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Letters

Tile Counsel
I just finished reading your article in the Phoenix newspaper ("Wordstock Nation," Dewey Webb, March 11) and it was such a masterpiece I just had to write and tell you so. I always get irritated when reading such articles because they always make us Scrabble fanatics sound like weirdos.

Yours did also, but it was written so well and so respectfully that I wasn't the least bit irritated. The truth is, we are weirdos! So bravo, bravo.

One subject you did not touch on was the issue of accepting a Universal Word Source--a list of words acceptable to all English-language Scrabble players around the globe. It's the hot topic of conversation these days.

Bob Lipton
via Internet

Very nice job, Dewey. Cute gimmick in the photo captions. Just one small correction: Where you describe "fishing" as exchanging a tile into the bag, much more often it simply means playing one or two tiles onto the board, since you can usually score 10 points for playing them, and must take zero for exchanging.

Joel Sherman
Bronx, New York

Taken for a Ride
The article on Frank Leyvas was very intriguing ("Fare Game," Chris Farnsworth, March 11). I hope that he gets everything he has asked for in his lawsuit. He should have been given a heads up about what was going to happen by the police.

Christine Moss Troutman
via Internet

Publish or Perish
Let me add to the Flash's "Mean Streets" (March 11).
Just as alcohol and driving are a bad safety combination, so is mixing politics and safety when that involves the safety of taxpayer-subsidized business profits. Also when traffic safety is a phony reason to eliminate criticism of city government.

This was the case when Phoenix outlawed homeless newspaper street sales. This was confirmed by Judge Katz in his Grapevine decision when he said the reason for the law ". . . may in fact be motivated by a desire to keep homeless people and undesirables out of public view rather than to make our streets safer." Add attorney Joe Abodeely saying, "This is a subterfuge, a ruse to violate the First Amendment of the Constitution."

Since the elimination of the Grapevine, free speech and free press for traffic safety, Phoenix has become one of the deadliest places in the U.S. to drive. This is like Inspector Clouseau, while citing a blind organ grinder for a lack of a city permit, proceeding to hold open a getaway car door for bank robbers. Funny for a Pink Panther movie, but not for death on city streets.

Herb. Knauss
Phoenix

Where It's Art
I wanted to thank you for your recent article "The Athlete and the Aesthete" (Matthew Doig, March 4). It is refreshing to see art being covered that is not being presented in the comfortable format within the expected art institution.

In Jake Harman's work, it is clear that artists are having to approach their work and their audience in different ways. Artists are no longer able to participate, nor are they interested in participating, in the limited venue offered by galleries and museums as their option to continue their careers. They are searching out more alternative approaches to art and ways to include the public into their journey. In your support of Harman's work, it is evident that New Times is offering the public new ways to interpret and experience art.

Art is more than objects to walk up to and view, and then walk away and decide if it is "good" or "bad." Art is about the experience and the lives of the people who are willing to engage with the work. Your article gave your readers the ability to experience an artist, his efforts and passion along with his work.

Please continue to cover more artwork that is being done in the Valley that continues to address the limitations placed on art. These events are not easy to find but will appear as performance art events and public engagements with art typically not found within the art viewing platform. However, starting at ASU and the art program is a good way to tap into this group of artists who are expressing themselves in different ways, like Harman.

Sherrie Medina
Phoenix

Gnawing Questions
In his response to Michael Kiefer's February 4 article "Indian Stew" (Letters, March 11), Professor Armelagos refers to the "disgusting" display ("prehistoric artifacts with modern odds and ends") pictured in the article in order to bring Professor Turner's motivation into question. It is, instead, Professor Armelagos' motivation that I must question.

To be offended or shocked by the pictorial association of human skeletal remains with that of a can of Campbell's soup is certainly one's prerogative. It is not one's prerogative, however, to use the perceived questionable taste of a picture (a subjective observation) as a basis upon which to question an entire body of academic work (an objective observation). This type of broad, generalized criticism is a powerful tool by which to influence those who may not have the inclination to look deeper into the details themselves.

Is Professor Turner interested in a scientific understanding of this issue? Based upon examination of the body of work and personal interaction with Professor Turner, my answer is yes.

Does the subject matter startle and disturb some people? Certainly. Is this the motivation behind the work? Certainly not. The evidence should be viewed solely on its own merit, for Professor Turner seeks not to shock people with the subject of his work but instead happens to work with a subject that shocks people.

Bill Hundley
Scottsdale

Taking Cover
While on a pragmatic level I can appreciate The Scones' financial needs in terms of their decision to go for the well-paying gigs by performing mostly covers with a few originals sprinkled in ("Sticks and Scones," Ted Simons, March 4), one of Jeff Owens' comments was telling, to say the least.

"The originals are infinitely more important . . . but we've got to make a living in the meantime. There are very few bands that can make a living doing original music in this town."

Sorry, pal, but you'll learn soon enough that you can't have it both ways. It's a matter of perception versus reality: If the public thinks you're a cover band, you're a cover band, and it's hard as hell to break that image once you've been locked into it. (Sometimes moving away to where no one's heard of you is the only remedy.)

Before Sgt. Pepper was released, rock 'n' roll bands were still classified as entertainers, and there was no stigma in performing the covers of the day at teen dances. In fact, it was expected. Once the Beatles issued their magnum opus, however, the focus shifted toward musicians-as-artists, and from then on, your worth was measured in terms of songwriting, arranging and how well you crafted your tunes in the studio.

This remains true, and while there's no shame in having a good Puritan work ethic and a desire to put food on the table for your loved ones, to earn any lasting respect as a musician outside the confines of some rarefied local club scene, eventually you have to make the decision: Do I want to be an entertainer or an artist?

If you choose the former, fine; be the best that you can be. If the latter, don't do it halfway, or in stages; I hate to use the term "quit whining and pay some dues," but that's what most of the great bands who made their marks did.

Yes, I know that the Beatles played four sets of mostly covers every night before getting their big break, but I submit there's a fundamental difference between performing seven nights a week in front of the toughest audiences in Hamburg, and playing the Tempe coffee house and sports bar circuit. Times have changed, too; do you want to work up through the ranks and win the critical respect of the media, or do you always want your motives as an opportunist to be questioned when you do try to break through with original material? Again, it's perception versus reality: There's a qualitative difference between a cover band and one that can whip out some well-chosen covers at the end of a show to blow the lid off the joint.

I have a friend back East who put out a record of his originals in the Eighties, funded from his residency in a local lounge where he played covers and requests. It didn't do anything, but he had good material and a promising future as a songwriter. Sadly, 15 years later, he has no urge to write music anymore, and while he makes a great living and says he's satisfied with his lot.

For some reason I can't help but think of a tenured but ultimately frustrated professor who never broke out of academia and now can't imagine how he would have done so in the first place. This friend will be playing Eagles and Christopher Cross covers until he dies. Here's hoping that The Scones grasp the inherent tension of the position they're in, that they do well with their forthcoming CD of original tunes, and that they aren't still playing Crowded House and Echo and the Bunnymen come the year 2015.

Fred Mills
Tucson


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