Stars in Their Eyes
As an amateur astronomer with a dog-eared copy of the Celestial Handbook, I found Tony Ortega's article about Robert Burnham Jr. extremely poignant ("Sky Writer," September 25). Many amateur astronomers would be interested in reading about a man who contributed so much to our enjoyment.
Congratulations to Tony Ortega and New Times for the article about Robert Burnham Jr. It's fascinating and sad, and it quite characterizes Burnham's contributions to astronomy and the influence of his Celestial Handbook.
Carmel Valley, California
Just a note of thanks for the wonderful article about Robert Burnham Jr. I use his books regularly and never knew the sad story of his life. The amateur-astronomy community should thank the author for the exhaustive research that must have gone into this piece.
Rochester, New York
I simply wanted to compliment the author of the piece about Robert Burnham Jr. It was excellent, not simply because of the fascinating story it told but, I thought, also because of the tenacity that must have been required to track down so many small but resonant details regarding such a reclusive figure.
San Juan Capistrano, California
The article about Robert Burnham Jr. is very good. I have had his handbook for years, and I didn't realize the history behind it. I will treasure it even more. There is a lesson to this tale, and it is not to judge a book by its cover.
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Just Tuning Up
It is always interesting to see New Times writers attempt to establish their intellectual cachet by quoting famous philosophers. Such attempts are much more successful if the quotes are attributed correctly. The phrase "patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel" is not a Kierkegaardism, as Gilbert Garcia would have us believe (Soundcheck, September 18). I doubt that the quintessentially English term "scoundrel" was even in the Danish thinker's repertoire. A quick check with those more knowledgeable than myself was sufficient to ascertain that the author of the statement was, in fact, Samuel Johnson.
Gilbert Garcia responds: Matt, I know the man said that truth is subjective, but the objective truth is that I never quoted Kierkegaard. I attributed an idea to him. Of course, this same idea has been expressed in a number of different ways, by everyone from Samuel Johnson to Bob Dylan. By the way, if you ever come across any English translation of Kierkegaard's Papers and Journals, you'll find that the word "scoundrel" was very much a part of his vocabulary.
I was upset and surprised when I read about Nastyboy Klick. Obviously, the columnist who wrote this doesn't listen to the two local radio stations that play this group's songs. NBK is requested several times each hour, according to the DJs I talked to. Stations nationwide play the songs, which just proves people want to hear the group's music. Generic music? I am afraid not. Nastyboy Klick's music is original; it has its own special flavor. I give a lot of credit and congratulations to this group: legitimate musical artists doing something positive with their lives.
I really must give major props to Serene Dominic's feature about one of my favorite bands, Pollen ("Resident Aliens," September 18). I was happy to see some of the raddest guys in Arizona, and some of the best musicians around, get some of the respect they deserve. Pollen is one of the greatest bands I have ever heard, and hopefully, through the publicity, deprived, Pollenless people will now have their lives fulfilled, and hear and love the wonderful five-man band.
"Any press is good press," goes the idiom, and thanks to Ted Simons' article about ex-"Lingo" and ex-Primus drummer Tim Alexander ("Dry Cleaning," September 11), Major Lingo received his praises (?) as a "freeform, hippy-dippy band." Simons almost gets it! Freeform . . . yes, as often as possible. Hippy . . . makes up a good 50 percent of our audience, while the other half relates to any other walk of life you can come up with. But dippy just doesn't quite work. Simons can ask any of the ska-jerking, dub-pounding, ethnic-waltzing, psychedelic-bending participants who have attended our shows over the past decade and a half, or, better yet, he can come witness for himself. He can look these folks in the eye and see if "dippy" isn't a description that falls way shy of the energy created by the music and the faithful.
Kudos to New Times and Amy Silverman! Silverman's article about Maricopa County Regional School District ("Board Games," August 28) was a great investigative piece. It was, however, deficient in some respects. Further investigation and interviews would have uncovered even more cans of worms, but enough is enough, I suppose.
Here's hoping legislators and the general public are now sufficiently informed and will get off their butts, contact senators John Kaites and John Huppenthal and demand legislation to increase the MCRSD board.
Sandra Dowling's rule has been ridiculously stifling and not in the best interest of students. I applaud New Times' chutzpah and appreciate the whistle-blowing. I hope it has not been blown to the wind. I am sincerely glad not to be working for Dowling anymore.
