Letters for the week of October 18-24, 2006 

Readers comment on rapper Kool Keith, journalist-gadfly Sanjiv Handa, and recycler David Duong.

"Kool Keith CD Scam Exposed," Press Play, 9/27

Business as usual
You probably didn't write the headline, but I don't really understand what part of this is a "scam." The story as it appears to me is that a) the artist signed away his rights, and b) the label is doing what it can to profit off of that. This is a story as old as the music business itself. Any label that didn't do what OCD did would have no business being in the music business.

You seem to have a sort of horror at the fact that most of the record was produced without the artist being present. Almost all pop and hip-hop records are made this way. The singer or MC is just brought in to lay down the vocal — usually, the instrumental track is done beforehand by the producer. Especially in the hip-hop world, producers will often buy beats (i.e., finished tracks) from other producers to use for their artists. This is standard practice. Most hip-hop artists expect their producer to provide a complete track they can rap to.

Yes, it is unusual that the tracks were done without the artist's consent, but he made the mistake of signing away his rights. And the fact that he laid down vocals on three tracks sort of implies he was going along with the program, doesn't it?
Oren Hadar, Los Angeles

"Pest to the Powerful," Feature, 9/27

Another scoop, please
I was happy to see your article on Sanjiv Handa. Ever since I saw him on cable Channel 10-KTOP bringing to light one abuse after another by our esteemed council members, I have thought he was doing valuable work.

I also found it humorous that Councilmember De La Fuente bristles at his name. These guys are probably two sides of the same coin, so no wonder Mr. Handa gets under Mr. De La Fuente's skin. No matter what anyone thinks of his personal quirks, Mr. Handa is truly Oakland's ice cream man for those without the inside scoop on all the shady dealings and palm greasing that goes on in this town. Sure, he could ease up on some of the small stuff — city council members are human, too — but if makes him happy, give him another scoop.
Tom LaPorta, Oakland

"Burning Books," This Month's Best-Sellers, 9/27

Beam me up, Kristan
While eating dinner this evening, I perused the book section of your paper and read how Amy Goodman's Static was one of ten thousand other books written by comparable authors claiming to be silenced by nefarious forces. Unfortunately, I think Kristan Lawson falls into the typical media trap of trying to be entertaining by making gross generalizations with little basis in truth.

Maybe there were ten thousand authors who spoke out against the Iraq war before it occurred, and maybe they were widely publicized in every corporate bookstore. Maybe there is no difference between liberals who supported sanctions against Iraq, Democrats who preferred a more just war, and pacifists still fighting to bring it to an end. And can I please have a ticket to the universe that Lawson alludes to where the ten thousand voices like Amy Goodman's dominate? I will trade him with a ticket to mine, where the liberal media ignored pacifist voices as they proudly waved their flags in support of the slaughter of thousands. One final question: In his universe, is the slaughter still going on?
Corey Wade, Berkeley

"Ashamed of That Cheap Wine You're Buying?," Feature, 8/23

A cheap alternative to beer
In reference to Blair Campbell's article: Who does she think she's writing for? Does she have any idea of the demographics of the community in which she (presumably) resides? Being an ex-East Bay-er myself (Pleasant Hill), I can say with certainty that she does not. C'mon: Walnut Creek, Danville, Orinda? These are some of the more affluent communities in NoCal. Ms. Campbell is guilty of what I call "championing the low end in the name of value." It's one thing to say (quite correctly) that you don't have to spend $150 on a bottle of wine to get something good, but it's quite another to dismiss an entire category of wine and demographic of wine lovers as "snobs."

And I gotta say, even with all of its faults, I'm tired of the Wine Spectator bashing and the claim that they favorably and/or unjustifiably rate their advertisers' wine offerings. Has Ms. Campbell ever actually looked at the advertisements in W.S. ? In my examination of the current issue (ironically covering "Great Wine Values"), I do find some wine ads touting their high W.S. scores, but not from wineries producing wines that cost $150/bottle as Ms. Campbell would suggest. Instead they are from large producers producing wines in the range of $10-$25/bottle (Lindemans, Freixenet, Montes Alpha, Ruffino, etc.). In fact, the bulk of "high-end" advertisements come from the likes of Cadillac, Cartier, and Jaeger-Le Coultre.

Drinking, buying and/or collecting wine that costs more than $10 has nothing to do with being a snob, and everything to do with recognizing and appreciating the art and craft that goes into making wine. Sure, I've had my share of wines that cost $10 that were very good, but I've had many more experiences with wines that cost $35 or more that were mind-blowingly good. Let the masses keep buying Two-Buck Chuck — if that's what they like, good for them. But Campbell needs to recognize that those consumers don't care about varietal, brand names, terroir, or any other such notion. They simply want a cheap alternative to beer. Is it really this audience that Campbell wishes to enlighten and educate with her erudite prose about what a great Merlot she found in the bargain bin at Albertsons? If so, her witty banter will fall on deaf ears as her target audience couldn't care less about her "recommendations."
Joe Hageman, Wakefield, Rhode Island

"Invaded by Hipsters," Feature, 8/30

No longer welcome
I'm a 36-year-old black woman who was born and raised in Oakland, rare indeed since 80 percent of the people in my neighborhood were born and raised somewhere else. I'm used to gentrification. I've been displaced three times. I had decided to use it to my advantage and carry out my dreams of creating space for artists as one of the organizers of the now-dissolved Black Box/Oakland Box Theater. I welcomed Mama Buzz with open arms; I sent my people there to vend T-shirts and host poetry readings and small performances just to get ignored when I came by for a spot of tea. RPS just wanted to use my black face and ideas to bring black kids in for their community projects. To make things even worse, some members of the Murmur group are trying to put a dagger in the oldest black gay bar in the Bay Area.

The heart of the Murmur is this: They say they are open to others and yet they expect us to come to them. They moved here in a black city with black artists, and none of these establishments reached out to the community of artists that is already here. Even though I'm mad about that, I'm all for people coming together in the name of art. I went to the Murmur twice just to see what all the fuss was about. I screamed out loud every time I saw a person of color. I only screamed three times, I saw some great artwork, drank some wine, and wished the Box was still here so I could at least contribute some color to the scene. Now all can do is sit at home waiting for the letter that informs me that I'm no longer welcome in my soon-to-be-all-white neighborhood in West Oakland.
Reshawn Goods, Oakland

"Fat! Fit? Fabulous!" Feature, 9/13

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