Letters to the editor

Will the real shaman please stand up?

I’d like to respond to Cecil Bothwell’s scathing review of 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, the latest work of recent Asheville guest and acclaimed author Daniel Pinchbeck [“Like Kohoutek,” July 19]. With his “been there, done that” attitude, Bothwell dismisses the younger Pinchbeck’s explorations as retro, redundant and juvenile. His completely fabricated description of Pinchbeck’s world-view is exposed by his assertion that the author has decided that “civilization is headed for a cliff and there’s nothing to be done except to tune in and turn on.” Is this a deliberate act of disinformation, or has Bothwell completely misunderstood the complexity of his subject?

Not only is the intellectually stimulating Pinchbeck actively propagating mind-expanding memes and thereby contributing to a fundamental transformation of culture, he is known for his passionate criticism of “the turn on, tune in, drop out” philosophy extolled by the likes of Tim Leary. His first book, Breaking Open the Head, was notably fierce in its rejection of the final phrase of this notorious mantra. Dropping out is clearly not Pinchbeck’s style. Boswell’s revisionism and oversimplification of the psychedelic experience misrepresents the therapeutic potential of the process. What, I wonder, are Bothwell’s own experiences with the shamanic concoction known as ayahuasca? If they are nonexistent, as is obvious, we may as well read his categorical rejection of its therapeutic value as we might a piece by Nancy Reagan or Mr. T. I pity the fool who accords to the rational mind all that there is to know. Exploring the frontiers of reality is a process — not a product. Bothwell may have issues with this book as a product, but I wish he would spare us his misunderstanding of psychedelics and shamanism.

This tendency to write a catchy critique at the expense of substance leaves the reader in a state of embarrassment for what is a conspicuously shallow and transparently soulless review. Given the enthusiastic and overflowing audience at Malaprop’s bookstore for Pinchbeck’s reading, it’s a shame that this egocentric and dismissive review had to serve as Daniel’s introduction to the larger community. Once again, we witness the power of the press, for better or worse.

I personally admire Pinchbeck’s decision to go down the rabbit hole, no matter how twisted and strange. The psychedelic dialogue is being rapidly reopened. The densely networked youth of today will not be satisfied with the zombie-like ignorance of the Reagan era, or the “do it on the natch or not at all” neo-Puritanism of the New Age community. I hope baby boomers like Bothwell will transcend the Nixon-Leary dualism of the ’60s and help ring in a new psychedelic era combining curiosity with caution. Let’s not wait until 2012. Bring on the dancing horses, wherever they may roam.

Comments?: timothink@gmail.com

— Tim Walsh
Asheville

Bothwell responds: Pinchbeck does, in fact, “loop together crop circles, myth, environmental crisis … the Holocaust and Nazism, Stonehenge, the Hopi calendar … and … 9/11″ to create a theory of “everything,” as stated in my review. He did not bother to annotate his book, which is peppered with doubtful assertions. Pinchbeck’s apocalyptic pronouncements exactly mirror my own in 1973 — and for that matter, the end-of-the-world visions reported by most users of hallucinogenic substances through the millennia. I offered no judgment about potential therapeutic utility.

Support banned food

In reference to Stewart David’s letter [“Cut the Fat, Folks,” Aug. 2] warning us that the city of Chicago and Whole Foods Market have decided to ban certain food products (live lobster, live soft-shell crab, foie gras), I will do my part and consume as much as I can of these products at every opportunity, because I despise American company and elected officials acting as my moral watchdogs.

— Brad Kepley
Asheville

Giving away the baby

This letter is in response to “Almost Perfect” written by Mr. Craig Ostrander [Letters, Aug. 2]. I’m sorry to hear that Mr. Ostrander felt he had a bad experience, and that he will not be adopting a kitten from one of the many wonderful organizations that participate in adoption-day events. They are usually overrun with animals needing good homes, and it sounds as if Mr. Ostrander and his girlfriend might have been able to provide such a home. I do, however, have to side with the person who made the decision not to allow them to adopt this particular kitten.

