Letters 04-13-2000

Village Voices

The article "Hood Winked" (Edward Lebow, March 30) is a wake-up call. However, has anyone taken the time to stop moaning and groaning about what the city won't do, and post fliers around the "neighborhoods" asking for volunteers to clean up their own neighborhoods? It only takes one person to get up and gather a group of volunteers and do something. I am sure that business owners in all parts of the city would be willing to donate. Try it! It is better than grumbling and wasting more time and energy fighting about who is responsible for cleanup.

Name withheld by request

I've traveled to a lot of places during my life, and seen much poverty. We may never extend prosperity to everyone, especially if the population continues to increase. But for a public official -- or anyone -- to degrade the unfortunate people who have to endure such an existence is a mean, lowdown insult to human beings who have many talents, and intelligence. They're not lazy dummies who want to be in such a state of depravation.

Why anyone would be so critical of these people is beyond me. If we could develop their innate capacities instead, our rewards would be great, indeed.

James T. Sizemore
via Internet

This past Saturday, approximately 100 of our employees from Sprint took part in Make A Difference Day Arizona. Our project this year was to clean up some vacant lots around 13th Avenue and Yuma. I am very proud to say we all accomplished a great deal, but the day left me with some very disturbing thoughts. Why aren't the landowners cleaning up their messes? Why must it take one special day for this special need to be attended to?

We worked in conjunction with the Phoenix Revitalization Corporation to bring this project to fruition, and I spoke at length with Julian at the PRC. I asked Julian why the landowners are still allowed to keep the land if they are not taking care of it. Julian and the PRC have been working extensively to improve these neighborhoods, but what about the landowners?

I believe the city should take the land away if the owners are not being responsible and cleaning up these overgrown and trash-infested vacant lots. These vacant lots have a very negative physical impact on the neighborhoods and until we do something about it, like take it away from the owners or fine the heck out of them, it will continue to degrade the neighborhood. I am fearful of going back to the areas where we each spent four hours of hard labor (400 hours total) to make it look better, only to find these vacant lots again to be trash-infested. There could be playgrounds for our children on these vacant lots, but instead we have greedy landowners sitting pretty in their own neighborhoods, holding onto property in hopes of it one day flourishing into a profitable asset. I don't want our efforts, or the efforts of the PRC and the neighbors who helped us on Saturday, to be all for nothing. I don't want to drive back there in a month and see the same thing we saw before the project. This isn't fair to the residents, and we should do something positive about it! The neighborhood needs a face-lift -- take these vacant lots away from the lazy landowners and let's give it back to the residents.

Tina Pace
Phoenix

Mission Implausible

Every so often I find myself wistfully contemplating the good fortune of those who are endowed with the gift of P.T. Barnum ("Mission to Marcia," James Hibberd, March 30). The world is hopping with credulous folks who have $159 that they desperately need to be relieved of, but people like Werner Erhard, Uri Geller, et al., always seem to beat me to it. Marcia Schafer is apparently Phoenix's latest such entrepreneur; the phrase "galactic networking" gave the lie to this fact. After reading James Hibberd's account of this particular flimflam artist, I began to indulge in my usual envy and resentment, but then I realized that feeling sorry for myself wasn't going to get me into the sucker-money loop any quicker.

I believe that I've finally devised the ultimate New Age cash cow, and here's how it works: Ever heard of a little thing called "The Randi Challenge"? It's a fat purse -- more than $1 million, if I recall correctly -- pledged to the first person or organization that can bring an ooky-spooky "paranormal" phenomenon to a place where it can be reproduced and confirmed by scientific observation. The challenge was started back in 1964 by James Randi, former prestidigitator, advocate of the scientific method, skeptic and debunker of charlatans.

Now here's where I enter the picture: You, the metaphysical/New Age/psychic/snake charmer/faith healer/mystical ufologist, pay me the paltry sum of $159 (same as what Schafer charges for whatever the hell it is she's peddling) plus the cost of transportation and incidentals. I will take the Randi Challenge on your behalf and, per contract, give you the whole thing if I win it. This should be much more attractive to the faithful than the gaseous intangibility that all these other hucksters are selling, don't you think? There's a meaningful opportunity to vindicate your extraterrestrial/supernatural fantasies, you just might gain the 'clat of having beaten the Randi Challenge and, most important, imagine all the "galactic networking" server time you could buy!

