I knew J.T. when he was a young teen out hustling on the streets of San Francisco and I was an idealistic outreach worker with high hopes of redeeming kids. Although we never were supposed to admit it to outsiders, we "triaged" them: Those few who could make it out with little or no help [So don't waste a lot of time]; those who really needed a lot of support to get off their knees and onto their own feet [Help them!]; and the sad mass that would probably die in some hospital or psycho ward [Feel bad, but helping them is like pouring gold down a sewer].
J.T. was clearly in group No. 3, a hopeless case. It broke my (and some colleagues') heart to see this sweet-faced slender kid drift downward, but with limited resources, we had to direct our energies where we believed we could make a difference. I was dumbfounded to learn that J.T. was such a brilliant observer of life in his fast lane! And, in a way, it felt like a kick in the butt to learn that other, wiser caregivers were able to reach the bottom of that seemingly bottomless pit that is a needy adolescent, and start filling it up with self-worth.
On your reviewer's recommendation, I purchased Sarah and am in awe of this new young literary talent. Your writer states: "Sarah's voice is the delicate, winsome Virginia drawl of a Southern Gothic belletrist. Its genre might be described as contemporary Brothers Grimm fairy tale. ...
"... LeRoy's ease with language, his lyrical descriptions -- Le Loup's room, ensconced in thick, matted brown bear fur; a whore's hug that feels like being cradled in a twig nest -- and his graceful use of colloquialisms (e.g., 'hotter'n a goat's butt in a pepper patch') are enough to make Sarah worth reading. His wide-eyed, tragicomic optimism makes Sarah worth reading again. It is, in fact, the transmission of defiant, childlike innocence that gives Sarah room to breathe, and keeps its subject matter from consuming the spark of its protagonist. Despite all evidence that hope is futile, we are left with just that -- bittersweet, lingering hope -- at the end of the tale."
Thank you again for raising my eyes to awesome possibilities. I've been seriously thinking of getting my master's in social work. This pitches me over the top; after all, if J.T. can do it, what's to stop me?
Oh, Nick, You Pesky Imp
Hello Dog Bites. Longtime reader, first-time writer. Congrats to you on your stunning victory (YES! In your FACE, Savage Love!) in being named best columnist in the world (that was the contest, right?) (Best of San Francisco, May 17). I was quite mayed to read about your win. Your column is so fun to read, i just luv it to death. Carry on and fight bravely!
Also, Dutch informants have informed us that IKEA (E-KAY-AH in Holland) is not, you might say, the most chic store in Europe. Everyone goes there, but when you buy something, you pretend you bought it somewhere else. Kind of like a Swedish Big Kmart, huh? Sorry, don't mean to ruin anyone's fun ... hehehehehehe.
Who You Calling Chicken, Junior?
I enjoyed Bernice Yeung's article about the reverse engineering of the Cyber Patrol censorship software ("Babes in Toyland," Bay View, May 17). If you're not too chicken to print it, here is some of the information that the reverse engineering revealed.
Cyber Patrol blocks the Nuclear Control Institute. Cyber Patrol blocks a series of newspaper articles about the Nagasaki bomb. Cyber Patrol blocks a page from the City of Hiroshima Web site, and other historical and political information about nuclear weapons.
There. That was what Irwin B. Schwartz, Boston-based attorney for Cyber Patrol, wanted to suppress. When a company sells its censorship software to public schools and libraries, the public should know what sites get censored, even if it takes a little reverse engineering to find out. If there's a Jefferson Street in Boston, Mr. Schwartz shouldn't be allowed to set foot on it.
Donald B. Marti Jr.
Fat and Happy
In your recent "best of" edition (Best of San Francisco, May 17) you wrote that Bruno's Restaurant was "sitting empty and forlorn for decades" before it became the "molten center" of the new swing and jazz supper club scene. By empty do you mean not full of young and beautiful white people? Was Bruno's forlorn because it longed to be the center of a hip new retro scene instead of the neighborhood restaurant for working-class families that it was in the '70s and '80s? Well, it always seemed pretty full and happy to me. And the food was good too.
Purple Monkey Dishwasher
I find it interesting that Brian Baker's article about Negativland ("Dead Set on Deconstruction," Music, May 3) contains this summary of the controversy surrounding "Christianity Is Stupid" and the Brom family murders in Rochester, Minn., in February 1988. He states, "The murders were a hoax, but Negativland got plenty of press (and laughs) out of the prank."
I don't necessarily agree with the term "prank" in characterizing what Negativland did in setting the whole chain of events in motion. Instead it was a brilliantly unorthodox attempt to show people that what they see in the media has little or no basis in reality. While I hardly think the members of Negativland were out for a laugh when they conceived and perpetuated the hoax, they are quoted as saying, "Our act of creating a false association with such a tragedy will remain open to ethical interpretation." At least they owned up to it.
Any standard fact-checking with officials in Minnesota would confirm the existence of David Brom and his crimes. A quick read of the liner notes on the band's 1989 Helter Stupid album also reveals that the murders DID occur and Negativland's association with the murders was a case of rampant media distortion initially fueled by a phony press release from SST Records. Major news organizations across the country (including our own KPIX and the Chronicle) were falling all over themselves in screwing up the so-called "facts" of the story by simply parroting misinformation rather than making thorough, accurate checks of the details in the case.
Indeed, it appears that the lesson Negativland was trying to teach us about the media and its lack of integrity has now come back in a surrealistic full circle with Baker's denial that the murders even took place! Perhaps had he tacked "purple monkey dishwasher" to the end of his sentence, readers could have been alerted to the idiocy of his "telephone game" journalism.