Real Waste
In reference to John L. Anders Jr.'s letter ["Gypped Again," July 17] on your June 26 story "Pain for the Prosecution": The most disgraceful thing about former assistant district attorney Kristen Pain's arrest and subsequent conviction is not that the taxpayers paid her salary, but that she is considered incompetent simply because of her drug use.

Her story is a prime example of the exploitive and irrational attitudes and politics toward drugs in our society.

Ms. Pain was a dedicated and competent attorney. Our government defrauded her by using another person to win her trust and then having him betray that trust. The tactics currently in use by the government to catch drug users are strikingly similar to the methods used by dictatorial and totalitarian governments to uncover opposition groups.

The real waste of taxpayer money in this situation is the "war on drugs." The American government is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to criminalize, deceive and ruin the lives and careers of its own citizens for activities that are consensual and hurt, if anyone at all, only themselves.

Apparently, the words "shame" and the phrase "I am sorry" are not in the vocabulary of the United States government, either.

Jasmine E. Van Volkingburg

... But Would It Be Okay If We Referred to Something as "Jerry-Rigged"?
The heading for a letter to the editor, "Gypped Again" [July 17], may have caught your readers' attention, but it also insulted many. The term gyp is a derogatory reference to Gypsies and reinforces stereotypes of them being conniving or untrustworthy. These stereotypes have been the basis for centuries of persecution and discrimination that continues to this day. In the future, I hope you will use headings that make your point without defaming others.

Jonathan Bernstein
Director, Southwest Region,
Anti-Defamation League

Please See Page 47
I just wanted to point out that the last review of any visual arts that I remember reading in the Houston Press was back on June 12 ["The Art of Darkness," by Shaila Dewan]. That was almost two months ago. That's obscene! We have a wonderful arts community here in Houston, yet our newspapers refuse to cover the openings and shows. Should I simply be grateful that we at least get a listing of what's up around town? I don't think so. I think that I should demand a consistent review that is weekly, just like your restaurant review or your movie review!

There was a mayoral candidates' forum dedicated entirely to their views on the cultural arts in Houston and your paper didn't even mention it as an event! What do we have to do to get coverage? Any advice on how to get your attention would be greatly appreciated.

Robin Raborn
via Internet

Kael-ostomy Recommended
I know that being a movie critic in the summertime must be tough. All the serious movies are months away, and when they were poring over those Pauline Kael collections in their youth, no critic imagined he would spend May through August reviewing sequels, animated features and action flicks.

However, that does not excuse the virtually unrelieved negativity and bitterness that your critics have spewed for months. Nor does it account for those pointless little essays-cum-filler, like the ones accompanying The Lost World ["Spielberg's Lost," by Peter Rainer, May 22] or Air Force One ["Going Down," by Peter Rainer, July 24] reviews, that only serve to inflate the word count and ego of the reviewer at the expense of the reader's patience.

Not one mainstream movie this summer deserved the opprobrium heaped on it by your reviewers. The attacks were far out of proportion to the works on-screen. To paraphrase Kurt Vonnegut, vilifying a movie is preposterous. It's like donning full armor to attack a banana split.

R.T. Castleberry
via Internet

Feel the Love, Peter
I'm very glad I went to see Contact before I read any reviews, especially Peter Rainer's ["To Coldly Go," July 10]. I believe this movie to be one of the most important of this decade. We have become a society of "man-made" isolation, a society that has lost basic humanity and spirit and faith in a higher meaning. Mr. Rainer obviously is a man of limited vision, or faith -- a literary cold-soul. For once, here was a movie and a message I could see and feel clearly. Yes, it was made in "Hollywood," and it was made to entertain audiences of all intellects and of all faiths. But I was never distracted from the entire landscape, the vision set to open the human spirit.

There was a point in my life when I could feel the love and the wonder of all the people around me; this movie helped me remember I still can. Matthew McConaughey and Jodie Foster's characters sent a message of mutual respect and understanding with different faiths, but not ideals. Sure, this has been done before, but I truly believe this work will have a incomprehensible impact on a very important group of individuals in this world. These are people with faith and a passion "for seeking the truth."

Ken Sheppard
via Internet

More from the Peter Rainer fan club
Please, please find a movie critic other than Peter Rainer. Why is it that local freebie newspapers like the Press and Public News have pretentious Pauline Kael wannabes? It's not that I don't agree with Mr. Rainer on some of his reviews -- I do, but when I disagree with him, I would expect at minimum a reasoned and sound argument for why he feels the film fails. Actually, cutting to the chase and letting us know whether or not he does or does not like the film would be good for starters.

I just decided to stop reading his reviews after reading his critique (if you can call it that) of Contact. It's as though Mr. Rainer decides before he enters the theater that he isn't going to like the film and then spends an inordinate amount of space rationalizing why that is.

Robert Graham
via Internet

This Letter Makes No Reference to Peter Rainer
Susan E. Howard [Letters, "The Dialectics of Aunt Jemima," July 10] seems to be a woman consumed by race and racism, perhaps the ultimate racist.

Thomas Jacobs
via Internet


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