffing in acute inpatient psychiatric hospitals is a very big problem. There is almost no time to spend with patients to find out what their mental status is and help them to relax and calm themselves. All our time is spent documenting, making the paperwork look good. It used to be said in nursing, "if you didn't document it, you didn't do it." Now it is more like, if you documented it, you couldn't possibly have had time to do it.

Psychiatric care cannot be done by the medical model. Healing of the psyche requires a relationship to be built between the mental health professional and the patient. There is no time to establish healing relationships, no matter how superficial, given the amount of paperwork and program logistical work that is required by the slim staffing allotted. Dr. Ursua would be alive today had she not been trying to make do with the extremely busy and stressed staff she was working with.

I would just like to also request that you never use the term "lunatic" when referring to people who have a mental illness. It is very disrespectful and hurtful, besides being inaccurate. It also has a deleterious effect on your credibility with respect to the rest of the article, which I felt was great otherwise.
Kathryn Hall, Berkeley

Defend your edginess
I was confused by the flap over your headline and saddened by the editors' apology for it. It seems to me that the headline is an obvious appropriation of a catchphrase that has been in common usage for decades. A simple online search will turn up thousands of documents, including songs and albums, with the exact same title. It is not offensive. In the context of the story it strikes me as darkly ironic and completely appropriate. Why apologize for it? If an alternative newspaper (of all things) in the San Francisco Bay Area (of all places) can't be a little bit edgy and provocative from time to time, then I fear for us all.
David Goldweber, Berkeley

Clarification and Corrections
The March 3 Bottom Feeder item ("Who's Yer Mama") said a new state domestic-partners law will "give registered same-sex couples the same rights and responsibilities as straight married folk" beginning next year. That's true. But, according to the National Center for Lesbian Rights, domestic partners still won't enjoy the same rights as married couples under federal law. These rights include Social Security and immigration benefits, joint filing of federal taxes, the ability to inherit a spouse's 401(k) account without incurring tax penalties, and federal retirement and pension benefits.

Last week's Feeder ("Send in the Clones") was gender-challenged. Summer Shields -- one of the LaRouchies who may have benefited by a preference of local voters for female candidates when the candidates are unknown -- is in fact a man, although the point still stands. Also, we alternately used male and female pronouns for Jerry Brown's press secretary T.T. Nhu. No, she isn't a hermaphrodite; we simply erred.

In a Calendar item about the Berkeley Opera's The Legend of the Ring, the first part of Wagner's Ring cycle was incorrectly identified as Siegfried. It is Das Rheingold.


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