Book burning: Great story ["Package Deal," by Ray Hafner, February 26]! Although I'm long past my college years, the textbook sham was a scourge then, as it is now.
One of my family members is in the upper caste of a university teaching staff, and he encourages the kids to find any viable way to get a copy for the lowest possible price, unless major changes have been published in the textbook. And that happens in old European history how often?
Apparently, as the RIAA found out, the kids are pretty crafty, utilizing their Internet and CD-burning skills wisely.
Name withheld by request
Math lesson: In your story about college textbooks, you indicate that the bookstore will make a 50 percent profit on used textbooks. Actually, a $100 book, purchased used by the store for $50 and then resold at $75, is a 50 percent mark-up, and a 33 percent profit margin. Seventy-five dollars is 50 percent more than $50 (mark-up); $25 is one-third of $75 (profit).
Also, many students buy soft-cover versions of their books from Asian (Chinese, Indian, Taiwanese) Web sites at less than 30 percent of the cost (even after shipping). Also, Half.com can save students big bucks.
No monopoly: There is a lot of information online about the price of textbooks. Go to www.nacs.org/public/nacs/mediaroom.asp. Also, you should note, the UT Co-op is a nonprofit, with money going back to the school and scholarships for students. So complaints of its "monopoly" are always forgetting that point.
Waldorf works: I am very disappointed in the article about Waldorf education ["School Spirit(s)," by Michael Serazio, February 5]. Waldorf is so much more than the fantasy world of the kindergarten that Mr. Serazio visited.
The questions he posed about gnomes and fairy life are the same questions that can be asked about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. And we all know that Christmas and Easter are about so much more than that.
Maybe when Mr. Serazio has some real time, he can write an article on why Waldorf education works, how it honors the spirit of the student and teaches to the whole person.
Pay attention: I have my issues with some teachers' ways of taking on Steiner's ideas, but I've looked quite a bit into Steiner's work and agree: It's way-out stuff, but only in comparison to accepted, conventional ideas.
Perhaps I can help by briefly introducing the heart of Steiner's work as it is presented in his early philosophical works. For Western culture, the world exists as a material entity complete in itself, whether or not humans participate in it. But, Steiner argues, the error in this well-established belief is that perception and thinking are intrinsically part of all knowledge creation. Thus, we cannot justifiably believe that the world exists just as we perceive and cognize it whether or not we perceive and cognize it. To do so is to ignore our own participation in beholding reality, to believe in the perceived without a perceiver, the thought without a thinker. While this is fairly mind-bending stuff, it's a tight argument nevertheless (I recently defended a thesis on it), and lets us into Steiner's way of seeing the world.
Unlike natural science, anthroposophy often has to be experienced over years before it really becomes valuable as a tool for entering more deeply into everyday experience. As your article suggests, it's unfortunate that the links between Steiner's research and the rest of our culture have not been more openly explored. Perhaps that will come in time. Thanks for the article.
On the Ropes
Letting us down: Did you even watch Touching the Void ["Great Heights," by Bill Gallo, February 12]?
You wrote: "the controversial moment eventually came when Yates, believing Simpson was dead, cut the slender thread joining him to his partner, who was dangling in the air, unseen, a hundred feet below."
Yates knew Simpson was alive when he cut the rope. That's why it was so controversial. Yates cut the rope to save his own life. Yates knew Simpson was hanging in midair. Yates knew cutting the rope would likely kill his friend.
Great movie. It deserves, at least, a factually accurate review.
Once more, with Passion: I'm no Jesus freak and wasn't bent on seeing Gibson's Passion film (until on video), but Robert Wilonsky sparked my interest ["Suffer Unto Mel," February 26]. Suspicious review, at least. He spends the first 26 lines talking about himself!
Then he nags Gibson for failing to show the rest of the gospel (gee, one thought the film The Passion was about, er, the Passion, the last three hours of the character) and with complete ignorance accuses Gibson of portraying Pilate as a good guy. He nails the coffin by stating that if it weren't a Mel Gibson film marketed by Bob Berney, it would have passed unnoticed. I seriously doubt he himself buys that lie.
Furthermore, he bends the rules of art by not allowing Gibson to introduce demonic imagery, as it is not found literally on the text (what is it, a documentary?). Folks, it sounds like a critic with a deliberate agenda, pissed off by the fact that he found integrity and quality in the film. Now, that ain't gonna improve the Jews' image, once again.
The Vile Dial
Sirius listener: Good piece on Houston radio [Racket, by John Nova Lomax, February 12]. I dunno why Houston radio's always sucked, but it has -- 'cept for the Vietnamese and Indian AM stations.
I hear several variations of the format you propose on my Sirius satellite radio, particular Sirius Disorder 24, a real throwback to freeform FM before it was formatted with a little bit of KGSR AAA format thrown in, Left of Center 26, which is edgier and focuses on new stuff, and Faction 28, which mixes hard-core rock, hip-hop and punk. It's a shame one has to buy into the service and that it's not local (though I hear loads of Texas artists). But it has changed my listening habits and turned me on to tons of new music.
Joe Nick Patoski
Clueless stations: Every word you said is so true. Houston radio sucks. I can't stand to listen to the morons yapping on morning, noon and night. A few weeks back, a phone surveyor called about our airwaves and I launched into my own diatribe that pretty much covered what you said in your article.
I told him I get my fix from the Internet and some allegedly illegal activity called downloading. All of the bands you mentioned -- BRMC, Starsailor, Violent Femmes, Butthole Surfers, T. Rex -- are just a small sample of a very wide range of music I like. Some of your fantasy playlists I like, some I don't. But if radio could be like that, I would certainly listen, because I couldn't wait to see what you might play next. I grew up in L.A., so seeing this "modern oldies" station is something I could imagine. Clear Channel is so fucking clueless, I'm embarrassed for them. "Format? We don't need no stinking format!" By the way, I'm waayyy past 19 years old.
Great music: I read your review of one of the best-loved new CDs released by a Houston band [Local Rotation, by Bob Ruggiero, February 26] and was just about as disappointed as I've ever been in anything I've ever read in the Press. Talk about not catching the vision for something! Sugar Bayou's Nowhere But Gone is a gem -- designed to make a positive, inspirational, yet lighthearted and truly fun impact on all who listen.
As one of the supporting cast on the album, I am continually hearing feedback from actual listeners (rather than simply critics who are paid to do just that: criticize) about how often they listen to Nowhere But Gone and how it is one of their favorite albums.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder -- and Sugar Bayou is as beautiful on disc as it is in person. You really should meet the real Nowhere But Gone sometime -- I don't know what album you were listening to, but it definitely wasn't the same one Sugar Bayou's fans happily purchase in the hundreds.
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