Letters to the editor

Reality pales by Hanke’s comparison

I wanted to take a moment to express my appreciation for the work of Ken Hanke, and to make sure you understand what a treasure you have in this man. I am not a rabid movie fan. At least, not of current films, although like most cinema buffs, I have great affection for the year 1939. I am, however, a devoted movie-review reader, for reasons I am not sure that I fully understand. In part, I believe it stems from the fact that in our modern, politically correct, nothing-is-what-it-seems world, the movie-review column is one place where writers still feel free to let their hair down and tell you what they really think, with no agenda and no incentive.

Having been a devoted reader of Roger Ebert for years, I was tipped off to Mr. Hanke’s column by a good friend of mine. I have to say, with all sympathy for Mr. Ebert’s recent health problems, that I have found in the last year or so that he seems to have lost his edge. Whether the [result] of age, celebrity, corporate pressures or just plain ill health, he seems to be pretty content just to give almost everything three stars these days. Not so, Ken Hanke, whose feisty reviews are delightfully full of P&V (as Wodehouse would say). His review of Mission Impossible III, for instance, was not only a joy to read, but hit the nail right on the head. All of those movies have been ridiculous, but for some reason, after seeing MI3, I was left with a vague feeling of dissatisfaction, which Mr. Hanke was able to define with precision. I can tell you, I enjoyed Ken Hanke’s review of this movie more than the actual movie. The filmmakers could have taken a needed lesson from the structure and talent evident in a well-crafted piece of writing.

I must confess, however, that I most enjoy Mr. Hanke’s reviews of movies that I will never see. I mean the stinkers. His review of R.V. was a sorely needed indictment of the entire cookie-cutter comedy-movie machine in Hollywood. I am sure that the opening paragraph for his review of Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties was much funnier than anything in the actual movie. His review of You, Me and Dupree was sheer comedic genius.

So thank you, Mr. Hanke, for sitting through the worst of the worst so we don’t have to. Thank you for dredging entertainment out of the dregs of the film industry. Your column puts a smile on my face. Your howling indictments of Hollywood’s crapfest are a refreshing breath of honesty in a world of politically correct talking heads. Bravo.

— Steve Shumate
Greenville, S.C.

How do we have the nerve?

On Aug. 3 at 7 p.m., in Moore Auditorium in Mars Hill, a hearing has been granted by the North Carolina Division of Water Quality for a proposed sewage-treatment plant on Puncheon Fork Creek. It would dump — daily — 300,000 gallons of treated sewage into a delicate body of water.

It astonishes me, and it should astonish you, that hundreds of citizens of Madison County find it necessary to discuss whether it is OK to dump water that has been defecated in, into a pristine stream. This is astonishing, humiliating and heartbreaking.

How do we have the nerve to tell our children, our beautiful shining ones, that our creative-thinking capacity is so collectively dull that our most creative solution for a shrinking economy is to sell off farmland and homes to radical developers who freely admit that this is their best plan?

This is the warning sign of a failed system. And it’s blinking red. For the second time in six months, the actions B&E Ventures have elicited a dramatic response. Pay close attention. Something’s happening here.

Worldwide, water is the next resource [that] wars will be fought over. Who would willingly allow their most precious element to be sold to profiteers? There is no reasonable explanation for it. It’s not OK to defecate in water, treat it, and put that water into a stream. That is not OK. That is a radical act, a desperate act, and it is not OK.

If state and county officials would not be willing to drink water directly from that sewage pipe, then in good conscience, they must vote no on this permit.

— Krystina Crimi
Mars Hill

Distracting decoys of diversity

In the July 26 issue of Mountain Xpress, Ms. Edna Campos offers various criticisms of my approach to raising illegal-immigration concerns and solutions. Three pages later in the same issue, your staff articulates my first illegal immigration presentation to Asheville’s City Council, where I addressed essentially all of the things that Ms. Campos calls me to task for not doing.

In fact, it would seem that we share a piece or two of common ground. What we do not share is the value of artificial claims of racism, continued investment in paralyzing rhetoric over action, spinning the facts, and minimizing arguments by attempting to minimize those with opposing views. These approaches serve as distracting decoys from the two core issues I am attempting to address: people who illegally cross our borders and people who illegally employee them. I’m not a duck; nor, I bet, are most of your readers.

We live in a culture that speaks diversity of race and creed at the same time it comfortably attacks diversity of thought and perspective. We can find a thousand justifications for making laws and follow up with a thousand reasons to not authentically enforce those laws. We can turn about any principle or issue into shades of gray, failing to recognize that this is the transitional color to darkness versus the light of day. It would be my further suggestion, in follow-up to the commentary offered by Ms. Campos, that we reside in a time where fear mongering and self-serving agendas come to us in many guises.

