Letters for the week of November 12-18, 2003 

The Alameda power plant is still on the drawing board. The great coffee-roasting rebellion is alive and well.

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"The Real Shock Rock," Music, 10/8

It may be history but it's not always pretty
You wrote: "Minstrelsy hasn't merited serious cultural study since its awkward birth in the 1830s." In fact, there are a number of well-researched and in-depth books on minstrelsy. There are straight histories out there, but the ones that interest me the most are those that discuss how minstrelsy was used to construct and cross boundaries of class, race, and gender. See especially Eric Lott's Love and Theft.

The issue of whether this should be performed is a sticky one. Within the context of historical reenactment, it seems a relatively benign activity. I'm led to question the drive to reenact itself and the attendant emphasis on objectivity. Imagining history as a script to perform seems rife with problems.
Drew Beck, Berkeley

"The Caffé Critic," Food Fetish, 10/1

The rebellion is spreading
I'm a physics graduate student who, in my seven years in the Bay Area, has gone from a noncoffee drinker, to a sleepy first-year who needed it, to an espresso drinker, to one who was unhappy with university area cafes, to the proud owner of a Pavoni hand-lever machine, and finally to someone who roasts his own beans with a rewired home roaster, grinds them by hand, and then produces, by a carefully honed technique, the finest espresso or cappuccino on campus.

In the article, you explained that local coffee cafes, striving to be Euro, overroast coffee, obscuring its varietal character, and when pulling shots, proceed to extract as much carbon as possible from the charcoal. I've avoided bad roasts by buying green beans from Sweet Maria's in Emeryville and roasting them myself. Tom at Sweet Maria's (SweetMarias.com) is a fascinating coffee geek, and you'd do the rebellion a service to feature his opinions and services in a follow-up article.
Matthew Cargo, Berkeley

"Are We Too Wacky For You?" Letters, 10/8

Cast off your ideological leash
In response to John Mink's defense of "Berkeley/Oakland politics," I'd like to respectfully pose a few different dimensions. I should add that I know John Mink personally, having high regards for him as a political-punk singer in Fleshies, cofounder of S.P.A.M. Records, main impetus behind the free public Geekfest outdoor shows, and quasi-protégé of Jello Biafra. And he comes from a family of educators, artists, and the late congresswoman from Hawaii, progressivist Patsy Mink, whom I also respect.

I have personal affinities with various aspects of leftism and rightism and centrism and anarchism, as well as the underlying commons between them all, and views alien to all four. As I see it, many people in Berkeley and Oakland take certain democratic principles very much to heart; to an extent, this is admirable, but I also see unpleasant sides to Berkeley/Oakland political culture. Democracy in and of itself is hardly all good; it's simply the most relatively humane form of duking it out. I think what lends to the cynicism non-Berkeleyites feel toward Berkeley is the pretentiousness of Berkeley's views of itself as utterly educated, enlightened, sophisticated, etc., when people in Berkeley are just as prone to their passions, biases, and small-town chauvinisms as all other human beings.

I do not always like everything the Express sees fit to print, but I believe the Express' editors have as much right to express themselves as anyone. I am very grateful to the Express for its exposés of Yusuf Bey, of the assorted goon-squads' stealing/trashing whatever newspapers don't kowtow to their coercive- "utopian"(?!) loudmouthings, and of the drivel and nonsense that fanaticism in politics trickles down to. To me, left/right/centrist/anarchist/libertarian/yada-yada are split personalities of the same basic mentality, "I'm right and you are so wrong."

I get cynical whenever I read leftist diatribes about Bay Area media, because it sounds exactly like Rush Limbaugh/Fox "News," et al., bellyaching because there isn't 100 percent dittoheading. The Bay Area is home to a pretty damn wide spectrum of people, like it or not, and when the left chastises the right for intolerance, the left should also chastise itself for its own intolerance.

Last words: "Berkeley/Oakland politics" is a slight misnomer. Like everywhere else, these communities have their entrenched parties as well as those who disagree to varying degrees, those who don't care, and those who do care but see through all human folly. The sprawling varieties of leftism may have deserving roles in the politics of these towns, as well as the sprawling varieties of nonleftism; neither has a monopoly, and neither should be bullying others/media into kowtowing to their own desperate, loudly infantile wills.

P.S. John Mink claimed that the Express is Berkeley-based, but the Express is based in Emeryville, a distinctly capitalist enclave.
Kenneth R. James, San Pablo

"Class-Action Warrior," Feature, 10/8

Has Ahnuld read your story?
Thank you for writing this article. Exorbitance in legal fees is a "social ill" that desperately needs more attention. I hope more attorneys will be inspired to follow suit (no pun intended).

If you talk to Larry Schonbrun, please pass along my gratitude for what he's doing. I really think there need to be billing standards/limits for the legal community. I would be in favor of encouraging Larry to contact our new governor to share his insight, which I believe would be useful in getting legislation in place to offer needed oversight in this rampantly out-of-control area of our legal system. Based on what I have read, I believe Mr. Schwarzenegger would be very sympathetic to his cause.
Judy Lovejoy, Fremont

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