As an employee in a veterinarian’s office, I am familiar with many of the nonprofit groups that foster animals until proper homes can be found. Further, I am well acquainted with some of the people that run such organizations. These people put their hearts and souls into caring for these animals. Many of the animals come to them in terrible physical condition and must be nursed back to health before they can be adopted out to new homes. Naturally the people that make the effort to provide excellent care to these animals want to make sure that they continue to receive excellent care in their new homes. Hence they require references, background information, adoption fees and yes, guarantees from landlords that the potential adopters are allowed to have pets (think about how many animals end up in shelters because their guardian was caught with an “illicit” pet).

It seems the organization did everything it could to facilitate this adoption without compromising their requirements. Mr. Ostrander states that they were willing to “hold” the kitten for them until they could get authorization from their landlord. He also states that he and his girlfriend had been looking for a kitten for almost a year. So why was it a problem to wait a few more days in order to adopt their “perfect kitten”? Finally, I can’t help but add that deceit is never ethical, and it certainly should be no surprise to Mr. Ostrander that his use of it did not endear him to the people from whom he was trying to adopt the kitten.

On a lighter note, I hope that Mr. Ostrander’s negative perception of his experience does not deter people from seeking out these organizations when they decide to adopt their next animal companion. In my opinion, these organizations [comprise] some of the most wonderful, selfless and generous people I could ever know. I thank them and all the people that volunteer their time, finances and love to so many “unwanted” animals. You are an inspiration to all who devote their lives to our furry friends.

— Elizabeth Cook
Leicester

Back to peace and love, OK?

When I wrote my letter to the editor [“Gone to Pot,” July 19], I figured it would offend some people. I admit that a lot of what I said is just an expression of my personal disdain for illegal-drug use and a description of some of its more negative attributes that I have witnessed. I never said that anyone should be incarcerated for anything, however.

Being called a “Jesus freak” is certainly new to me [“Out of Control,” Aug. 9 Letters] and is almost comical, seeing as I haven’t attended church in over 10 years. I happen to be an artist and musician, and many of my heroes use marijuana and other drugs, but it doesn’t make me respect them or their talents any less. My message here is simply to not take too personally some opinion piece that I wrote, because hey, I have many close friends who use marijuana, and they don’t hate me for my views on it. Peace, love, out.

— James P. Anderson
Simpsonville, S.C.

From the halls of Montezuma, to the streets of Asheville

On July 8, I performed on the Haywood Street sidewalk from about 8:40 until 9:45 [p.m.], at which time I was approached by an Asheville police officer who informed me that there had been a noise complaint [and] that I needed to move. He was very nice, and so was I.

I am a former member of “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band in Washington D.C. and a former member of Acoustic Syndicate. I enjoy playing downtown, although I’ve done so only on three occasions. I know what an important job police officers do, so I don’t argue with them.

But there seemed to be some rules of which I was not aware, [so] I went to city hall and was directed to the parks department, then to the city manager’s office, then to the correct office — legal affairs. An attorney for the Asheville police, Kurt Euler, spoke with me and made a photocopy of the Asheville code pertaining to “Performers of Sidewalk Entertainment.” He seemed to come down on the side of our constitutional right of expression, but he, too, suggested that I move to a different spot if there was a complaint and that I try to figure out where the condos are in the downtown area and avoid playing near them. That is not in the code.

What is in the code is that sidewalk entertainment is allowed unless it violates the “prohibitions on disturbing, annoying and unnecessary noise.” The code also states that you must leave 6 feet of sidewalk space for pedestrians. I didn’t know that, but I had chosen the widest sidewalk space for exactly that reason.

“Disturbing, annoying and unnecessary noise” is subjective. I think Glen Miller’s tune “In the Mood” fits [none] of those ideas, and I decreased my volume each time a pedestrian walked by me. Whoever complained about my performance should have checked out downtown before they moved into it. Police officers should judge for themselves whether or not someone is violating the code, instead of acting on every complaint.

I am disturbed and annoyed by the officer and Kurt Euler asking me to move to a different spot and by the lengths to which you have to go to get your hands on the code. Had the person who complained come down and asked me to move, I would have been happy to; I was not trying to disturb anyone. I don’t even know how the place of residence of this nameless, faceless complainer was verified, what with people using cell phones these days. For all I know, it was a passerby who didn’t like the song I was playing.

My rights were violated on behalf of a downtown-condominium dweller by an officer of the law.

— Jeremy Saunders
Asheville

Stretch a bit more

Asheville is promoting the use of public transportation by offering free [bus] fares beginning Aug. 14. Though this is a wonderful start, I think this community could benefit, in terms of public transportation, by extending preexisting bus routes to reach the outskirts of the downtown area. Also, by utilizing employer-reimbursement programs for employees who use public transportation, [available] through government-funding programs and the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century.

