Coming clean: This story was incredible ["Rapping on Heaven's Door," by Michael Serazio, December 23]. There is finally something better in hip-hop to report, and you guys reported it.
It seems that Christian topics get avoided because of their controversial ways, but this one was definitely necessary and noncontroversial. I mean, who could argue with a story about a Christian rapper who cleans out his closet for the world to see, in order to help others?
And the topic also gave me some knowledge about Christian hip-hop that I did not have.
Weary Grand Dame
The great indoors Dome: News from "Dome of Doom" [by Richard Connelly, December 23] isn't too surprising. Why would anyone think that in this love-'em-and-leave-'em society this city or its visitors would desire the services of our beloved yet crusty Astrodome? I sadly await (with boyish curiosity) the day when Mr. Dokell gets a chance to display his handicraft (blowing things up).
Judge Eckels's desire for creative folks from Europe or Asia to rescue the Dome is really more telling of our forward-thinking capabilities (or lack thereof). Too bad Eckels wouldn't also like to search there to find a solution to our traffic woes. Hey, Judge, maybe we could make the Dome a "grand central station" of a mass rail transit system for the entire Gulf Coast region? But maybe he's right; perhaps we are too dumb for our own good. It's a surprise we were even able to build the thing in the first place.
I grew up going to Astros games and rodeos in the Dome and hated to see Minute Maid Park and Reliant Stadium replace it, but now that they're here, I can't say I miss the Dome much anymore. It doesn't seem to hold its 1960s' grandeur anymore. I'll always remember as a kid trying to be the first one in the car to spot the Dome en route to an Astros game. Now it's like seeing a Dukes of Hazzard rerun and realizing Daisy Duke isn't anywhere near as hot as we remember her to be.
I guess we Houstonians can't be expected to generate any novel, yet financially viable, options for the Dome. Yet how cool would it be to make the self-titled Eighth Wonder of the World home to the world's largest indoor rock-climbing facility, complete with an indoor river for kayaking or rafting? If we can't have the great outdoors in Houston, why can't we be pioneers for the great indoors? Of course, there'd be legal issues with the real Great Indoors. Maybe they could buy the naming rights.
Hook patterns: Let's see: Astrodome -- Harris County's Best Big Whorehouse? No, it still wouldn't outrank Houston city government, Harris County government or (blow me down) HISD.
Name withheld by request
KBR mercenaries: Wonderful report on the life of a KBR employee ["Gambling on Iraq," by Michael Serazio, December 2]. I, too, have been contemplating working in Iraq as an HVAC technician. But the violence there is far too great of a gamble for me.
It would be interesting to see what the recruiters get for signing on and sending a person to Iraq. What is the price they get for each "head," as I have called them "headhunters" for some time now? It would be, I feel, a good way to show the applicants that they are just dollar signs to the recruiters.
Dumb priorities: We celebrate high school sports and completely ignore academic achievement ["What Price Glory?" by Michael Serazio, December 16]. And we get what we ask for.
Will Fitzhugh, founder
The Concord Review
National Writing Board
Learning or Luring?
Scientology scheme: Thanks for Craig Malisow's excellent article on the latest attempt to get Scientology ideas into public schools ["Between the Lines," December 16].
Any L. Ron Hubbard-based reading program should be avoided, because it contradicts what science tells us about learning. Take Hubbard's "misunderstood." There's nothing wrong with encouraging kids to look up words in a dictionary, but Hubbard's extreme teachings claim "misunderstoods" make you feel sleepy or "spinny" or "squashed." That's nonsense. Dozens of peer-reviewed studies tell us that readers learn words from context as well, which Scientology forbids.
Scientology teachings are pseudo- science. They are contradicted by real research, leaving them a basis of faith only, which does not belong in public schools.
Equally disturbing is the attempt to hide Scientology's ties with Applied Scholastics. Applied Scholastics appears in the official "What Is Scientology?" book and on information panels in Scientology churches. It is part and parcel of Scientology.
Norman says Scientology draws criticism because it's misunderstood or unconventional. In fact, people criticize Scientology because it's deceptive, destructive and dangerous.
L. Ron's reading magic: Craig Malisow's article about Hubbard's study technology was a seesaw ride between pretended objectivity and explosions of fear and prejudice toward a new religion.
The study technology L. Ron Hubbard developed worked magic when my son was deeply confused about complex fractions. After two weeks of coaching with study technology, he came bounding off the steps of the study center hollering, "Daddy, I love fractions!"
So it seems non sequitur to me when educated people assert that because a man who founded a religion also later codified smart ways to study, Houston's children must be shielded from such self-improvement.
If Martin Luther had designed a better plowshare, would our government deny subsidies to farmers who used it? Suppose a pope discovered shortcuts to long division. I can hear it now: "Go to the office, Susie. We caught you doing Catholic math!"
Malisow purposefully oversimplifies the study technology. Supervisors can go through months of courses learning how to spot and diagnose short- and long-term study problems, address and relieve each one, rebuild good study habits, foster conceptual understanding of school materials, then ensure practical application of what's learned.
But dictionaries are employed. If we all look up the word "religion," we'll find it has nothing to do with the methods one uses to successfully learn and apply geography, auto mechanics or complex fractions.
Jon E. von Gunten
Scientology Parishioners League
Critic of the creed: Many thanks to Craig Malisow for getting the truth out about Scientology. Scientologists say they are about world peace and no drugs, but they are really about expensive auditing to rid your soul of body thetans (aliens).
Celebrities like Tom Cruise are treated differently in Scientology and do not know the true inner workings of $cientology. Scientologists receive tax deductions for their courses and auditing. Scientology's Fair Game policy allows Scientologists to attack critics, so please do not print my name.
Scientology members must disconnect from family members who criticize Scientology. Again, thank you, Craig Malisow, for your article; you may have saved someone out there from a life of Scientology ruin.
Name withheld by request
Modest salaries: I find this article offensive and inaccurate. I myself have read books by L. Ron Hubbard, which I can tell the author of this article has not. If he wants to throw data around about money, he should get the true data:
All of the upper executives of the church get paid less than $3,000 per year. No one is soaking up the money from services. It all goes to social betterment efforts and general Scientology expansion. I would recommend in the future looking into the facts of this sort of thing before releasing an article of this nature. There are many half-truths angled to be slanderous, and also bald-faced lies.
I have always respected your Web site as someplace I can go to get the straight scoop, do research, etc. Please keep it this way.
Hidden strategies: Readers of Craig Malisow's excellent article on Scientology-backed Project CALL may wonder how Scientology teachings fit with study technology. One example: Students are told that the only reason a person becomes disinterested in a subject or contemptuous of what they're reading is that they have gone past a misunderstood word.
This discounts the possibility that the material itself may be at fault. In fact, it eliminates any notion of critical reading, which is why study technology plays a prominent role in Scientology's cult-indoctrination process. More information is available at www.StudyTech.org.
Professor David S. Touretzky
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Galveston's got it: Of course Galveston County best reflects the overall U.S. market [Hair Balls, "Middle America, Slightly Twisted," December 16]! It's the land of opportunity. The women here drink more and smoke more, too, according to another recent study (a reflection on the men?).
There's nothing like watching a crack whore conduct her bidness on Eighth Street and Seawall on your way to work a science job at UTMB. And you get one free murder. You can't beat that with a stick, can you?