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Week of November 1, 2000


This Won't Fly
TWA management needs to get serious: I have worked for TWA for 32 years. Your article is right on the money, and as long as TWA continues to operate with the middle management that has been in place for a long time, nothing will change [Safir Ahmed, "Blood on the Tarmac," RFT, Oct. 18]. Someday, maybe someone will get serious about running the airline, but I don't think I will be there to see that happen.

Name withheld on request

Thanks, But No Thanks
Cannabis fans don't appreciate stereotyping: A few weeks ago, we submitted a notice for "MO' NORML 2000" state conference to the "Calendar" section, and you featured the event with a big cartoon graphic ["Night & Day," RFT, Oct. 18].

Seems we would be grateful for the exposure, but reconsider the image projected in that cartoon -- three blitzed-out, bleary-eyed, drippy-nosed, postpubescent hippy-dippy geekers, with all the trippy trappings of the cheap media stereotype.

Sorry, but "stoned street punks" are not what St. Louis NORML is about, and the RFT has sold us all short on the real issues of cannabis prohibition:

· The systematic attack on civil rights under color of anti-drug laws.

· The seriously ill patients denied medical marijuana and prosecuted for trying to heal.

· The subversion of hemp as a renewable, sustainable resource for farms and industries.

· The inquisition against people who choose to run their own minds.

If these tough issues don't lend themselves easily to cutesy condescending glyphs, too bad. It's about time journalists started paying attention to the real stories under their noses. Have you observed what goes on at those police roadblocks?

It would be fair to demand substantial reportage that gets to the facts and issues. At least, we should count on the progressive press to refrain from self-indulgent sardonics and lame caricatures that miscast NORML's mission, and distract public discourse on these serious questions of public policy.

Scottie Addison
Volunteer, St. Louis NORML

The Fix Is In

But he's got a better idea (or five): So the RFT has changed its format. How much better it would have been to have changed the following instead:

· Dump Ray Hartmann in favor of a more objective editorial writer. His constant bias serves to drive too many fence-sitters to the other side.

· Drop your obvious policy of running totally uncomplimentary photographs of those you don't like and then showing off your friends in truly glamorous poses.

· Replenish your staff writers with less bleeding-heart types (sorry, Jeannette Batz).

· Send your political cartoonists packing, since they only besmirch your paper and no one takes them seriously anyway.

· Eradicate the sleazy advertising from your paper once and for all.

Implementing one or all of the above would have been far superior to changing your format, and you would have had the additional dividend of putting out a paper of which you could be proud.

Richard H. Gerding

An explanation would have been nice: Perhaps we could accept the loss of "News of the Weird" if you would explain why you are doing it. I really have enjoyed it and do wonder why you have to eliminate it.

Mary Garrett
St. Peters

I can live without you: You just don't get it, do you? When you got a hue and cry for dropping "News of the Weird" the first time, you proclaimed, "We heard you, we heard you.' Now we learn that the time limit on listening to the customers at the RFT is about 15 months.

You don't get it. "Weird" was the gateway to the rest of your product. I'd never know whether your long story or short one(s) would interest me. Sometimes Ray would be readable, and other times he'd be predictably polemical. The arts, entertainment, restaurants and the rest would be hit-or-miss, too. But usually there would be a couple or more in the mix, once I took it home.

The two reasons I picked up the RFT at all were "Weird" and "This Modern World." Now, without "Weird," I can just read the cartoon and set the paper back down. With "Weird," I always took it home and then read through, seeing lots of ads along the way.

I'll give you credit for one improvement over the last banishment. Instead of the Stalinist method of dropping it without notice and expecting everyone to fall in line without a murmur, you did us the vast improvement of letting editor Safir Ahmed insult us. Apparently you think it's only the unwashed trailer trash who appreciated the column. Why else the undisguised condescension?

The bottom line is that the RFT is no longer a compelling pickup, or even an enticing one, even at no cost. I can fill the void and live without you. I won't agonize, and I can accept the reality, Mr. Ahmed. Anyway, it's just a matter of a few more pounds of paper per month in the landfills instead of the recyclables.


Dan Counts
Granite City, Ill.

A mystery to me: The only reason I ever picked up an RFT was to read "News of the Weird." So I'll never know if you print this letter or not.

Al Mount
Antonia, Mo.

