Angry Magic Geeks: We're Cool and We Don't Stink!
The good news: Your lead story about Magic: The Gathering ["Do You Believe in Magic?", by Alex Hecht, September 4] actually contained occasional outbursts of literacy and insight. The bad news is that overall the article reflected negatively and unfairly on Magic.
The main flaw was the constant labeling of Magic players as "losers," "rejects" and other derogatory terms. Magic has its share of these, as does any hobby, sport or profession, but the generalization in your article is offensive. The author also seems to have focused on some particularly immature examples of Magic players. If you think players like Bob Coonce are "cool," then your definition of cool needs serious revision.
While the article on Magic: The Gathering was of overall higher quality than I have come to expect, I feel I must take exception to your descriptions of the "average" Magic player. No disputing that the majority of players are male -- possibly 90 percent, which is an awful shame. But the "twentysomething ... Coke-bottle glasses ... tube socks ... Birks" description is no more the norm than in any other segment of our population. In the many Magic tournaments I've attended as player and judge, the cross section of players (aside from the general lack of females) is pretty much like any other gathering: rich and not, blacks, whites, blue-collar, idle, elite, Ph.D.s, all sorts of working stiffs, on and on.
The remark about being unclean and/or smelly was uncalled for. Once again, this game-playing segment has no more or less of those crude, dirty, smelly aberrations of humanity than you'll find in attendance at a wrestling match, the corner market or any other place. I bet you have at least one employee somewhere in your building that has problems in that arena.
Editor's reply: At least one.
Overall, I think the feature on Magic: The Gathering was pretty well on the mark. However, I do take offense at the description of the "average" Magic player in the first paragraph. I have played primarily in New York City, and I will point out the following: 1) Most of the players are college age, 2) Many of them are pre-professional, with a few lawyers thrown into the mix and 3) Fashion is a must.
However, I will concede that the average Magic player has horrible sleeping habits.
Thank you for your wonderful story on Magic: The Gathering. It was truly inspiring. From now on, no matter how depressed I am, no matter how dark my day is, no matter how hopeless things may seem to be, in my moment of need, I will honestly be able to say to myself, "Cheer up! Things could be worse. You could be playing Magic."
And for that, I will ever be grateful.
via Internet, Houston
As a casual Magic player, I read with interest Alex Hecht's story on the Magic card-playing phenomena. Hecht does a great job of illustrating how obsessive some hard-core individuals are about the game. Unfortunately, his article may leave some readers with the impression that to get into this enjoyable game is like being thrown to the wolves. For example, Hecht faithfully reports the extent of annoying "trash talk" many Magic players who are bereft of social skills spew at their opponents.
While these individuals no doubt possess a high degree of strategic acumen, they win because they $pend. Those of us with a life outside of Magic are probably more congenial, and have actually spent less than the national debt on cards. We welcome persons with an interest in collecting, nice artwork and strategy to join us in this neat game.
James M. Bjork
Weekly Rainer Roundtable
If I used Peter Rainer as my guide to the movies I would go see or miss, then I would have had one boring summer. I read his review on Cop Land ["Shoot the Sheriff," August 14], then read Peter Travers's review in Rolling Stone. You would have thought they were talking about two different movies. Rainer is an idiot. No one agrees with him on anything. I respect Siskel and Ebert (as well as the aforementioned Mr. Travers), but gentlemen, this guy Rainer is making your rag look ridiculous. And even though it may be his opinion, everyone attributes it to the Houston Press. Get this guy out of there, or you will lose even more readers than you already have.
I think it may be time for the boss to take Peter (I've never seen a movie I liked) Rainer into the office and explain to him that not every movie he reviews is going to be a Dr. Strangelove, 2001 or Citizen Kane. I have attended most of the movies that Mr. Rainer has stabbed in the back recently and, while I didn't go thinking I was going to witness cinema history, I was entertained and received good value for my bucks. Sometimes the moviegoer just needs a little diversion and escape from our down-sized, when-is-it-my-turn work world.
Come on Peter, lighten up.
Where Have You Gone, Utah Carl?
First of all, thanks for a great article ["Honky-Tonk History," by Matt Weitz, September 4] on a true legend of country music. Hank Thompson and the Brazos Valley Boys were a staple at the Lakeview Club in Bryan during my tenure at A&M in the early '70s.
The article mentions the name of "Utah Carroll." When I was a young man in the early '60s, there was a show on TV early Saturday morning that was sponsored by a furniture company in La Porte (I think). I remember that during their commercials, they had a country band playing. I thought the name of the band was "Utah Carl and The Texas Jamboree." I have been trying for years to get information on this band. I remember them playing "Wanderer of the Westland." Could it be the same band? Any information you may have on them would be greatly appreciated.