And there is a need for more than one bus route to go to A-B Tech’s Asheville campus. As it is, those of us who live on the south side of town have no choice but to drive — or in my case, walk. I don’t mind walking, but the last time I had to take a cab to school, it cost $16 roundtrip.

With all this funding, there is no reason why this city cannot extend bus routes and have another bus route for South Asheville to A-B Tech. Furthermore, I have seen positive results in other cities I have lived in, where the community had the above options. I would like to see this community have the same opportunity.

— Anna Rector
Asheville

Asheville still lacks basics

As a citizen of Asheville who attempts to be a little more conservative when it comes to how much time I spend in my car, I have to say that Asheville is almost an impossible city to do this in.

Asheville is currently trying to obtain a “Clean City” designation, which requires that at least 400 cars in the city’s fleet run on an alternative fuel. Much of the downtown area is also under construction in an attempt to develop more green space. However, in all of Asheville’s attempts to appear environmentally friendly, it still lacks two basic things: sidewalks and bike lanes. Throughout the entire metropolitan area, walking or biking for a long period of time in a place unobstructed by cars is completely impossible.

I currently reside in Oteen and enjoy walking to the local Ingles to do small-grocery shopping, [but] to do this I must not only brave cars flying down Highway 70 at 45 to 55 mph, I also have to deal with mounds of kudzu and broken glass. This is necessary because there is no more than a 50-foot stretch of sidewalk in the two-mile distance between my home and the store.

My husband faces a similar fate whenever he tries to bike around town doing errands. [For each trip] downtown, he can recount at least three instances in which a vehicle attempted to force him off the road. Once he reaches downtown, which in all regards should be much more biker friendly than a restaurant strip, he finds a 70-foot respite in a bike lane that ends in the center of the roundabout at the corner of College and Woodfin streets. The same thing occurs on Broadway where it turns into Riverside Drive, which is ironic, considering that is one of the entrances to UNCA — a university currently undergoing its own “green” renovation.

Cyclists following the Swannanoa River not only [have no] bike lane in most instances, but where a lane does exist, it is often overgrown or strewn with debris such as fallen limbs or broken glass.

Adding to the problems of commuting by bicycle is the issue of parking a bicycle. Throughout the city, there is a very clear lack of places to lock a bike. Cyclists must be resourceful and make do with parking meters or street signs. At Bele Chere — a festival plagued by parking problems for cars — there were no concessions made so that people choosing to commute via bicycle could be accommodated. To make matters worse, bikes were not allowed into the festival area, leaving cyclists with few options to secure their “vehicles.”

As a taxpaying citizen, I understand that the things I am asking for would force an increase in taxes that many are not willing to give into, but I do wonder why a city so bent on becoming more energy efficient is not making more effort to help those willing to get around under their own steam.

— Rhiannon O’Conner
Asheville

A (government) promise is a promise

The critics of Social Security include some very tiresome people who regularly try to spread the scare rumor that in the future, the program won’t have enough money. There are all kinds of numbers going around that show how by the year such-and-such, the program won’t be able to pay recipients what it promised.

Critics of Social Security have been around since the program began in 1936, and maybe — like the stopped clock — these people will finally get it right. But I happen to doubt this day will ever arrive. True, Congress continues to spend (“borrow”) money out of the Social Security Trust Fund with no plan to put money back, so the arithmetic can be made to show that on some future date economists disagree about, the program will be paying out more money than it has taken in.

The examples of why we should relax and worry about something else are all around us, beginning with the current war in Iraq. Apparently, finding the trillions of dollars needed to pay for the war doesn’t worry everybody. Lower taxes will do it, we are told. The people running things seem to believe that the money will be found somewhere later.

If Social Security begins to pay out more than has been put aside, can’t this be made up the same way? Simply run the presses at the Treasury Department a little faster, or sell some bonds to a country that takes in more than it spends.

Social Security is not going to run out of money, no matter what Newt Gingrich says or how many times he says it. The government will meet its financial obligations. As time goes on, my plan is to collect face value for my Series E savings bonds as they mature, just like the government promised when I bought them as a payroll deduction. I’m not worried where they’ll get the money.

