Snack attack: James Hibberd's story about Arizona State University student activists taking on their food service provider ("Big Mac on Campus," March 8) is noteworthy as much for its incisive writing as its convolution of certain salient details. In particular, Hibberd repeatedly conveys the sense that these are "spoiled" students engaged in the political equivalent of a "food fight" over the right to cheaper, better quality pizza and tacos. By portraying the issue as a food-court battle first, and as a moral objection to the private prison industry second, Hibberd inverts the nature of the challenge and misconstrues the intentions of the student activists driving the campaign.
In addition to their marches on the Memorial Union, these students have organized teach-ins on the evils of convict labor, published informational newsletters on the prison-industrial complex, and explored the possibilities of street theater and political propaganda. Regardless of the outcome of their current battle with the university, these students have already succeeded in energizing the campus and sparking a serious discussion on questions of corporate ethics. It seems to me that these values of compassion, justice and engagement with the world are precisely the sorts of lessons students ought to be learning in the pursuit of "higher education." For all of our sakes, such nascent impulses ought to be strenuously encouraged and not disparaged by the dint of faint praise.
Angels in the Outfield
Tombstone territory: Apparently the posthumous concerns of the jock aristocracy differ from those of Joe Blow ("Angles in the Outfield," John Dougherty, March 1). Most decent, hardworking people I know will be remembered only by a grave marker. A stadium, a walkway -- whatever!
Tips 'n' Sass
Server error: So it looks like the only way you can expect good service is to sit down and immediately start stuffing bills down your server's pants ("Tipper Score," Eater's Digest, Alex Neville, March 8). Did it ever occur to Mr. Neville that perhaps the reason the tip was small is that he already made a judgment about the customer and provided crappy service? Even business people with generous expense accounts will need a separate check so that they can submit the receipt for reimbursement. Anyone who assumes a woman is going to tip less is an idiot. And maybe I want my dressing on the side because you dump on enough to float the Titanic! Oh, and I'll certainly be sure not to verbally compliment you on your service since that would make you think I'm a cheapskate.
However, from my side of the table, let me give you a few pointers on what is going to get you a low tip or no tip at all: If I order a beverage and it never occurs to you to bring a glass of water also. If I'm not ready to order within your time frame and you disappear for an undetermined length of time. If you bring the order and you can't remember who ordered what. If you let our dirty plates sit on the table when we are clearly finished. If you let us languish in boredom long after we are finished before you give us the check.
I think you have forgotten that a tip is a reward for good service, not a part of your dinner bill. I tip well for good service, but I don't reward lousy service.
Poor tipper: Maybe I find this article, though amusing, and in some cases true, a bit insulting. I guess I feel that way as someone who tries to figure out the correct percent for the tip whenever I dine out. So maybe I do put off vibes that I need a meal out, and in something that I can afford. But I'm fair, and must I (and other broke people like me) always be judged? I'm far from being a "professional diner," but sometimes service just is not what it should be. I guess I judge good service on how quickly the server gets a glass of water on the table. If a server is having a bad day, I have little compassion. I don't want someone to kiss my butt, but I want someone who can handle four tables and help me in a timely manner as well. Is that too much to ask?
Welcome Back, Ricotta
Cheese and thanks: I enjoyed your review about both Miracle Mile Deli (where I used to have lunch when I worked at Diamond's, now Dillard's, in the late 1950s) and Guido's, which is a relatively new experience ("Pastrami Dearest," Carey Sweet, March 8). It is the latter place where I received some exceptional service. I was advised to buy fresh ricotta when an Italian friend said it would make all the difference in my Christmas Eve dinner menu. I went to Guido's, also at her suggestion, and asked for a three-pound container of Polly ricotta. Guido's only had the five-pound tub available that day. Not to worry, the cheerful gentleman indicated. He went into the back room, came out with the five-pounder, removed the lid, slipped the container on the scale, and scooped out ricotta until the tub weighed exactly three pounds. Amazing, that kind of service, two days before Christmas, and with no tip jar in sight! Hurrah for Guido's, and hurrah for Carey Sweet for recognizing this fine place.