Up Against Mr. Walls
I am writing in response to Robert Walls's letter ["The Rice School: Dialogue, Diagnosis and Diatribe" September 11] regarding Tim Fleck's article about the Rice School ["What Went Wrong at the Rice School?", August 21]. Mr. Walls's personal prejudices have colored his reality in several places. His racial and social categorizing of people places me in his box, where I decidedly am not. And I disagree vehemently with his "Peter Principle" ruling against Sharon Koonce. His assessment of the meeting at St. Mark's is inaccurate and misleading as well. The man, not woman, chairing the meeting was black, not white, and he doesn't live in West U. I was also sitting up there and while I am a woman, I do not live in West U.
Mr. Walls stated that "these women" asserted that the firing of the two black assistant principals was racially motivated. In fact, it was the NAACP on June 18, in front of the school, that made that assertion. This event resulted in the removal of Sharon Koonce. HISD administrators have referred to these events as political and used them as evidence of their racial equanimity, but no one has uttered anything about Peter Principles. Had Mr. Walls remained at the meeting, he could have been a part of the process to draft a petition for the reinstatement of all three administrators as a show of unity and support for Sharon Koonce's ability to handle the situation appropriately. In spite of the racially charged topics up for discussion that evening, unity prevailed.
Mr. Walls needs to begin to look at people as individuals and learn to value their differences as well as similarities. Then maybe the illusion created by Kaye Stripling's magic will fade and the reality created by a person of the caliber of Sharon Koonce will prevail. A reality where working toward consensus creates unity. This process of consensus takes time, which is the thing that she was not given by HISD and a very few disgruntled parents.
No Complaints ... Yet
I'm one of those conservatives who often complains that the news media reports from a left-of-center point of view. However, I am happy to say that I cannot make that complaint about the Houston Press. Your newspaper is the most interesting weekly publication I've ever read, and features a depth of investigative reporting that makes me feel I've been given every opportunity to understand a person or issue. The recent article on Mr. Yetiv ["Jack's Big Payback," by Brian Wallstin, September 11] was particularly powerful. Thanks for your great work!
Well, He's Probably Never Denied Being Immature
I recently read a letter in your paper in which a reader claimed that trees are the single greatest contributors to air pollution ["Tree Mugger," by Jon Mathews, August 21]. Although I hope the writer was taking such an obviously ridiculous position in an attempt at sarcasm, I suspect that he has been misinformed.
It is perhaps too obvious to point out that the preindustrial and heavily forested world was not choking in the various pollutants which we enjoy today. It may also be too obvious to point out that we cannot blame burning trees for polluting the air when it is humans that are firing great sections of tropical forests. But there are several points of information about the benefits of having trees around that your readers might be interested in.
For one, researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in California have found that tree-poor urban areas have average temperatures five to nine degrees higher than adjacent tree-rich suburbs. In fact, well-placed trees around a home can reduce air-conditioning energy needs by 10-15 percent. In colder climes, they serve as a wind break against winter winds.
In addition, the American Forestry Association has found that a single tree absorbs between 26 and 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. An average acre of trees absorbs 2.6 tons, enough to offset the emissions of a car driving 26,000 miles.
Of course, wise management of forests and urban trees allows us to enjoy these benefits even as we make use of the thousands of wood products that are part of our culture. Unfortunately, facing all the environmental challenges arising in our world today with knee-jerk denial is immature and naive.
Naturalist, Houston Arboretum
and Nature Center
Tree Hugger's Challenge
Jon Mathews has told us repeatedly during his radio show that "trees" cause much of the pollution on this planet. I have personally heard Jon comment that "automobile exhaust has never been proven to harm anyone." Tom DeLay has been quoted as saying that "the earth and its resources are too vast for humans to have any detrimental effect upon." I believe Mr. DeLay was in the insecticide business prior to entering politics.
I would be willing to make a wager with these gentlemen: Mr. DeLay shall take off socks and shoes, roll up his trousers and soak his feet in a tub of his favorite cockroach Kool-aid. Mr. Mathews shall sit inside a garage with his Dodge truck running (Jon may also run his mouth if he so desires). I will consent to being hung by the ankles, and lowered into a large bush or tree, simultaneously hugging said bush or tree and breathing deeply. At the end of 24 hours, we shall be released, and then (quickly now) run a 100-yard dash. The winner will be allowed to publicly strike his opponent in the face with a banana cream pie.
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Despite our best efforts to catalog the "Best of Houston" in our September 18 issue, we made a few mistakes. Computer Exchange, our readers' choice for Best Computer Store, has only one location. Its correct address and phone number are 1212 Westheimer, 529-6789.
The correct phone number for Teas Nursery, our readers' choice for Best Place to Buy Plants, is 664-4400.
And at the time of publication, Pace had resumed booking shows at the Urban Art Bar, our critic's choice for Best Place to See Live Music.
The Press regrets the errors.