Ed Mills
Phoenix

This is to applaud your article, especially in its depth of understanding in surveying several features of the New Age and UFO discourses. I am really impressed with how James Hibberd, and Tony Ortega before him, have been thoroughly grounded in the context of the dynamics of these cultures, in the continuum from sincerely held beliefs through to fraudulent exploitations and con games.

I am a researcher in media cultural studies, having done my postgraduate work in this area at ASU. I have been analyzing the marginalized discourses of the techno-New Age, seeking understandings of the energizing elements of technology in directing the courses of modern society. Another in a long series of contactees and channelers -- such as described by Jacques Vallee, in his 1979 work, Messengers of Deception -- Marcia Schafer is another Johnny-come-lately to the UFO/New Age scene. However, Schafer may wind up being more successful than most, using her business acumen.

I find most people seeking answers about alien interventions, as such, are sincere in their beliefs and expectations. I find a continuum of belief, ranging from the mildly plausible possibilities of alien existence to the strongly delusional. These beliefs are usually shaped by media discourses, and usually extract their epistemological basis from media exposure to science fantasy and fiction. I note below that Hibberd, too, has identified this chief feature of the media and society. Hibberd's observation of the apparent confusion in Schafer 's relative conventional stability vis-á-vis her confidence in her new mission are examples of the typical pattern of these formerly high-tech-now-New Age seekers. Schafer is only partway (three years) along the learning/developing curve so far, toward what often turns out to be a delusional end. Again, this is a very typical pattern, in that one expects later elements of such as martyrdom, cultic following, or impoverished ignominy to be possible outcomes for Schafer. In any case, her relative confidence with her mission, now somewhat tentative, will galvanize over time. And as often happens in such cases, her credibility will very likely decline, while the true believers harden their apologetic resolve for their guru, with ever more specious logic. Yet Schafer 's apparent business sense may forestall the worst possible outcome for her endeavors.

Hibberd's understanding that the infusion of mystical meditation or higher consciousness with emerging high technology is not only right on target, he has correctly identified the media exploitations of these beliefs in various movies and TV programs! I greatly applaud his insight into this connection. My thesis work at ASU not only explored these elements, but also revealed the tightly coupled positive feedback between the marginalized discourses and Hollywood's energizing of them.

Many of those who adhere to people such as Schafer, I find, are often disaffected members of society who have been lost or mistracked on this ever-tightening cycle of technology and the resulting societal fragmentation -- especially as defined in Alvin Toffler's Future Shock.

Thank you for a terrific article. I am really impressed with Hibberd's investigative skills.

Tom Kelley
via Internet

Franco Speaking

Reader Derek Rogers' ( Letters, April 6) thinly veiled rant against Brian Smith (an extremely entertaining writer to those of us literate enough to appreciate him) and Franco Gagliano seems to be that of a failed, disgruntled musician who is now a real estate salesman, or, worse yet, a telemarketer. Don't get me wrong, I love Franco, but we've had our moments. There were a few occasions that I didn't get paid after I'd booked a band. But for the most part, taking into consideration the number of musicians Franco has dealt with over the years, he has done more for the local music scene than anyone I can think of.

Smith's column was touching, particularly for those who know that there are certainly many aspects to Franco's personality and the way in which he deals with people. The writer presented a sentimental picture, to be sure, but he certainly did not gloss over any of Gagliano's "faults." In some instances, it's true, bands should have been paid that were not. But for the most part, a popular, talented band that, over time, was a consistent draw, did just fine at the Mason Jar. And Franco is extremely loyal, so long as one is loyal to him. He has been very kind to me and to my family.

