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Letters to the Editor

From the week of January 13, 2005

Watch Your Language

To PC or not PC: Regarding the January 6 Off Limits:

In a letter dated August 29, 1878, Raphael J. Moses answered a man who verbally attacked him in a political campaign by calling him "that Hebrew" in the following way, in part, by saying, "...had you a wealth of gifts and selected from your abundance your richest offering to lay at my feet, you could not have honored me more highly, nor distinguished me more gratefully than by proclaiming me a Jew." I am the great-great granddaughter of this gentleman. My father is Raphael J. Moses III.

On my father's side, the lineage is 100 percent Sephardic Jewish until my father's generation. He married a Methodist. I was raised a Presbyterian. Consequently, I am continually curious about things Jewish. My question of Rabbi Foster was not mean-spirited, nor was it directed to someone who did not have the full strength and capacity to engage in debate.

During the same council committee hearing, two candidates were asked if they could help fill the void of not having a Latina appointee, and these queries were answered respectfully. Cultural generalizations exist (with notable exceptions, but with a semblance of truth), and exploring these differences while respecting our common humanity enriches us in understanding.

I have constituents who are tired of artificial politically correct speech. I mused aloud, well aware of the unusual setting for such musing. Being "way out there" is fair game for Westword, but does Westword really want to be the language police for political correctness?

Marcia Johnson
Denver City Councilwoman, District 5


Name of the Game

As easy as falling off a blog:Regarding Michael Roberts's "Game On," in the January 6 issue:

Who is the Lester Bangs of videogame criticism? I nominate SeanBaby. His distinctive invective raised the bar for disdaining bad-gaming concepts. SeanBaby was discovered online (at www.seanbaby.com), and currently writes game and movie reviews for the Bay Area's alternative magazine The Wave.

To look for the next Pauline Kael is to misunderstand the medium. Rather than passively consumed works, today's videogames offer a space for the audience to bring their own activities. Yes, amid the social interactions, there are sophisticated renditions of adrenaline-pumping action, but there often isn't a uniform experience to review. The gameplay itself depends on what the users do.

Maybe that's why the best game reviews are -- like much of SeanBaby's work -- of games gone past. Possibly the best videogame review ever was Electronic Gaming's "Child's Play" series, where classic video games of the '80s were dissected a generation later by sharp-tongued teenagers. It lends the ultimate critical perspective; perhaps future generations will not judge our sacred cows so kindly. Current games come in so many different mediums that, unlike music, there isn't even a clearly defined universe for a cultural arbiter to review. Instead, each game has its own micro-community somewhere, with its influential early-adopters. So I'd argue that just because you haven't heard of a micro-community's most influential critic doesn't mean he doesn't exist.

Here's another way to say it. Who is the way-new videogame critic? The same person who's ABC's Person of the Year: the Blogger.

David Cassel
Alameda, California

For adults only:As someone who used to write about videogames for a living (and eventually a pittance), I really enjoyed Michael's piece. It was literate, well-researched, and did a good job of articulating the frustration of adults who enjoy videogames as a worthwhile art form and want to read and write about them in that light. I've since moved on to more stable employment writing and editing copy about "serious" subjects, but as a lifelong fan of videogames, I'd love to see a maturation of the journalism (and the journalists) that covers the medium. Who knows? Someday I might find my way back.

Steven Averett
Smyrna, Georgia


Shop Till You're Dropped

After a fashion: Laura Bond's December 23 "Clothes Call," about teen shopper Meggie Sobel, was culture-jolting, especially since I haven't been to a mall in over seven years. Meggie comes off like the commercial/retail version of the unofficial spokesperson for Wendy's, or a cartoon opposite of Brad Pitt's character Tyler Durden in the movie Fight Club.

I can only imagine what rules Meggie might enforce if she started a shopping club soldiered by parents who know nothing about their children's tastes or interests. Would the first rule of the shopping club be "We so don't talk about sweatshop labor"? The second, "Like, totally no talking about sweatshop labor!" The third, "No out-of-date belts or shoes." The final rule: "If this is your first time at FlatIron Crossing, you have to shop." What wisdom would Meggie give her troops? Would it be "The things you don't own end up getting owned by someone else, like someone more popular"?

At any rate, I really liked the story, because it spoke volumes about the volume of consumerism and importance of consumerism that teenagers place on their lives -- or should I say "lifestyles"? (They no longer lead just lives.)

Charles Russell
Denver


The Corrections

Paying the price: Regarding Alan Prendergast's "Maxed Out," in the December 23 issue:

In one four-month period this year, Corrections Corporation of America had riots in Oklahoma, Mississippi, Kentucky and Colorado. They lost three inmates in an escape, three of their guards were placed under investigation for the murder of a 37-year-old female inmate in Tennessee, and several staff members were charged with trafficking in drugs in a correctional environment. CCA also knowingly hires convicted felons. In one instance, they hired a convicted murderer, Eugene Pendleton, who had done seventeen years in the Alabama prison system; he is now doing time for sexually assaulting two inmates that CCA put in his care.

Assaults on staff at private prisons are 49 percent higher than at public facilities and inmate-on-inmate assaults are 66 percent higher. It won't be the shareholders, company CEOs or their family members being attacked behind their walls; it'll be the citizens from your community who work there. Staff turnover rates are 53 percent annually in private pens, compared to 16 percent in public ones. Private guards receive 35 percent fewer pre-service training hours than their public counterparts. A California study found that from 1995 to 2002, there were eleven escapes from secure California facilities -- one escape for every 14,601 inmates. The privateers' ratio was one escape for every 489 inmates, and 251 inmates escaped from "secure" private prisons during this same period. Todd Craig, chief spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons, stated that the privately run facilities BOP contracts with have a 25 percent greater escape rate than similar BOP minimum facilities.

Get the facts: Public safety should never be for sale to the lowest bidder. The price your community and society as a whole will ultimately pay will be substantially higher.

Brian Dawe, executive director
Corrections USA

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