I found your review of Bandit Queen (Film, "Gangbusted," July 5) rather disturbing. In criticizing the fact-based movie about Phoolan Devi, a lower-caste Indian woman turned bandit revolutionary, Paul Reidinger argues that the movie never "comes to grips with its stronger theme: that of a society putting down an insurrection." In this flagrant misreading of the movie, Reidinger seems to voice the quasi-fascistic, historically limited perspective that insurrections are always bad and order is always good. He claims that the movie is really about a woman "who will not accommodate herself to the role she's expected to play." Is gang rape something you "accommodate" yourself to? How about "accommodating" yourself to public beatings and child rape? Reidinger's mild choice of words suggests his belief that Phoolan should have accepted her situation lying down.

In fact, the movie shows how a strong-willed yet oppressed woman emerges as both a populist heroine and a violent psychopath. The brilliance of the movie lies in its unflinching portrayal of both the justice-seeking aspects of this woman and her emotional derangement. The movie offers new insight into the two-sided nature of all militant leaders and revolutionaries: Even when their cause is just, their violent actions betray their private psychologies as much as their visionary wills.

Carol Lloyd
San Francisco

Burning Cockburn
The snidely uncomprehending piece on Alexander Cockburn (Shafer, "The Tale of an Asp," July 5) is typical of the sort of slapdash, "Aren't I cute" journalism coming out of the Bay Area these days. There are so many dishonest toss-offs in Shafer's piece -- including a stupid slur aimed at Cockburn's father, Claud, for years the widely respected American correspondent for the Times of London -- I'll limit myself to the one that most indicates Shafer didn't read Cockburn's wonderful The Golden Age Is in Us. Shafer says Cockburn "abandons his Mighty Achievements in Vituperation" (also an untrue characterization of Cockburn's work) to bring us a "garage sale of rewritten Nation columns," etc. Name one rewritten Nation column.

Bruce Anderson

Jack Shafer replies: For starters, here's two rewritten Nation columns: 1) Cockburn on the McMartin preschool case -- Page 143 in the book; Feb. 12, 1990, in the Nation. 2) Cockburn on the alleged black teen-age sex epidemic -- Page 374 in the book; Feb. 28, 1994, in the Nation.

oLETHEDoExcuse Me!
Re your "suggestion" in your recent review (Stage, "Running in Place," July 12) of Rick Reynolds' All Grown Up and No Place to Go (which I produced) that Rick Reynolds add "borrowing" to his list of shortcomings: The Vacaville Prison story as told by Rick on stage is absolutely true. It owes nothing to a Steve Martin routine to which you compare it. In fact, I'm not even aware of this routine, nor is Rick Reynolds.

I can personally vouch for the originality and veracity of Rick's account, as I was the booking agent who was contacted by the assistant warden of the penitentiary and asked to book five comedians for their annual Christmas show back in 1989.

Bob Fisher
San Francisco

The Experiment That Failed
I would like to commend Ellen McGarrahan's deconstruction of the "Bolinas experiment" ("Bolinas? Baloney!" July 12). It seems to confirm what I've believed for a long time about this happy-people-bein'-free enclave: that it is little more than a segregated fortress for rich, arrogant white people. Take away the flower and rainbow and peace and freedom bullshit, and the line between Bolinas' true believers and those survivalist-militia crazies disappears quickly, as well. At least apartheid South Africa and the antebellum South weren't so hypocritical.

And for those people waxing nostalgic for the Summer of Love: Maybe the dilemma isn't that a good idea went bad. Maybe the idea of a utopia isn't so good in the first place. When ideals are legislated, there are neither ideals nor law -- only inflexible dogma and misguided lies no one can live up to. I live in San Francisco, where the streets are smeared with excrement and there are panhandlers on every sidewalk; crime is rampant, driving is hell, corruption and brutality are everywhere, and nobody gives a damn. But this city has something all the Bolinases in the world don't: life.

C.W. Morgan
San Francisco

Bolinas Confidential
Your story about Bolinas reminded me of a somewhat adventurous visit my wife and I had there a couple years ago: After touring the short main street, we stopped at the restaurant at the old hotel for dinner. My wife ordered tandoori chicken. After an hour and a half and a couple of inquiries, a portion of broiled chicken was served sans tandoori-style preparation or an explanation.

While waiting for our meal, we observed an unfolding drama on the main street from our table on the veranda. An old, large Chevrolet with three young men had pulled over on the side of the street. One of them appeared to be incapacitated and was lying on the ground. A small crowd gathered and people were giving various advice on what to do about the matter. One person went to a nearby store, bought a six-pack of beer, and then proceeded to toss cans to others in the crowd. Finally, an emergency crew showed up and took the young man away on a stretcher.

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