I would like to share my own favorite "Franco" story. Back in 96, I found myself being admitted to Good Samaritan Hospital just before dawn. I called the only friend I knew would still be awake just to let her know. She happened to be on the other line with Franco, unbeknownst to me at the time. Within 40 minutes, as I was waiting in the ER to be taken up to my room, a nurse brought me a telephone and said I had a call. On the other line was Franco, asking me if I needed anything. He offered money, and offered to come down to the hospital if I needed him to. (Now, this paints a surreal picture: Franco striding into a hospital emergency room at 5 a.m.; imagine the reactions of the staff!) But I have come to love this man over the years and he certainly has helped infinitely more people than he possibly could have harmed. If Mr. Rogers' (no pun intended) music career did not work out, I strongly suggest he get beyond the denial of blaming it on Franco and the Mason Jar. Perhaps he should dig out one of his old tapes and send it in to New Times' music critics for a review.

Dianne Jordan
Phoenix

It is sad to see the anger in Mr. Rogers' letter. He seems to be commending club owners who are out of business because they paid bands. Paying a band its fair market value is a must to stay in business. If you stiff too many bands, no one will book with you. If you overpay, most certainly you will perish.

Although I have not seen eye to eye with Franco over the years, one thing can always be said: He paid enough bands enough money to have a profitable business for the better part of two decades. He also gave thousands of musicians memories of playing (paid or not), which is something that cannot be bought.

Hopefully, someone will continue the underappreciated job he held for so long and at least have a stage and PA for struggling musicians. Love him or hate him, he has been a fixture in this town of revolving dance clubs and closing live music venues.

For Mr. Rogers, it is better to have played and not been paid than to never have played at all.

Jim Torgeson
via Internet

Brian Smith said in his column about the Mason Jar that he has "seen some brawls" in his time at the club. He fails to mention that one of those brawls involved him and Franco! Seems he was miffed that Franco was once again the greedy cheapskate and tried to rip off Brian's band, Beat Angels, when they did a charity show there for a friend who had been killed. So why is he waxing nostalgic about that greedy, Mr. T-starter-kit-wearin', bad-nappy-ass-hairpiece-wearin' son of a bitch?

Name withheld by request

Coke, guns, whores, drunks and junkies are all things I avoid. But the Mason Jar is a nice hole in the wall where I have seen 30 to 50 shows, primarily death metal, but also bands like Flotsam & Jetsam or Doomsday. To associate death metal with coke, guns, whores, etc., would be like trying to associate professional baseball with sunburns, expensive parking, and getting an object thrown at you at 100 miles per hour. The relationship is there, but it is a stretch, and a cause-effect relationship would most certainly be denied.

I have no idea why the author decided to include death metal as opposed to hip-hop, punk rock or gothic music. If anybody believes death metal promotes drug addiction or murder, he has his head up his ass. Death metal has more to do with human suffering than anything else. If lack of popularity or marketability keeps death metal in the trenches of the music industry, I don't doubt that somebody will again attempt to write it off in such a manner filled with blatant bigotry as Brian Smith did.

Greg Welch
Phoenix

El Niño

My daughter, a fifth-grade honor student at Scottsdale's Pueblo Elementary, attended kindergarten and the first part of first grade at Francisco Vasquez de Coronado Elementary in Nogales ("Habla Di, Habla Da, Strife Goes On," Michael Kiefer, March 23). Upon moving to Scottsdale, we discovered that my daughter was working at or above the level of her Pueblo first-grade class in all areas except spelling. I believe Annette Barber and her superb teaching staff at Coronado Elementary should be commended for doing a marvelous job of fighting the uphill battle of educating children who speak either of two languages in the same classroom.

During open houses at Coronado Elementary, I can remember hearing parents ask the teachers (in Spanish) to evaluate how well their children were doing in English. I have no memory of hearing any parent complain that their children needed additional academic help in Spanish. In Nogales, in all border communities, children of all grade levels are being enrolled in American schools. By and large, their parents want them to learn English, to receive an American high school diploma, to be (in the truest sense) American. Educating children in Spanish would certainly be a way to be sure that certain fundamental skills are mastered. It would ensure that the older Spanish-speaking children enrolled in the American schools would at least be able to function in their own culture. But, in an English-speaking society, can an education in Spanish truly be considered an "equal" education? I think not.