And Justice for Some
How come former governor Fife Symington, a convicted criminal, can walk out of the courthouse? People convicted of nothing waste away in Tent City. Perhaps they didn't have the money to get out, or their crimes weren't so serious. Justice for the rich, "bankrupt" or not, seems to be rather different from "justice" for the poor.
I object to New Times writers' obvious delight in the thought that Fife Symington may be subjected to homosexual rape during his impending incarceration. I find few humans more arrogant and repugnant than the former governor, and I have waited with great anticipation for the September 11 issue so that I could share a little in New Times' well-deserved gloating. I was distressed that every single article concerning Symington's possible life as a prisoner was marred by reference to the cliche of forced sex between prisoners.
In movie after movie, TV crime show after TV crime show, whenever a detective wants to coerce a confession or betrayal from a suspect, he brings up this tired metonymy of prison life. Thus, it was with disappointment that I found this year's most eagerly awaited issue to be practically unreadable!
This is to express my appreciation for Terry Greene Sterling's insightful column about John Dougherty ("The Indomitable Dougherty," September 11). As a swimming colleague of Dougherty's, I have had the opportunity to learn about his efforts in the Fife Symington story. This column captured his integrity, expertise and disappointments.
Up in Smoke
Chris Farnsworth's "Burning Questions" (September 18) discusses the allegations of out-of-state medical waste coming to Browning-Ferris Industries, the largest source of airborne emissions of dioxins in Phoenix, for incineration. Reconnaissance for out-of-state shipments on the hospital grounds in 1992 and 1993 by environmentalists also resulted in confrontations with security guards, unlicensed trucks, trucks with out-of-state plates. It was noted that the hospital had built, with public funds, a card-lock "employee parking lot," but only medical-waste trucks and shipments awaiting incineration were to be found in this lot.
Don't Waste Arizona, Inc., researched the air permit and testified against its issuance. Its researchers found hundreds of complaints hidden in the hospital security log. The agency refused DWA's request that these complaints be moved to the public file or that there be a reference to them placed in the public file. DWA raised the issue that the facility had been illegally operating for longer than 18 months on an installation permit. The county agency and its attorney disagreed. The modeling for the dispersion of pollutants from the incinerator left out one vital piece of information: The hospital towers were higher than the incinerator and emissions would not disperse well.
DWA also noted that the county air regulations stated that an incinerator was prohibited from operating from sunset to sunrise, and that the proposed permit to burn 24 hours per day was illegal. The county decided that this BFI incinerator, which for years had had permits with "incinerator" stamped on them, was now, suddenly, a "waste heat exchanger" because some steam was generated with the incinerator's operation and piped to the hospital building. After passing an emergency rule that allows medical-waste incinerators like BFI's to operate 24 hours per day, the county later decided to conveniently change the "waste heat exchanger" back into an incinerator.
When DWA appealed the county agency's decision, it found itself arguing against BFI's attorney along with an attorney from the county in front of an air-quality appeals board consisting of a travel agent and other nonqualified persons. When DWA tried to move the matter into court, it found that it could not get the hearing out of Maricopa County, which itself was a defendant in the action. DWA voluntarily dismissed the case, but its filing the case got the attention of the Environmental Protection Agency. The resulting investigation, along with the EPA's being informed that the nearby suffering community was a low-income, minority community, led to a $125,000 penalty.
Don't Waste Arizona, Inc.
Nowhere does the word of God indicate that we are to look anywhere but to Jesus Christ as our mediator, advocate or intercessor with God ("Marian Theology--Phoenix Style," Terry Greene Sterling, September 4). Encouraging idolatry through worship of porcelain statues, bloody images, yucca stalks, etc., is specifically condemned throughout the Bible, and constitutes one form of "vain worship." Incidentally, my background is nondenominational Bible-study groups, and I would highly recommend that Terry Greene Sterling stay as far away as possible from any "conventional," organized religious denomination (which for the most part are wrapped up in ritual and tradition, or, as Matthew 15:9 and Mark 7:7 put it, "teaching for doctrines the commandments of men") if she ever really wants to know and understand the Bible for herself. There certainly seem to be many dissatisfied former Catholics in the particular group I have associated with for some years.
One last thought: Why would God have chosen to be invisible (Colossians 1:15, 1 Timothy 1:17) if He thought worship of visible images was important?