— Carl Mumpower
Asheville City Council

The man called Clyde

This is a letter of thanks to the Mountain Xpress for printing “The Legacy of a Quiet Life” in your commentary section. I am a casual reader of your paper, but the week of July 5 piqued my interest. As I was flipping through, the story by Mark Jamison caught my eye. I realized he was writing about my Uncle Clyde, who passed away last summer.

The story was my uncle to a tee. I called my mother and told her to pick up a copy. She probably picked up a dozen or so. She cried through the entire piece. She was so touched that she called Mark at the Webster post office to thank him.

All of the Sitton family has read and most have a copy of the story. Mark spent this past Saturday at my grandmother’s house with our family, celebrating my grandmother’s birthday.

Uncle Clyde was a simple man who will be missed by his family. Thanks again from the family of Clyde Sitton.

— Doug Taylor

Make a joyful noise

I love Asheville. I love the sights and sounds. I love the people here. I love the conversations I have here, especially my typical Friday-night conversation. Through the course of the evening, I am talking with anywhere from four to 40 people, all at the same time! Our conversation ranges from soft, sweet and somber to loud and ecstatic. Even though there are 40 of us speaking at once, we are doing so as an ensemble. We are all a part of the whole, and it works. So well, in fact, that several hundred people come to Pritchard Park to witness it on any given fair-weather Friday night. We speak not so much with our voices but with our instruments, with names as ancient, unique and rich as the cultures they come from. We play bougarbous, shekeres, dundunbas, kenkenis, sangbans, ksink ksinks, doumbeks, ashikos and djembes, to name a few. This wonderful conversation is our drum circle.

Of all the times I’ve said, “I love Asheville,” most of them have been while I was at our Friday-night community-drum circle. There are such peak moments there, when the drummers are deep in a groove and the circular dance area is packed with dancers all gyrating to the beat in unison. Kids of all ages are playing and having fun. We are all in it together, all with our part, sharing a deep connection. The Park is festooned with onlookers, who are taking this spectacle all in. Some of them are seeing this sort of event for the first time, and some are getting hooked by this primal expression of humanity. It’s celebration at its root. People have moved here because of the drum circle.

All of the support for the circle and its continuance has been heartwarming, in the aftermath of a few noise complaints that had a police officer shut down the circle a couple of Fridays ago. I’ve received this support from the police captain, the director of Asheville Parks and Rec., City Council members, residents that border the park and many of the participants, all wanting to know what they can do to help. The situation is progressing towards mediation between the drummers and those that don’t like the noise. It’s all been a wonderful, gracious and smooth journey. It has stimulated juicy dialogue within the drum community as to who we are and what we envision our circle being. I’m very grateful to live in such a fine city.

— (Mr.) Sunny Keach

Buyers beware

I’ve lived in downtown Asheville most of the time since 1997. Sometimes my 3- and 6-year-old children and I dance on the lawn in front of our house; most of the time we walk [a few] blocks to Pritchard Park to see our drum-friends, share smiles with strangers and have a wonderful free dance in the open air with many other people who are all happy. The drum circle is part of the weekly cycle of being more than just a tourist in Asheville. My friends and I have often joked that you are a tourist when you come and watch the Friday night drum circle, a newbie when you come to dance and a member of the community when you begin to drum.

Let us not forget that this drum circle has been going on for over five years in Pritchard Park. It is a beautiful gathering of the variety of elements that makes our community. It’s this fusion of characters that creates the spirit that is so attractive to visitors.

As owners of property, we can control who we let into our condos and what art we choose to hang on our walls, but a public park is public, so the community can regulate itself and decide what is and is not appropriate in said public place. The fact that this public gathering, open to all facets of our community (visitors and [longtimers] alike) has gone on for so long shows that the drum circle does pass the societal approval test. Our greater community embraces it.

So before you buy in downtown, for your own sake: Remember, downtowns are noisy, lively places. If you want quiet, advise your realtor and buy your own private land away from the public gathering spaces that will command daily use in a variety of ways — from the preachers with soapboxes to the drummers who drum.

— Rupa Russell

When do we reappraise reappraisals?

All Buncombe County property owners recently had their properties reappraised for tax purposes. This process is done every four years. However, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a law that requires the reappraisal to be done at least every eight years. So why are we reappraised every four years?

This doesn’t even need to be done every eight years. Why not do as some states: Reappraise only when the property is sold.

Let’s contact our county commissioners and our state representatives to change this law.

— Rick Semmens

Almost perfect

Recently, my girlfriend and I went to a local pet adoption day. We’ve been looking for a kitten for close to a year and thought this would be a great cause to support.