Marcia Givens Dudley
Scottsdale

Victims' Rites

Had to laugh at the extreme hype that was written about local band Victims in Ecstacy ("Driven to Ecstacy," March 30). The writer, Leigh Farr, is either (a) a groupie, friend or family member, or (b) gullible to believe in the band members' delusions about themselves without doing the proper research to verify their claims.

She claims "the band recently appeared briefly on MTV's Fanatic. No, the "band" did not appear on the show, its bass player did when he and his girlfriend schemed to pretend they were fans of boy band 98 Degrees to get on TV. The show had nothing to do with Victims, nor were they even mentioned once. So this "claim to fame" should not even be on their r'sum' of accomplishments! She kept referring to them as "rock stars"; sorry, but "rock stars" don't "live in a flat the size of a cardboard box," "work in record stores," or drive daddy's car around town. As far as "earning" airtime on the local radio stations goes, all one must do to "earn" this time is have a good recording, and most of the "local rock" radio shows will gladly play it without prejudice. Opening up for "national" (has-been) bands? Easy! Just prepay Franco (the Jar czar) for 30 to 50 tickets, whether you actually sell them or not, and you've got yourself a deal!

I've seen Victims live and am embarrassed by the unwarranted arrogance generated by these little boys. I love the comment, "It's not like we're 30 and greasy with kids on the side." Time waits for no one. Has Jim Louvau really looked in the mirror lately? The boy has put on some serious weight! I know plenty of 30-year-olds with kids who are in better shape than he is today, including myself. Contrary to the writer's belief, they are not the only local band wearing makeup, or involved in theatrics. Some have been doing it longer and do a lot better job of it (e.g., BLESSEDBETHYNAME, St. Madness, Psycho Gypsies, to name a few).

You and the band spent plenty of space defending how they're not "style over substance," yet their fashion techniques were the main focus of the entire story! The article was 90 percent about how they wax their eyebrows, have piercings, how long it takes to get ready, etc. What about their music? Please, in the future, spare us the hype, and stick to the facts.

John Candlin
Phoenix

Your latest April Fool's hoax was the best yet! The Victims in Ecstacy (quite an apropos play on words, by the way) article had me chortling mightily. Having the Bash on Ash include VIE's upcoming "show" in its weekly advert was a stroke of diabolical genius. Now where can I get a VIE tee shirt?!

Tom Coffeen
Phoenix

Howl We Survive?

How can you sacrifice 4,000 to 10,000 fewer deer and 1,500 to 3,000 fewer elk for 100 wolves ("Pack Mentality," John Dougherty, March 9)? This figure comes directly from the Fish & Wildlife Service. New Mexico does not want the wolf, so don't try to force it down our throats. The vast majority of people who live in the relocation area understand the negative impact this program will have. The people who want the wolf returned do not understand the real impacts this program will have on the wildlife of New Mexico and Arizona. Please get the realfacts out and not just the information you get from the pro-wolf FWS. The FWS is trying to change its own recovery plan because it has been a complete failure.

Jack and Kaye Diamond
Winston, New Mexico

Gripes of Wrath

I don't know which I found more revolting, the behavior described in David Holthouse's column ("Slippery Chute," March 16) or the subsequent letters attempting to either justify or excuse such behavior as "a very small minority." It all seems to only make the truth of God's Word on the subject in Romans 1:27-28 even more apropos, i.e., "and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly (sometimes rendered as "shameful" or "indecent"), and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet. And even as they did not to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind (i.e., devoid of sound judgment), to do those things which are not convenient" (or improper, not suitable or fitting). Romans 1:31 also includes the phrases "without understanding" and "without natural affection" relative to such behavior, and 1:32 summarizes the whole thing, i.e., "Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death (or "might as well be dead" in other translations), not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them." No doubt I will be castigated for pointing it out, but all I can say is, if you don't like it, argue with God! (Thankfully, God doesn't seem to put a premium on political correctness!)

T.J. Gibson
Mesa

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