I was shocked to read letters (September 11 and 18) agreeing with the thoughts of columnist Barry Graham. Being British, I loved Princess Diana and mourned her death, not because I considered her a saint, but because of what she represented. From a young age, she chose to use her position to help others.
Graham says that "if you don't want the paparazzi to bother you, you stop for a few minutes . . ." Where the hell has he been for the last 18 years? Or did he miss the thousands of published pictures she did "stop for"? Did she not have the right for some privacy? It was during those personal moments that she ran. Who wouldn't?
One more thought for those letter writers who say, "So what, get over it": I guarantee that people like Princess Diana, who do great things for underprivileged people, are not thinking, "Hey, what about me? I don't get any credit for all that I do." No--they, too, mourn her death, because these people who give everything they can to others do not seek recognition; they are not selfish.
E. Suzannah Smith
I can understand why Barry Graham would strike out at English royalty. Scots are raised to regard the English as scum and hold them responsible for Scotland's demise as an independent country. This is pretty much true. But Graham's attack on the dead Diana was an uncalled-for excuse for a cheap shot. It's not Diana's fault Graham was born in poverty in a hell-hole city like Glasgow. Diana touched many of us with her genuine goodness. It's royals like her who can truly unite the British Isles.
Andrea Miller (a fellow Scot)
How easy and cowardly it is to slander the dead! Boo to New Times for printing such a trendy and self-serving tirade against someone who deserved to be laid to rest with dignity and honor. I'm not saying we need to buy the myth of "Saint Diana" lock, stock and barrel, but does that really justify calling Diana a media whore?
Graham is obviously a hard-boiled, peeling and pimply cynic of the worst kind--and probably proud of it, too! He also apparently belongs to that group of ne'er-do-wells who believes that the problem of poverty can be solved if only we throw enough money at it. Haven't we learned anything from the failure of the American and British welfare systems to solve the problem in the entire 60-plus years of their existence?
Diana was a lovely, compassionate woman with a lot of class, who managed to maintain her dignity no matter how some people (including the media) tried to pull her down. Her premature death was very sad, indeed. And Graham has sadly missed the point.
I'd like to thank Barry Graham for having the guts to say what no one else will: Mother Teresa was no saint. Graham, however, left out the piece de resistance of Mother Teresa's resume: She staunchly upheld the Catholic Church's antiquated, patriarchal prohibitions against birth control and abortion.
How could a saint witness the misery of thousands upon thousands of people and in good conscience oppose any viable solution to at least some, if not most, of their misery? Was Mother Teresa afraid she might put herself out of a job? Were the egos of the Vatican elite more important to her than the sufferings of the masses?
If Mother Teresa had vocally opposed the Catholic Church's insane, oppressive and woefully outdated mandates, then she would be a saint in my book. But Mother Teresa blew it; bucking the Vatican would have been the "miracle" she could have performed to earn her place among the true saints, whether the Vatican would have recognized her sainthood or not.
Graham's right: We like to deify mediocre (or even evil) people, like Mother Teresa, Princess Diana, Bill Clinton and, locally, Jane Hull and Joe Arpaio. (Even Fife Symington still has worshipers.) The tragic flip side to this is that the true saints among us tend to remain in hiding because they know we'll crucify them.
I do not understand the judgment New Times makes in allowing Barry Graham's columns to run. He is quite offensive and is obviously very angry and full of hatred toward anyone who is in the public eye. It appears that he must attack and resort to name-calling to put forth his message. I find it disgusting that someone who is intent on informing all of us that we are too ignorant to see that people such as Princess Diana and Mother Teresa were human must be so disrespectful and hateful. He has the right to express his opinion, but when it is spewed with such venom, his opinion gets lost, and he loses credibility.
I assure Barry Graham his efforts to demean the good works of Mother Teresa will be in vain. Graham is the "monster" using his "poison pen" column to tear apart what little goodness is left in the world today.
While investigating the 1994 Wells Fargo murder-robbery, Glendale police did not tap Michael Sanders' phone ("Glendale's Witness-Protection Program," Terry Greene Sterling, September 18). However, Glendale police did keep track of all calls made from Sanders' phone for a period of time. They did tap telephone lines of other suspects in the crime. They recorded calls between Timothy Ring, who has been convicted of the crime, and Sanders, who has not been charged. Glendale police recorded no converstations between Sanders and William Ferguson, who is also charged with the crime.
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