Brain drain: Bravo. It's disheartening, although not surprising, that this stuff still works on people ("Drive-thru Deliverance," Amanda Scioscia, October 19). Yes, I agree that most of us are living repressed lives, aren't able to be open with each other, don't know ourselves, don't feel loved, etc. And these feelings are what provides the fertile feeding ground for these kinds of thinly disguised mind-control seminars.
But why are we surprised? After all, our Cult-ure is a cult! The American culture has increasingly become a giant brainwashing system, with mindless fanatics chanting "U.S.A. is No. 1," or for their team, or lying to protect their leaders and getting their nightly "programming" from the TV that tells them how to act, what inane products to buy, etc. Lawyers get paid in our society to twist facts and withhold truth, to win by any means possible.
In a society devoid of healthy role models, should we hold up Joe Arpaio as a role model for young men? Is it any surprise that grown adults find themselves empty and looking for someone to tell them how to think, how to dress, how to be successful? Beatings (in this case psychological beatings) are better than being ignored. It's no different from children acting up wanting attention. It is interesting that in a country like America, founded on the ideal of individual expression and tolerance, the innate insecurity inside us makes us want to huddle together and have strong leaders "beat" us and tell us what to do.
You will find that many U.S. corporations qualify as cults; so do the Army, the Congress, churches and schools. And although universities (used to, at least) claim freedom of thought, if you actually watch classroom dynamics, students are afraid of offering original thought or dissenting opinions for fear of being ridiculed. And professors offer static authoritarian "truths."
But as long as we have burgers, six-packs, football, SEGA and TV, the masses will remain for the most part sedated and will vigorously defend the fact that they are "free" and live in the best country in the world, and will "turn and render" you if you offer them anything else.
Name withheld by request
Show me the money: What a great read this article was. The spirit of George Orwell must have had a hand in this. Landmark reminds me of my short time with Scientology. Luckily, I had the brains to get out of there. Groups like Landmark and Scientology work exactly the same. Here's how it works: They start by making you believe that you are a pathetic excuse for a human being, then they make you believe that only with their help and after purchasing various publications and "technology" will you improve. Just when you think you've improved, they tell you you're still not good enough so you have to buy more stuff. Finally, you are once and for all the human being you've always dreamed of being (actually the human being they want you to be). But still you're wrong. You're not the human being you want to be until you recruit your friends (if you still have them) into this wonderful new religion of yours. The point being that with organizations such as these, you'll never reach the ideal that they preach. They'll beat you mentally into spending money. The description of Landmark and Scientology can easily describe the book 1984!
Name withheld by request
Cult fiction: After reading this article, I question whether you did, in fact, go through the training. Very obviously you went in to the Forum determined to interpret it with a filter of skepticism. Probably the biggest departure from the truth is your statement that promises were made of "quick salvation from whatever ails you." No such statement is ever made or implied. The only promise that is made is that if you follow the rules, which from your article it's clear you didn't, and stay in the room, you will "get it." What you choose to do with "it" is entirely up to you; just like the rest of your life. Yes, the Forum is tough; yes, it's an emotional roller-coaster ride. So is life -- deal with it.
I would suggest that, in your job, the role of skeptic stirs up controversy with your readers. But does it serve them? Personally, since the training, I've found that knowing, very clearly, that I have the power to choose at each moment what I allow to affect me is very freeing. It has allowed me to pursue the choices that bring satisfaction and joy into my life and contribute the same to others. Can you say the same for you and your life?
Latino royale: Edward Lebow's article on the lack of Latino representation in so-called neighborhood activist groups should be required reading ("Silent Majority," October 12).
One of Lebow's notable observations is that many of the activists apparently do make an attempt to get Latino residents to join, but without success. In some cases, Latinos attend a few meetings, then quit.
I would offer the following as an explanation: Many Latino residents evidently understand that the values espoused by these activist groups are those of intolerance, exclusion and elitism. If a Latino resident doesn't understand at first, he apparently learns after attending just one or two meetings.
Anybody who becomes familiar with these activist groups will understand their elitist character. The groups demand that government prohibit Wal-Marts, Home Depots and low- and middle-income housing, and demand that government establish regulations on landscaping, architecture, property maintenance, and a host of other busybody decrees. North Scottsdale activist groups have taken elitism to snooty heights, demanding (and obtaining) government prohibitions on fast-food restaurants, "secondhand" stores such as Goodwill, and on any commercial development not possessing "Sonoran" architecture.
