Letters for the week of September 15-21, 2004 

Your depiction of Scott Cory was inaccurate -- and watch your tongue. Last word on the Castro mural; plus, the wrath of a liberal-hater.

"A Long Way to Fall," Feature, 8/25

If this is struggling ...
Thanks for the article on my son, Scott Cory. I wanted to take a moment to clear up a few items.

I think the article was trying to say that Scott was a talented athlete as a child, and may or may not be a talented athlete as an adult. I'm not exactly sure if that was the point or not. If it was, then that is true. Anything can happen. But Scott doesn't seem to be "struggling" too hard as puberty hits. Scott's fourteen now. He just returned from a month in Peru. He climbed an extremely difficult route (13a) at 17,470 feet. Scott is the youngest person to climb this level of difficulty at this altitude in the entire WORLD. If this is the author's definition of "Is Champion Climber Scott Cory Losing His Grip on Greatness?," then Scott is all for not being "great."

If the author would have asked Scott how he felt about competitions, he would have put a different spin on the story. Scott does enjoy competing. He definitely enjoys the friendships he has developed over the years with the other climbers, which is what brings him back to USA Climbing every year. But, given a choice of climbing activities, he would rather be outside climbing any day. As for the climbers he competes against, they are all very talented at this age. One thing is very different, though. The majority of them only climb inside a climbing gym, and train solely for competition climbing. Only a handful have ever even climbed outside. None have ever big-wall climbed. If Scott stopped all other aspects of climbing, and just focused on training in a gym for competition climbing, who knows? He might just be back on the author's track as being the best.

This year, he trained for the Yosemite double, USA Climbing competitions, and slab climbing in Peru all at the same time. While he wasn't thrilled with a seventh-place finish at Nationals, he had a lot of other things to focus on. Yes, he came in seventh. But, as Scott pointed out, he had never won the event anyway. How many athletes in any sport have never placed lower than seventh each and every year they compete? He doesn't believe his competition career is in a downward spiral because of one route in one event. He did just win the Regional Championships, after all.

As for his sponsors dropping him because he didn't win a comp, or because he is not the talented little boy he once was, what rubbish. If the author had asked, he would have found out that Scott's sponsors put absolutely no importance on competitions. What they expect from Scott is simple. Climb, have fun, set a good example, keep pushing the envelope, and, of course, stay in the public eye. They are very pleased that he continues to do all of the above. So pleased, in fact, that they continue to try to sign him to multiyear deals.

Scott's friendships with his adult climbing partners really are just that: True friendships. There ARE sleepovers with foodstuffs involved. Whenever we travel to similar events, we share hotels, even hotel rooms, just for the fun of being together. Scott attends their weddings, birthday parties, and other celebrations. They're friends. I know it sounds odd. Climbing is a weird sport where skill is what brings people together, not age. Scott's trip to Peru was with two climbers who are thirty years older than him. They were completely happy to travel for a month with their fourteen-year-old "friend." They are already planning their next trip.

Scott is trying to live as normal a life as possible. He is not home-schooled, and has regular-age-based friendships. He sees his classmates at school and on weekends. He talks to them by cell phone and on the Internet when he travels. He does spend a lot of time in adult company, but there is definitely a mix. The author makes him sound like a poor, deluded little boy who has no real friends and his "perceived" climbing friends are not really his friends at all. Not an accurate depiction of his life.

Lastly, the author bills Scott as a good athlete, says we're good parents, says Scott loves climbing, and is a great sport. Again, if that makes him appear to be "Losing His Grip on Greatness," we'll take it.
Jennifer Cory, Brentwood

And don't forget charity
Why not mention what Scott has done for charities on his climbs? Or that if he spent every hour that he spends raising charity money climbing in Yosemite or South America instead of practicing on indoor climbing venues for personal reasons that he would probably blow the competition away?

The genetics part was absurd and meaningless and definitely not very important in the context of the article. Seems as if the author is almost wanting Scott to fail. Why? Is the author thinking about raising the money for charity himself?
Shawn Dassie, Pleasanton

Watch your language, too
Was it really necessary to use the word "fuck" in a story about a fourteen-year-old kid? It really stuck out, in a bad way.

Don't you think a lot of kids will pick up the magazine just to read an article about another kid? Is it required that they wade through text like that to enjoy the article?

If you were reading your article to a classroom full of kids, would you want to read that aloud? Maybe you don't care, but I do -- so I thought I would let you know.
Matt Collins, Oakland

"Portrait of the Times," Feature, 5/26

Mystery of the mural's history solved
My brother, Jim Castro, was present at the unveiling of the bank mural of his great-great-grandfather, Victor Castro, in the Mechanics Bank in El Cerrito in the mid-'60s.