— Allen Thomas
Asheville

I’m a fool for you, baby

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

I recently received a full-color, multipage correspondence from Charles Taylor. Actually, every single resident in Rep. Taylor’s district did. I read it and concluded it was normal campaign rhetoric, touting achievements that have benefited Western Carolina residents, highlighting the caring, benevolent man that Rep. Taylor believes himself to be. Although the lack of real information and the carefully selected photo-ops miss the true record, I’ll have to admit it’s a really nicely produced product: great paper stock and glossy photos, well thought out — overall an impressive and costly mailing. But this is actually classified as correspondence to keep the constituents informed and thus, as noted in fine print, fully taxpayer funded.

I find it very poignant that on this mailing, “we” (yes, it’s our money and our representative) will spend as much taxpayer money as some of the earmark spending being touted in the mailing — a point I hope will not be missed by all that this mailing reaches. But Taylor might be right, as previous elections have shown us to be so ignorant of the facts and reality that we are more persuaded by fear and 15-second sound bites. In this case, the fact remains that the very same tax money paid by each of us through our toil and sweat is being used for a poorly concealed campaign flyer. What we do with the facts this coming election has yet to be seen.

— Mike Birkle
Arden

Two for the vote of one

I am troubled that our District 11 representative in Washington does not represent my views or values. Letters to him elicit his party’s line in return, making my issue unimportant and the administration’s agenda topmost. We deserve better than a rubber-stamp Republican as our congressman.

This year, we have Democrat Heath Shuler facing Charles Taylor. For all that I read about Shuler, he might be more in alignment on some issues with Taylor than with Asheville citizens. As a result, those I speak with are hard-pressed to vote for Shuler on Nov. 7.

While I am also not in agreement with Mr. Shuler on crucial issues, in the big picture, this election is not about him. There are a number of seats held by Republicans in the House that are being challenged. Our district may well be one of those contested seats that could be overturned, because many of us are disgruntled with Taylor. If we are able to turn the vote around, and Democrats rule the House, Nancy Pelosi could become the next speaker of the House, with the power to determine which bills reach the floor. She would work to get intelligent legislation passed that would be reflective of what Americans want to see happen in our country and abroad.

Because it is controlled by the extreme right wing of the Republican party, the record of our current Congress has been abysmal on women’s rights, the environment and global warming, the war in Iraq, oil dependency and countless other issues affecting the future of our country and our grandchildren’s children. If the Democrats take the House and Pelosi becomes speaker, that record can and will be reversed.

Some believe that Democrats are no better than Republicans, or that what we need is a third party. This is not the year in which we can afford to ideologically split the vote and come up short. Not voting is a vote for the incumbent and carte blanche for the president’s dangerous platforms. If we send Shuler to the House, as a freshman he will be pressured to vote with his fellow Democrats on issues that are significant to us. And if he doesn’t, we will work tirelessly to replace him in two years with someone who will.

Nationally the outcome may be very close, but the contest here in our district can be won if we all turn out to vote on Nov. 7, and vote for Shuler. His win could shift the balance of power in the House. Pelosi, as speaker, would stand up to Bush, and we could be optimistic with her leadership.

That is why on Nov. 7, I will cast my vote for Nancy Pelosi by voting for Democrat Shuler. Please do not abstain, and vote for change.

— A. Shebar
Asheville

Counting the ways and means

You can tell a lot about politicians by their record. And “Chainsaw” Charlie Taylor has a heck of a record. Let’s take a look, shall we?

According to GOPAuctionhouse.org, Chainsaw Charlie voted against cracking down on price gouging by oil companies. Voted to strip overtime protection from millions of workers. Voted for the GOP drug-prescription plan that gave billions to the health-care industry. They in return gave Taylor $42,562.

Chainsaw Charlie took $6,130 from Tom DeLay’s ARMPAC and $2,250 from the corrupt Jack Abramoff. Chainsaw Charlie also voted with Tom DeLay 91 percent of the time. He voted to continue awarding contracts to Halliburton. Halliburton gave Chainsaw $2,500. And finally, Chainsaw Charlie voted for a massive sell-off of public lands for mining interests. This is a short list of the voting record of Taylor.

This November is one of the most important elections in years, and we need to send Charlie a-packing with his chainsaw, for the good of our state.

— Jeff Walker
Black Mountain

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