With my mom in tow, we were among the first arrivals that morning, [with] time to look over all of the kittens as they showed up. Now, we have two dogs at home and a pet squirrel that comes around for peanuts each and every evening like clockwork. We are 43 and 35 years old and are responsible adults who take care of each and every obligation we have. Looking for the Perfect Kitten is something we take very seriously.

Moving from cage to cage for two hours, we finally agreed on a black kitty. After bonding with it for 30 minutes, we agreed that this was the kitty for us, so I went shopping for supplies while my girlfriend finished the paperwork.

When I returned, my girlfriend was in a panic. She had to contact our landlord for her permission to take this kitty home. We left messages and stood around feeling alienated as we waited for a return call. They told us if we paid the $85 adoption fee, they would hold the kitty, [but] by this point we were hot, grumpy and not sure if our landlords were even in town.

In desperation, I gave my sweet mother the [adoption] phone number and asked her to call them. Here we are — three grown adults, and I am asking my mother to call and OK us adopting a kitten. Mistake! They caught her in the act. We were now branded as unfit adopters … our hours of time down the tube as they made us feel like lowlifes and told us the kitty would not be going home with us!

I would consider a couple who spent four hours looking at kittens, willing to pay $85 and ready to give one of hundreds of kittens a safe, nurturing home, a very successful adoption! Too bad that was not the case for the kitten we had to leave behind that day.

After all of this, I think I will save my $85 and take to the streets and the newspaper.

— Craig Ostrander (and Brooke Burton)

Law enforcement?

Thank you, Mountain Xpress, for investigating the city’s overlooked violations and “creative” interpretations of the law regarding numerous development projects [“The (Non)Enforcers,” July 12]. If you want to see a short video of what I’ve gone through, go to: www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCogmnxJuV4.

City Council has been involved with the Greenlife case for a long time now. I’m told that Council directed city attorney Bob Oast to write the rebuttal of urban planner Joe Minicozzi’s analysis of the Greenlife situation. It would be good to know when Council held that meeting and what took place, because it wasn’t done in public, and there are no minutes (best that I know).

Who directed Oast and the chief of police to write the letter to me where they contradicted standing law, by stating that they weren’t going to enforce the law on my street? We brought the information to Council on Aug. 16, 2005, and they have yet to retract or correct the policy created by staff.

By law, any member of Council can step up and demand that our laws be enforced. They all took an oath of office to uphold our laws. The noncompliance is pretty easy for any regular person on the street to see, and the Xpress article did a good job at explaining the details. The ball is in any Council person’s hands. Council should move to act to correct to these structures: Greenlife, Staples and Prudential.

Council could have dealt with Greenlife back in September 2005, but instead we got a ridiculous defense two months later from Bob Oast, at Council’s direction. The laws are clear, and citizens need to first insist on a transparent public hearing of facts. If staff has operated in error or deliberately misled the public, Council’s duty is to remedy that.

Thanks again.

— Reid Thompson

Cut the fat, folks

Whole Foods Market, the world’s leading retailer of natural and organic foods, recently announced that it will no longer sell live lobster or live soft-shell crab. In April, the city of Chicago banned the sale of foie gras. (French for “fatty liver,” this product is the artificially fattened livers of ducks and geese.) Both decisions were made for ethical reasons. It’s great to see an American company and elected officials putting moral considerations ahead of profit, tradition and taste buds.

Last fall, I wrote four Asheville restaurants that I knew to be serving foie gras, asking them to remove this cruel product from their menus and pledge to never sell it again. I’m pleased to say that one is no longer serving foie gras. A second restaurant told me they had taken it off their menu, but they then started selling it again. The other two restaurants ignored my multiple requests and continue to sell foie gras.

Forty-eight of Chicago’s aldermen voted in favor of [that city’s] ban. Only one was opposed. To see why the vote was so overwhelming, watch the same short video they viewed. It’s narrated by Roger Moore and available at www.stopforcefeeding.com. If you are disgusted by what you see, tell any restaurants [serving foie gras] that you’ll dine elsewhere until they pledge never to sell it. And ask the mayor and City Council to watch the video and join progressive politicians worldwide by passing a ban. Over a dozen countries have done so.

How we treat animals says a lot about who we are as a society. We all draw the line somewhere. Those who sell and eat foie gras argue that this is about choice. I agree. We can choose cruelty, or we can choose compassion; it’s really that simple. This isn’t about animal rights, it’s about human decency.

— Stewart David


In our July 26 edition’s Smart Bets, the image “Africa” from the Mountain Sculptors Show ran with no attribution. The piece was done by Fred Guggenheim, who won Best in Show for this work.

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