The mural was originally 32 feet long and ten feet high. It covered the entire east wall of the bank. The mural was executed by Scenic Backgrounds Studio of Hollywood and was designed and painted over a six-week period by the company's leading artists, William Tury and Wilbur Farrell.

The architectural firm of Barbachano, Ivanitsky, and Associates, Inc. of El Cerrito conceived the idea of the mural. They also prepared the research material and aided and supervised the components.

The fresco used brilliant colors, applied with a spatula, in the style of the Spanish artists of that period. A profile of the silhouette technique allowed various sections to stand out. This technique, along with the liberal use of bright silver and gold leaf, lent itself to the planned use of nighttime illumination. It was done in casein paint protected by a special lacquered glaze.

The original mural depicted early Indians and their hogans on the river banks, the cattle and the vaqueros, the old mission bells, Mount Diablo, and Don Victor's hacienda, which was built in 1839 by 200 Indians. It also showed a chart of various land grants into which Contra Costa had been divided.

The central motif of the sectionalized mural is the tall, solid figure of Victor Castro. The painting of the family's icon is when he was then eighty years of age, shortly before his death in 1900.

The mural was commissioned by E.M. Downer Jr., then-president of the Mechanics Bank. It was to commemorate the part El Cerrito had played in the years of Spanish and Mexican rule. My brother, Jim, was photographed, pointing at the mural. Standing beside him was Mrs. Edward M. Downer Jr.

Also present that day were Manuel Marcos Jr., manager of the Fairmount branch; Francis A. Watson, senior vice president; Williard S. Poage, secretary of the bank's board of directors; City Councilman James P. Doherty and Roy Mespelt; City Manager Kenneth H. Smith; his administrative assistant, Charles McCormack, and his secretary, Lucille Irish; Del Smith, El Cerrito Chamber of Commerce president; Chamber Manager Bettianne Flynn; and Frank E. Mullen, president of the Scenic Backgrounds Studio, and architect U.S. Barbachano.

I obtained this information yesterday while browsing through an old box of photographs, left behind by my mother who died last November. One of the newspaper articles is clipped from the Richmond Independent. The other has had its name clipped off, so I cannot determine where it came from, but I suspect it was from the Oakland Tribune.

I hope this information is helpful as far as providing any insight into the history of the mural.
Evelyn Castro Miller, Walnut Creek

"The World Is an Oyster,"
Cityside, 8/18

Fractured fairy tales
Thank you for the brilliant and hysterically funny article. When I first scanned the article, I assumed that the writers quoted were middle-school students or high-school students, but after reading the introduction, I was amazed to learn that they were college students.

"Our four fathers"? I guess that gay, gay marriage goes way, way back to 1776.

"Bone appetite"? Bow-wow.

"Midnight snake"? Most self-respecting snakes are fast asleep at midnight.

"My self-steam"? Well, there's no steam like self-steam.

"Drug attic"? That would be located just below the drug roof, right?

Thanks to these imaginative budding writers for providing us with many new metaphors and concepts, previously unknown to our world. Gee, when I Finnish high school, I hope to be the valid Victorian and then go on to be a wrighter with a hidden massage who laminates over a lost love. Maybe Microsoft needs to invent a cliché checker to go along with its current spelling checker and grammar checker.
James K. Sayre, Oakland

Maybe that's where they learned their bad habits
"The World Is an Oyster" was an amusing survey of David Goldweber's students' mangling of the English language. However, I found it ironic that his own introduction contained a grammatical misstep: He said that his students might be annoyed "if they knew that for the seven years I've taught. ... I was keeping a logbook." Maybe he forgot a basic English rule: Verb tenses must agree.
Carol David, Berkeley

Quite right. And two lines later, when Goldweber noted that "everyone makes mistakes," he never intended to exclude English teachers or, um, editors.

"Get Off Broadway," Music, 8/11

Don't put it down
I haven't seen Billy Joel's Movin' Out and don't intend to. But Gina Arnold, whom I greatly respect, shouldn't generalize from one lousy show to the assertion that Broadway is for the aged (average age -- gasp -- 44!) and that rock and theatre don't mix. They do. For example, one of the biggest Broadway musical hits of the '90s, and still going strong, is Rent, a rock musical written by someone (Jonathan Larsen) in his early thirties largely about and for twentysomething bohemians. It's been the return business from mostly youthful Rentheads that has kept this intelligent, energetic, and big-hearted musical running so long. You can name others -- The Full Monty, with a terrific David Yazbeck score that has a lot of rock and pop elements; Little Shop of Horrors, that brilliantly used early-'60s rock to set the tone and period of the show. And of course Hair. The truth is, on those all-too-rare occasions when the rich musical resources of rock are married to the great Broadway tradition of witty and literate lyrics, the combination can be unbeatable.
Rob Katz, Oakland