Dillard's pickle: I would like to commend Jeremy Voas for the column "Eyes on the Reprisal" (February 22). I will never again go into nor shop at Dillard's. I was floored to think they could not as much have given these two women the benefit of the doubt, regarding what they thought to be shoplifting. It sure is evident that blacks and Native Americans do not have a chance in these areas.
I hope you will continue to report such events and help these ladies receive justice. They did not deserve to be treated in such a manner, and the police officer or investigator who handled this case was way out of line. I hope he gets what he deserves as well.
Name withheld by request
No sale: As an African American, I am outraged at your excellent story involving two innocent black customers at Dillard's. I hope that this matter is pursued to the fullest legal extent and, while I am loath to award big sums from juries, I would definitely step up to the plate and award big bucks for this type of behavior.
Sad but true is the fact that when law enforcement officers abuse their authority, it is a natural act for them to cover their tracks with more abuse of their authority.
Cowart D. Fairley Jr.
El Paso, Texas
More Power to You
Surge for tomorrow: I have been reading a wide range of news, opinion and research on electric utility deregulation and the California debacle. None, however, until your stories in New Times, have, in my opinion, begun examining what any of it really means to Arizona ("Shock Treatment," Robert Nelson, February 22).
I believe you hit the nail squarely on the head, on several points. For example, uncertainties and market manipulation of the fuel (natural gas) supply. That is only one reason that any hope for ratepayers to see reduced electric rates when caps are lifted, beginning in 2004, is completely baseless.
Indeed, the California market was "built for sharks." The shortages were not entirely because of consumption, nor entirely real. Generating companies' arbitrary withholding of supply from day-ahead auctions caused panic conditions and was a factor in sending wholesale prices to levels more than 20 times those of the previous year, without corresponding or justifying increases in the cost of producing the electricity.
You well described the market power Arizona utilities gain by not having to shed their power plants. Couple that with disincentives to retail competition -- already showing up here -- and the red flags fly even higher. For example, SRP has already begun breaking out consumer charges for "transmission" from "generation." As you noted, fuel is the biggest cost for electricity. However, if what you reported is true (and I understand that it is), the transmission charge on my last bill was pretty high. The reason the transmission component is inflated is to make it less attractive for consumers to shop for alternative providers.
Arizona's problems may not come to resemble San Francisco's. They will, however, be just like San Diego, last summer. The din has faded because of stopgap relief, but when the caps first came off in San Diego, retail electricity prices tripled and the opposition began organizing -- loud and furious.
Minstrel cramp: The review of the Donnas makes me sick ( In Town, February 22)! Whoever wrote it obviously has never talked to the Donnas, or even heard anything other than "Turn 21." I've been a big Donnas fan for years, and let me tell you, every single one of their albums is different. And if you have ever talked to any of the Donnas, like I have, you will learn that they are some of the sweetest girls you'll ever meet. You can't take songs at face value most of the time. Just look at some of the rap songs out there. Do you really think they are true? I sure hope not. In interviews, the Donnas have even said that they exaggerate things that happen in real life to make for a good song. So next time you're going to write about a band, get your facts straight before you go blabbing a bunch of lies about innocent people.
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Guys 'n' dullards: I have to reply to Carlo Infante, who wrote a letter recently about the review of the film Before Night Falls (Letters, March 1). Poor Carlo had to watch two men "regularly kissing or copulating" in the film. Carlo says that is just not his "cup of tea." (I think that means he wants us to know he's straight.) I find it interesting that he says that it would have been appropriate for the reviewer to include a word of caution in the review about the homosexual content of the movie. I can certainly understand his point; after all, the nine clear references to the word "gay" in the film review simply weren't enough.
Name withheld by request