Just fattening the bottom line: The design's fine. The loss of "Life in Hell," Mike Peters' editorial cartoon and "News of the Weird" saddens me -- no one else will run "Life in Hell" or Mike Peters cartoons. Obviously, dropping these items is done to fatten your miserable bottom line. Over the years your newspaper has become less an alternative "dig up the dirt and fling it" publication and more of a "let me entertain you and here's where the entertainment is" magazine. Now you are beginning to dilute the entertainment value. Soon there won't be any reason to bend over and pick up your rag off our office lobby.

Greg White
Edwardsville, Ill.

You're no better than the Post now: Congratulations on turning the RFT into a supplementary insert of the Post-Dispatch. What a horrible new look you have given to our beloved newsweekly. If you want the RFT to be more "reader-friendly," change it back to the original format. The old RFT was great -- a true urban alternative weekly. Now it has degraded into a mainstream formula publication offering nothing that "Get Out" doesn't.

You have not only ruined the foremost cultural source in St. Louis, you have taken a chunk of St. Louis' soul with it. The RFT no longer exists. It has been replaced by a frivolous imposter that undermines the very essence of its foundation. Your restructuring of the RFT into a "McPaper" was successful in one respect: It lost a faithful reader.

Jeff Vines
Creve Coeur

I'd pay for no sex ads: For some time I have been turned off by the sexually explicit advertisements, which seem to be the bread-and-butter of your magazine, based on the space these ads take up. I am referring to the "barely legal coeds" and "horny housewives" variety.

I truly appreciate so much of this local magazine: the arts and dining coverage, the liberal edge I feel is the backbone of this magazine and the investigative boldness of the journalists. I have noticed, though, that I don't have the tendency to pick it off the stand as of late, and I know it relates to my feeling that the sex industry is paying for the magazine on the whole.

I was interested to see the new look of the Riverfront Times and found myself going directly in the back to see if the magazine decided to seek out different sponsors along with its new, more serious image and initially felt hopeful to see the ads were not in the back ... but then I turned through the entire magazine and there were the "naughty local girls" more to the middle. I understand that advertisements pay the bills, but I would be willing to pay for this important local magazine without the sex ads.

Gwen Bueckendorf
St. Louis

A Peach of a Paper
The best read in Georgia: I just wanted to thank you all. I just moved down to Savannah, Ga., and while we have the local so-called hip magazine, nothing compares to the RFT. I'm so glad I can read it off the Internet, because it's expensive mailing it from St. Louis every week.

Misty Clark
via the Internet

Dead Man Running
The late gov was the real deal: Mel Carnahan was truly a great man [Ray Hartmann, "Golden Heart," RFT, Oct. 18]. He was a rare breed of man that is so seldom seen in politics today. The loss of Mel Carnahan was a great loss for our state and our country.

I feel very fortunate to have met Mel during the filming of a campaign commercial at my house. I had seen him in public a few times, but it was in my own backyard that I truly got to talk to the man and got my first real sense of what he was like as a person. He was the real deal. The genuine article. Hey, he was like me! I think that's how a lot of people felt when meeting Mel. When he spoke, he focused on me -- not the wall, not his shoe, not the influential campaign contributor across the room -- but me. What I saw was what I was going to get when I went to the polls.

I still intend to cast my vote for Mel Carnahan. It will be much more than a symbolic gesture. I hope very much that Carnahan wins, so that whomever Gov. Wilson appoints to represent Missouri and the Democratic Party in the U.S. Senate can help move our state forward, not backward, and to at least be a moderating influence to the wave of conservatism that seems to be percolating up from trouble-free Midwest suburbia and crowding out the liberal-minded Missourian.

Andy Knudsen

Reviewer seems disconnected from reality: Recently I was in St. Louis for a class reunion and was invited to dine at a trendy new restaurant, the Park Avenue Bistro. The food was excellent; the setting, while not elaborate, was attractive and immaculate, with pleasant and attentive service.

On the same day, a review of the restaurant appeared in your paper. I could hardly believe we were talking about the same place. She criticized everything: the food, the décor, the prices, the restroom facilities and the neighborhood and even made some slanderous remarks about canned ingredients. Succeeding in the restaurant business is tough enough without her rancid comments. Perhaps Ms. Martin should try a meal in San Francisco, where the price of parking the car is about the same as having crab cakes at the Bistro.

This lady needs to lighten up.

Jane Irvine
Concord, Calif.

Unfair knock on our neighborhood: I was astounded by Melissa Martin's article "Walk in the Park." Her title is misleading, as it appears she drove through the area and did not partake in a walk through the park or anywhere in the area. The "eerily handsome" and "soulless mansion" would not seem to encourage such a walk.

