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Wheat-Grass Wisdom
What would become of the intellectual community without pioneers like Jack Boulware and his penetrating expose of foolish spiritual pursuits ("Navel Maneuvers," Aug. 23)? The man is a genius.

Granted, the article was somewhat predictable. Let's face it, journalists are about as sympathetic toward the New Age as fundamentalist Christians are toward Satan worship.

I suspect we'll see Boulware's true depth in future articles where perhaps he'll tackle more formidable enemies of human happiness, instead of such an easy target. Nonetheless, his point is clear: All this greed and commercialization is disgusting. Thank God there still exist selfless vehicles like SF Weekly, which serve purely intellectual, informative, and enlightening purposes, with no profit motive whatsoever.

Might we see a future article about Boulware himself? Behind that aggressive style there surely exists a man confident that he knows what's happening with the universe. I'm sure his tough-minded, "real men don't drink wheat-grass juice" approach to life could help satisfy the yearnings of human hearts, and serve as a corrective model for all these spiritual sissies.

Richard Duvall
Novato

Consciousness-Raising
Jack Boulware's "Navel Maneuvers" (Aug. 23) was fascinating in its own perverse way, but only as a close-up tour of Boulware's own psyche. Apparently unsure of his intellect, he felt compelled to convince us that he's smarter than all those softheaded perusers of Common Ground. No doubt exhausted by keeping up the self-indulgence that permeates the tone of the article, he had to accuse everyone else (like all of Northern California!) of self-obsession.

Hoo-boy. It's never a pretty sight when journalists approach their first spiritual crisis. They often start down the path by taking potshots like this -- aiming crudely at the kind of things they're inwardly curious about but aren't ready to admit themselves.

One friendly warning to Boulware: The longer you keep your sweaty grip on this smartass cynicism, the harder you'll crash, and the weirder the cult you'll end up in. But since your spiritual journey will eventually lead you into fair-mindedness, compassion, and what philosopher Jacob Needleman calls "the warmth of real objectivity," why not start courageously exploring those values now?

D. Patrick Miller
Berkeley

New and Zen
I enjoyed "Navel Maneuvers" (Aug. 23). I would, however, like to make a couple of comments: Zen Buddhism is a religious and philosophic tradition, hundreds of years old, which has made a tremendous contribution both to Japanese and to world culture. It does not belong in a discussion of New Age self-help groups. If you are going to discuss self-help groups, you should include some of the larger and more successful ones (for instance, Alcoholics Anonymous) along with the nuts and fringe groups.

Steve Dufour
San Leandro

Curbing the Underclass
It was good to see your lengthy treatment of the People vs. the S.F. Curbside System ("Money for Nothing," Aug. 16), but some basic principles got lost in the storytelling:

1) The urban underclass was collecting and selling bottles and cans long before there were curbside programs. In Oakland we found that existing buyback centers paid out over $10 million for cans and bottles in the year before our curbside program started.

2) It's important to distinguish precisely between free-market recycling and poaching. Any material taken with its owner's permission is not poached/stolen; it's a simple transfer of low-value property.

3) Curbside programs were designed and implemented with no advice from the urban underclass or their apologists/protectors. It was totally foreseeable (especially in retrospect) that the scavenging we see in curbside programs would in fact take place.

4) It's important for people to understand how hard scavengers work for their money: Try pushing a loaded grocery cart three miles. Your article presents the underclass' perspective and dedication to work better than anything else in print.

5) If the so-called scavenger company were still scavenging (i.e., sorting through the garbage; they gave it up after WWII), the underclass would have no work in the streets.

6) The public-at-large is truly ambivalent on prosecutions, and most are content to view the city-sponsored curbside program's lost revenue as an income transfer to the industrious poor.

Arthur R. Boone, Executive Director
Total Recycling Association
Oakland

Broadcast News
Thank you for the charming column about my live-shot marathon on Haight ("Death Is Shakin' on Shakedown Street," Slap Shots, Aug. 16). I think you captured the comparison between live television and sausage-making. But while I was struggling with the technology, perhaps you were struggling with simpler things:

"Yes, Carl, I need to talk ..." Since I was using my name on the phone line, I expect I was using the "K" spelling, which I have all my life.

"And THEN an IFB?" This puzzles me: IFB refers to the communications device between the director in the control room and my ear. This doesn't sound like a statement I'd make.

"Hello Seattle. ... We're going to start on the Ashbury side." I'm sure I said "Ashbury sign," because I wanted the cameraman to start my live report on a close-up of the street sign.

" 'Shoot the police first, then come back to me,' orders Sonkin." Yes, but that was in the response to the camera operator asking how I wanted to visually frame the live report. Your otherwise excellent column seems to imply I just blurted the response out.

Karl Sonkin
KRON-TV
San Francisco

Road Warriors
I generally have a great deal of respect for the reporting of George Cothran, but I am unhappy with "Tow-talitarianism" (Bay View, Aug. 9), which tells the sad story of a woman who lends her car to an unlicensed driver and finds it impounded. Perhaps she should not be lending out her car to unlicensed drivers -- these people are unlicensed for a reason, which can include drunk-driving convictions and other behavior that threatens the lives of anyone else on the road.

Cothran writes that "the punishment under [the program to tow the cars of unlicensed drivers] far outpaces the gravity of the crime." Is that so? On one side, we have the inconvenience of people who commit a crime with their car (or allow their car to be used by an unlicensed driver) and have the car impounded. On the other, we have the innocents who are injured or killed by persons who have been judged legally unsafe to drive. Illegal driving is not a victimless crime!

As a bicyclist, pedestrian, and licensed driver, I'd rather have these people off the road -- and if their friends know that their cars might be impounded, maybe they won't lend them out to unlicensed drivers.

The argument that this is unfair to the poor is bogus. Should parking tickets be optional because some drivers can't afford to pay them? By that logic, we should make it legal to steal gasoline. Drivers -- especially unlicensed drivers -- injure and kill lots of people (including poor people) and they cost the public money (notice all those paramedics and police at the scenes of accidents?). If someone -- rich or poor -- doesn't want to pay, or doesn't want to abide by the rules, I don't see why we should subsidize them.

Andrew Gelman
Berkeley

Correction
The map artwork for the Absolut a la Carte, a la Park supplement (Aug. 30) should have been credited to Angela Dundee.

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