The shirt off his back: Thanks so much for finally giving DJ Trackstar and the Center for Recording Arts some press (Brooke Foster, "Young Emcee").
As a teacher I had the privilege of working with Gabe Moskoff at Maplewood/Richmond Heights not long ago. Gabe worked with my toughest-to-reach students, and got through to them. I know my kids were skeptical when Gabe walked through the door, but it took about five seconds for them to see how passionate and knowledgeable he is about hip-hop.
Gabe works his ass off, sleeps like two hours a night and still wants to hang out after a set at Halo. He literally gave one of my students the shirt off his back. Programs like CRA could and should flourish and benefit so many kids if they only had more money and more Trackstars. And he does yoga. Renaissance man if I ever saw one.
Kelli Best-Oliver, St. Louis
News Real, January 11, 2007
The Blairmont bugaboo: As a resident of Old North St. Louis, I want to thank you for Randall Roberts' article on Blairmont Associates, "Phantom of the Hood." One thing the article did not mention is that they purchase not only vacant lots and buildings, but also property that is occupied previous to the sale. I know of at least two and I'm sure there are many more instances where rental-property owners were told that Blairmont would buy their property, but only if it was vacant. So renters have been displaced by Blairmont's practices, and what recently were occupied buildings are now sitting vacant and vulnerable to deterioration, vandalism and fire.
Since the persons behind Blairmont seem to wish to remain in the shadows, I can only hope that they are forced to maintain their buildings and that their dealings will not slow the great amount of rehab and new construction that is happening in our neighborhood and others around the city.
Gloria Bratkowski, St. Louis
Music, January 11, 2007
Mourning on the Mississippi, Take 1: I will always have very fond memories of watching and listening to Big Fun, in particular Ken Krueger. And it would have never happened if not for the historic venue, Mississippi Nights. As Krueger said in Annie Zaleski's "The Nights Goes Dark," Mississippi Nights should be mentioned in the same musical-venue breath as Gaslight Square and other stops such as the Club Imperial.
Keith Schildroth, Florissant
Mourning on the Mississippi, Take 2: Wow, reading that the rumor has come true brings tears to my eyes. It honestly hurts my heart to see that Mississippi Nights is finally being shut down at that location. I have had so many pleasant and positive memories there. I have been attending concerts there since 1992 or 1993 at least. I even had the joy of working there for a little bit about two or three years ago.
Mississippi Nights has the most amazing staff I have ever encountered, both as a concertgoer and as an employee. I am really sad to see this place go, but I am praying that it can open back up at a better location and bring bands back to St. Louis. Because let's admit it, more and more bands are slowly taking St. Louis off of their tour roster.
Airika Neugent, St. Charles
News Real, November 23, 2006
The measure of a Manor: Regarding Ben Westhoff's "Death of a Professor": Many people did not like David Manor. Before I met him, I only knew him by his harsh reputation. He was too demanding, intimidating, stubborn, unapproachable, etc. Even then, there were a good number of students who said that it wasn't as bad as everyone made it out to be: that his class is a lot of work, his exams are impossible, and you probably won't get an A, but you will learn more than you did in any of your other classes combined.
At the beginning of my senior year at Saint Louis University, I went to the Aerospace Engineering department and asked if there were any TA positions available for the lower-level classes and if they were open to undergrads. The only professor that requested a TA for a class I had taken that was still available was Professor Manor, whom I still hadn't met. I decided to go for it despite the looks I got from the department head and the secretary, who seemed to think I was insane. That day I marched into his office and boldly introduced myself as his new TA.
In the next year I was lucky enough to get to know Professor Manor as a boss, a professor, a father figure and a friend. I learned more working for him and failing his classes than I did in any of my other courses at SLU. He challenged everyone to expect more of themselves; it didn't matter if you were his student or the dean. He believed learning meant going beyond the textbook; he bombarded us with information and outside sources while still holding us responsible for what was in the entire textbook. If he was not teaching, he was in his office, and his door was always open. He believed college was about learning more than just equations and airplanes. He tested his students' limits and accepted only typed professional work. Similarly, he tested his coworkers and friends and accepted only well-argued, intelligent responses. He filled our e-mail boxes every day with interesting articles, jokes, movie and book suggestions and held discussion sessions on them if there was anyone who wanted to attend (no, it was not extra credit, it was simply available). He was an incredible resource and his class was what you made of it. Unfortunately most students decide from the beginning that it is impossible, unfair and a living hell.
I didn't know Professor Manor in 1982 (I was born in 1982), so I don't know what [December 21 letter writer] Scott Dort's experience in his class was, but if his teaching method was relatively the same as it was when I knew him in 2003, I can safely assume that Mr. Dort was simply one of many who missed the point and simply grunted and complained about all the work they had to do merely attempting to "get by" in his class. It saddens me to know that a disgruntled Mr. Dort would actually take the time to write a letter about how awful his dead professor was twenty years ago. I wonder if Mr. Dort remembers any of his easy professors. Once again, though, Mr. Dort seems to have missed a key point. Had he read more carefully, he would have realized that Professor Manor was the one to ask for early retirement, but SLU refused.
Professor Manor was more than a great professor, he was a great man. In 2004 when I decided to drop out of school, I e-mailed my drop-out letter to everyone including my professors, one of whom was my advisor and my department head. Professor Manor was the only one from SLU who responded; for all I know he was the only one who read it.
I would not be where I am or who I am today if it weren't for him. He was in fact "a brilliant individual that cared greatly for his students," and I would like to thank Ben Westhoff for his article, which helped to bring me some peace of mind, knowing that some people would get to know him a little better as well as making public the events leading up to his suicide.
Kathleen Moors, New York, New York