Letters for the week of October 29-November 4, 2003 

Harper good, Harper bad; No tears for Sir Dyno; We break for coffee; Trees, hype, and gossip.

"A Walking Tour of Berkeley's Hysterical Landmarks," Feature, 9/17

Freezing Berkeley in time
It's been interesting to read the letters in response to Will Harper's article. Predictably, most of them have been all puffed up with righteous indignation. Their main point seems to be that the article was loaded with small inaccuracies. But none of them has mentioned the crux of the matter: Harper nailed the antidevelopment preservationists who want Berkeley to be frozen in time -- and who are trying to achieve that by landmarking any old wreck of a building a developer might want to replace. Harper showed that the emperor has no clothes, and it ain't a pretty sight.
Hank Resnik, resident of 27 years who is proud of Berkeley's architectural heritage but a most reluctant member of BAHA, Berkeley

Save the fragile threads
As a lifelong Berkeley resident, I found Will Harper's piece on preservation activities in Berkeley disheartening. Why is it necessary to disparage citizens' efforts to retain the things that make Berkeley special? The landmarks that were chosen to illustrate the article are fragile threads of the fabric that is Berkeley and they have suffered from the heavy hand of people who don't care. It was unfair to focus only on these particularly vulnerable sites and structures.
Anthony Bruce, Berkeley

"Sir Dyno's Deal with the Devil," Feature, 10/1

Cry Me a River
Just as some people actually believe the "Terminator" should act as the state governor, some wannabe rap stars actually believe they're spreading the "good word" by rhyming about things they think are cool. (All at the expense of poor, undereducated kids.)

Well, "God Bless" dear Dyno for helping to spread more racial hatred, arming groups against groups (no better than the KKK), and preaching even more reasons for our urban youth to simply give up. If Sir Dyno talks about doing all this and keeping it real, and then denies it when confronted by the authorities, who's fooling who?

The same old "poverty rap" gets more tired each time we hear it and continually goes right back to square one; too many people trying to take the easy way out and get something for nothing, then often using their own children for even more excuses.

Grow up.
M.J. Parker, Berkeley

"The Caffe Critic," Food Fetish, 10/1

Drink Italian coffee
I really liked Michelle Turner's interview with Richard Reynolds. I've been an espresso drinker for twelve years after a trip to Italy, and I was gratified to read about someone as espresso-obsessed as I am.

I occasionally skim the food columns, but in seven years of reading the Express I have never read an entire column word for word until now. I'll surely be checking out Ms. Turner's writings in the future.
David Goldweber, Berkeley

Drink their coffee
I just read Michelle Turner's piece on the East Bay's dearth of espresso. Richard Reynolds' search is over: James Freeman, the owner of Temescal's Blue Bottle Coffee Company, is a microroaster who refuses to sell beans more than 48 hours old, and is creating custom blends of organic and free-trade coffee for local cafes. James also sells his beans and flawless espresso at the twice-weekly Berkeley farmers' market. He's a self-proclaimed "coffee lunatic" and, like Reynolds, laments the utterance of phrases like "nonfat soy pumpkin macchiato" in the American lexicon. The man is a fountain of knowledge and skill when it comes to roasting, blending, and making a perfect cup of espresso. Here's hoping people like he and Reynolds can raise the Bay Area's coffee culture to equal its well-deserved culinary reputation. You don't need to be a pretentious snob to appreciate a well-made jolt of caffeine.
Laurel Miller, Berkeley

Drink my coffee
I read your recent article about espresso, and am writing this note to congratulate you on a job well done. Seldom does one see an article about espresso that is even remotely accurate; but yours is a glaring exception.

I have been speaking at coffee conventions about the poor state of espresso in North America for several years. Richard Reynolds has written about me in the San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere. This situation is not likely to improve till the consumer gets better educated about espresso and demands a superior beverage. Press has a big role to play in this education process.

Most of the articles in the mainstream press for the last fifteen years has only addressed the issue of how big coffee business has become. It is time for the American press to focus on the quality of the beverage that passes as espresso. I had hoped that the article by [William] Grimes in The New York Times, which concluded that the best way to have a decent espresso in New York City is to take a plane to Rome, would start a new trend.

For cafes that have already made the investment to be in the business, it does not take much to produce an outstanding espresso. Unfortunately, most of the people in the retail coffee business, and the wholesale roasters who are helping them, just do not know the difference between brewed coffee and espresso.
Joseph John, Josuma Coffee Company, Menlo Park

"Trees, Views, and the 'Other 9/11'," Cityside, 10/1

Nonsense, hyperbole, media
My, but how quickly our world becomes small again. To compare a petty shouting match between self-absorbed homeowners and overzealous tree-huggers to a day that cost the United States thousands of lives and billions of dollars, not to mention caused a sea change in US and world politics, is to diminish the gravity of what happened on September 11, 2001, not to mention it makes you at EBE look like sensationalist fools. Another headline in the same issue asks if anybody in the East Bay can make a half-decent espresso. One might well ask if anybody in the East Bay could run a half-decent newspaper.
Jennifer Reeser, Oakland

The illustration that accompanied our article "Hip-Hop for Nerds" (10/22) was incorrectly credited. The artist was Ariel Shepard.


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