Basically, these activist groups want government to make life difficult for the lower and middle classes.
What do the activists ultimately have in mind? It's quite simple, really: They demand these government actions in order to artificially inflate their own property values. They think their home values will increase faster by keeping out "big box" stores, apartment complexes, McDonald's and -- to be blunt -- Latinos and lower-income whites altogether. (I have personally heard Scottsdale activists discuss the undesirability of "shirtless Mexicans" and "New River hicks in their pickup trucks.")
Advocating intolerance, exclusion and elitism as a matter of public policy so that the advocates can make a few extra bucks on the sale of their homes is a putrefying concept. It's nauseating to know that one is breathing the same air as these abhorrent "citizen activists."
Clearly, many Latino residents fully understand what these activist groups are all about.
Blight spirit: Silent majority? What a crock! I have been a resident of McDowell Manors, an annex of the Greater Coronado Neighborhood Association, since 1991. Our last president (of five years) was Hispanic. Not once was I advised of or invited to a neighborhood meeting. My phone calls were not returned. No cleanups, block parties or watches were scheduled. He did, however, allow and encourage "culture" to overrule common sense and city codes.
In that five-year period, once-green yards became brown parking lots, two-bedroom homes now contain an average of three families, garbage cans are filled beyond capacity, the sewer system is overflowing, streets are strewn with beer cans, litter and dirty diapers. Theft, crime and gunshots have become routine.
It's not a lack of Hispanic involvement, it's a lack of concern from the city, neighborhood services, our local council, etc. I blame their lack of interest and action for the blighted, crime-ridden area that I now reside in. I used to call them for help. In fact, on average I spent at least two hours a week -- getting the runaround! I am single, work more than 50 hours per week and have a home/yard to maintain, yet they want me to "police" the area, write down all infractions and then spend hours on the phone detailing the problems to them because they "can't do anything without an individual complaint." That would be a full-time job. I already have one. Isn't that their responsibility?
I appreciate the diversity of my neighborhood. However, there needs to be some type of enforcement. Now. It's time for the city to get involved. We have been crying for help. Can't they hear?
Rental wrap: In the past year, I have organized a neighborhood association to take up a particular problem -- the traffic changes resulting from the reconstruction of the old Tower Plaza on Thomas Road between 36th and 40th streets. My neighborhood is changing with a growing number of Hispanics and blacks, who are mostly renters. My experience is that 90 percent of the renters are not interested in the neighborhood problems. Those people who have an economic stake were the people who responded. Making housing available where the Hispanics can become homeowners would change the situation.
A clash in cultures and economic status is also apparent. The subtle criticism of Bob Hayes is unjustified. Of course, the next question will be whether Gilbert Ramirez is running a landscaping business in a neighborhood not zoned for that type of activity.
Ticket master: As a volunteer usher/ticket taker at the Herberger Theater Center, I want to say that Robrt L. Pela's "A Guide to Cultural Crudity" (September 28) is in no way an exaggeration and is in every way an absolute masterpiece!
The article should be blown up in size and posted in a prominent place in the lobby of every theater in the greater Phoenix metro area (which includes Glendale, Mesa, Scottsdale and Tempe); further, it should be printed in flier format and handed out with the purchase of every ticket in all of the above-mentioned venues.
Name withheld by request
Smother of Pearl
Jam straight: This letter is in response to the music review "Shut Up, Jeremy!" by Zac Crain and Robert Wilonsky (October 12). I read the entire story and have a few problems with the extraordinarily negative review.
First, why would New Times have two music critics with a highly negative view of Pearl Jam review the albums? From the title of the story and the first paragraph, it is apparent there will not be an objective review of the band's live albums. I have no problem with negative reviews of a band I like; however, this review seems like two people who dislike the band having a two-page forum to tell us why.
Second, and you did mention this briefly, I do not think the point of releasing these shows was to listen to all 25 simultaneously. I am a fan of Pearl Jam, bought three shows and enjoy them all, some more than others. But even as a fan I would be sick of hearing them after listening to all 25 discs. You also state "no freakin' way" that the band would try this in America. However, a little research on your part would have found that it is releasing the U.S. dates when the tour is over.