As a resident of the area for 15 years, I find it not only a pleasant place to walk but for my sons to play and the whole family to eat at several nice restaurants. I have been very pleased with Dana Ruben's Park Avenue Bistro. We have had excellent food and service. Ms. Martin's remarks about malfunctioning tiki torches, soggy-cornflakelike fish and the women's restroom were at best gratuitous, if not plain nasty.

Tricia Woo
St. Louis

Blind Faith
Careful questioning will prevent the next Heaven's Gate: Kudos for the finely written article on Chris Hummel [Jeannette Batz, "Playing with Fire," RFT, Oct. 18]. Full of sensitivity, carefully shaped and crafted with real human interest, the article also told the truth. None of us is exempt from careful discernment -- above all in religious matters, because religion grasps us to the depths of our souls.

Don't be discouraged by those who think that something on religion cannot be critical. If we'd been a bit more questioning, maybe we could have avoided Waco, Jonestown or Heaven's Gate.

Carla Mae
St. Louis

No happy ending: "What a sad, sad story" is all one can say after reading the article about Chris Hummel. When will people separate a desire for a spiritual connection to a god, goddess, creator or whatever you'd like to call it from the inherent dangers of blindly following organized religions? These religions were developed thousands of years ago, when humans had little or no concept of medicine or science. Organized religion has fought for countless centuries to suppress our understanding of the universe.

Hummel dedicated the last part of his life to the pursuit of a religious philosophy that claims to trace back to not only the son of a god himself and itself in the form of a holy ghost. That's not just one male deity you should pay homage to but three. Confusing, but not for true believers. They seem to glaze right over the fact that the entire religion is biased, starting off in Genesis, in which the fall of man is blamed on a woman. But it didn't stop there -- by saying man is better than woman, it went on to state that man is above all creatures on Earth, a fact that resurfaces many times -- for example, in Noah's ark, when it's up to a man to save the entire world of animal species because God is mad at us.

These stories seem like great poetry or allegorical fairytales and at first appear harmless, yet blame is being placed at all times on other ancient cultures, all in the name of a god. These people who helped shape Christianity all claimed that the creator of the universe was their messenger. Yet if God was looking down and helping them, how come "he" didn't know the world was round instead of flat? How come he didn't know that the world spins around the sun and not the other way around? Why didn't he know that Earth was not located in the center of the universe but in the suburbs of a galaxy we call the Milky Way? How come he didn't know that the dinosaurs ruled the earth before us? Many questions, no real answers.

In the year 2000, there was another trusting human named Chris Hummel. With all of our world's knowledge available to him, he instead chose to believe in a visionary named Pastor Rick Shelton.

What a sad, sad story.

Bill Lodderhose
St. Louis

So, Who's Snoopy?
Good grief! You guys should be worried: Really! First the Riverfront Times doesn't mention the presidential debate in issues 41 and 42, and then there is D.J. Wilson's poor excuse of a commentary in issue 43 ["The Big Turn-Off," RFT, Oct. 25]. Come on! Richard Gephardt is not Howdy Doody. Ted Koppel is Howdy Doody (maybe Alfred E. Neuman, too). Dick Gephardt is Charlie Brown. Get it right! This is serious politics!

Jane L. Anton

Look for the Union Libel
Other folks are licensed, so why not us? The cover story about the Pipefitters union was in poor taste and even personally offensive [Peter Downs, "Pipe Schemes," RFT, Oct. 11]. A co-worker and I went to lunch, and he read parts of the article to me. While one may very well find some humor in the story, I found it disturbing to a level not seen in many years, not since the days when the St. Louis Globe-Democrat was printing stories about the actions or perceived actions of the one great labor union local here in St. Louis.

My great-grandfather came to America and founded a welding company that employed many boilermakers. For some time, the Boiler Makers Local Union 27 and its affiliates have licensed and certified welders. I have friends who are licensed electricians. The plumbing industry has licensed installers; our public-transit system in St. Louis employs licensed drivers.

So now the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562 has found it desirable to license the installation (of commercial heating and air-conditioning) systems. Our leadership has worked tirelessly to bring this issue to the table for discussion. The leadership and all our members have been blocked at every pass on this issue, so imagine my disappointment with the Riverfront Times for printing such a biased and even vengeful article.

Patrick H. Dooley
St. Louis

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