"The Politics of 'Hyphy'," Close 2 tha Edge, 6/30

Tha bomb, fa sheezy
Whoever you are, Theresa from MySpace posted your Yay Area slang article. You stated the shit I've been thinking for years, and articulated it well. The 41510 has been the originator of the sickest linguistic creativity I've heard in any form of music, and it's about time somebody recognized it. Thanks for that.
Dan Buki, Sacramento

"Rock Opera of Ages," Music, 8/11

Not just a pretty face
Why must you take a cheap shot at Shania [Twain] and her husband? These two have great talent, and Shania is the nicest person I have ever met. Shania and her husband have been magic together, and it seems a little petty to bash Mutt, who has great talent and success in the business, and to insult Shania like that by saying she is riding him is uncalled for.

Shania was singing, writing songs, and playing guitar at age eight in clubs, She has proven her talent and drive. Mutt came to her and wanted to work with her. Both Mutt and Shania have shown class their whole careers and don't deserve this low type of bashing.
Kevin Wasy, Calgary, Alberta

"Bye Bye Bully," Bottom Feeder 8/25

bully for us!
Kudos to the Express and to writer Will Harper for shedding light on the "silent epidemic" of workplace bullying and the ground-breaking response of the Peralta Colleges' leadership under Chancellor Elihu Harris.

The word "bully" can elicit chuckles, as Harper implies, but psychological violence in the workplace is far from funny. It has devastated the lives and the health of innumerable targets. Despite the claims of the organizations representing local governments, targets (and their attorneys) know that current law in fact offers them virtually no protection at all from workplace abusers. As one attorney I know put it, "I have to tell potential clients all the time that it's not illegal for their boss to be a bastard."

The quote from the representative of the state Human Resources Association questioning whether there ought to be a law against psychological abuse in the workplace sounds just like: "I understand women's concern about how a wife-batterer might affect a marriage, but I do not agree that there should be laws against spousal abuse." Sadly, workplace research has shown that human resources departments usually side with brutal bosses against targeted employees, exacerbating the injury inflicted.

With training and education about the nature of workplace bullying, management has the chance to make workplaces safer, even if there is no law to compel them to do so. The Express and Peralta's leadership are both contributing to that education.
Bill Lepowsky, Laney College, Oakland

"All the Nudes That's Fit to Print," City of Warts, 8/25

But how do you really feel?
May you screw up royally. May you bring the full wrath of all armed men upon you. You sanctified pussies deserve a taste of the real world.

Bring it on, you useless pigs, bring it the fuck on. May your blood soak into the New York streets and may history forget you.

I spit on the souls of your aberrant children. The left is the human race's most foul and twisted manifestation of the species and is deserving of total eradication. The laws you protest, unfortunately, are the laws that protect your utterly worthless skins.

So all that an average citizen has left to protest that you even draw breath is to curse you and your seed until the howl of the left dying fills the earth.

Sweet shame it won't happen in my lifetime but I'm betting your freak children, grown in the twisted plague-filled wombs of the whores you fuck will have no lifetime at all -- which is what they deserve.

May you and yours eat your nightmares to the bone, you pussified bitch.
"F. You"

Thompson changed my life
Gee, I was all set to hitch to New York, put on a black bandanna and take off everything else, and start intimidating heavily armed police officers with my fingers. Then I read Chris Thompson's thoughtful, well-reasoned, respectful article. He brought up many points I'd never thought of before, and never heard in discussions with my friends and fellow protesters. Now I guess I'll smash my own leg instead of Starbucks' windows, and stay home knitting black sweaters with red, lopsided "A"s on them.

Or maybe Thompson and the Express have a subtler purpose. Maybe the idea is to undercut Fox' reporting of the protests by "scooping" them with accounts of things that haven't even happened yet. That won't work either. The media -- in its full spectrum -- will be happy to report on all kinds of excesses by protesters, whether they actually happen or not.

Of course, by the time anyone reads this letter -- assuming anyone ever does -- it will all be over but the shouting. And the blaming, and the credit-taking, and defense-fund-raising; and the analyzing, analyzing, analyzing. I hope some of the analysis has more depth to it than the Chris Thompson's article.
Eileen Berkun, Oakland

"Devin Satterfield's Culture of Chaos," Feature, 9/1

A little bit nutty, and ...
Thank you Stefanie Kalem for a wonderful article on Devin Satterfield and the West O warehouse arts scene. I especially liked how the article revealed how Devin can be kinda slutty. That's cool, because it's true. Thanks!!!
Kitty Fantana, Berkeley


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