Also, the statements about the band being greedy: From the band's Web site, those who wish can order all 25 discs at a discount (which you state they should) or order the discs at $12 apiece, I think a very reasonable if not cheap price compared to today's standards.
These are just some of the holes in the article. Whether the authors dislike Pearl Jam or not is irrelevant; I would just like to read an unbiased review, maybe next time.
I am a big fan of New Times, but I expect better.
Cultured club: I want to know how to contact Zac Crain or Robert Wilonsky, the two cheap hacks who "wrote" the Pearl Jam article. What is the point of the article? They obviously had their minds made up before they even popped in the first CD. I doubt they even really listened to any of the music. They admit they were reading, watching TV, etc., while "listening" to these CDs. I think they missed the point of why Pearl Jam released 25 live CDs. Do they really think PJ did it for the money? Come on, now. This is the band that took on Ticketmaster and refuses to whore itself to MTV. These moves aren't arrogant and they certainly don't promote the career of PJ. Instead, they prove that PJ did it how it wanted, when it wanted. It may be the cool thing now to bash PJ after a string of "unsuccessful" albums, but I can guarantee that Zac and Robert will be telling their children how much they loved Pearl Jam back in the '90s. It will be similar to someone talking to his kids about the Who or the Stones today.
Weeping statement: On September 21, I picked up the eagerly awaited Best of Phoenix supplement of New Times. It only took a few moments for the anticipation to be replaced with disappointment. Cleverly hidden among other seemingly legitimate awards was an award titled "Best Morning-Drive Crybaby." The award, which criticized Zone DJ Dave Smiley, lacked both tact and compassion. On the particular day that the reviewer chose to listen, Mr. Smiley received heartbreaking news regarding his relationship with a longtime girlfriend. In a moment of honest emotional response, something very few radio programs possess, Mr. Smiley broke down and cried. Aware of the fact he was crying on air, he tried to quickly regain his composure and carry on as usual.
The publishing of the "Best Morning-Drive Crybaby" mocked Mr. Smiley for his sensitivity and then added insult to injury by questioning the sincerity of his tears. The award alleged that the crying was merely a pretense put on to draw sympathy from female listeners. Whatever the case may be, the inadequate time spent listening, the heartless accusations and the inappropriate publishing of such an award have led me to believe New Times should receive awards for the "Best Inadequate Reporting," the "Best Instance of Unfounded Cruelty" and the "Best Example of What Not to Do." I would also like to point out that the award spoke of the "nauseatingly reassuring Love Doctor" who is on the show every Tuesday. She doesn't come in on Tuesdays, she comes in on Thursdays!
Mother load: Is anyone supposed to feel sorry for Michelle Bailey because she doesn't make $50,000 any more and that she had to resort to unemployment and then to a paltry $500 a week ("Lawsuit on Board," Laura Laughlin, September 28)? Give me a break. Perhaps she could view her dismissal from AutoNation as a way of spending more time with her child. There are a lot of well-educated and previously professional women who have given up bigger houses, fancier neighborhoods, newer vehicles and more to work part time and raise their own children.
Critic in the Dark
Dance recital: I thought I would perhaps reply to the review of Lars von Trier's award-winning film Dancer in the Dark by our visually stimulated friend Gregory Weinkauf ("Dumb and Blind," October 5). After leaving the Camelview 5 theater completely awed and enlightened by Dancer in the Dark, I was perplexed by the overall negative review it received. While Mr. Weinkauf applauded Björk's performance, and deservedly so, as "amazing" only begins the adjectives, he seemed stuck on the sans-tripod handling of the director. Simplicity seemed to me the tone, with all emphasis on the story itself. Von Trier did not bombard our visual senses with effects, as is the norm today, but allowed the viewer to be introduced wholly and honestly to the character of Selma, and utterly fall in love with her. She was our special effect, the tripod the camera anchored itself to. Perhaps dear Mr. Weinkauf should stick to some more easily diagnosed cerebral engagements, such as the new Sylvester Stallone movie. There's just nothing like a good action flick to fuel our visually hungry brains, right, Greg?
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