Raw and remembrance: Your story on artist Bruce Conner ("ARTJOURNALISM," Sept. 13) caught my eye. I went to the San Francisco Art Institute from 1967 to 1971. Bruce Conner was a power force at that school. The Art Institute in those days was a powerhouse -- the array of instructors was staggering. Bruce Conner seemed to be between the sculpture and the film departments at the time. He did "funk art" -- what you might call crusty, sculptured "things." I came from Sacramento, where people like Mel Ramos and Wayne Thiebaud and Ralph Goings were doing pop art. It became quite a contrast for me as a young student to experience what Conner was doing at the time!
Bottom line: Bruce Conner is a "raw" artist, and his raw honesty is as fresh as ever.
Rob March Harper
We'll explain again, but it's the last time: Interesting column about Herb Caen's legacy and its impact on this year's Proposition L ("Past Imperfect," Matt Smith, Sept. 13). But I do have one question: What the hell does Herb Caen have to do with Prop. L? It's a breathtaking logical leap on which to hang a story. Too bad it has no foundation in fact. How, for example, do you know his writing has "contaminated the consciousness of all who live here"? Have you somehow peered inside every San Franciscan's head? Have you really seen his ghost "hovering nearby"? If so, I suggest you lie down and take a nap. Your entire story is, as you eloquently put it, insipid and wrong, if not actually destructive. Better luck next time.
The view from Jersey: Your piece on Herb Caen-itis was probably one of the most intelligent, thoughtful, and perspicacious pieces on the subject of change in S.F. I've ever read. I was born there and lived there from college graduation until I headed east in 1975, so I have some distance from the place. The worst development about all the change I've seen in periodic revisits is limited to this: That cool swamp and quarry thing outside San Rafael where Dirty Harry shot the bad guy is now covered with condos. The rest is all evolution. If one wants 1958 San Francisco, rent Vertigo. I've heard New Yorkers say that S.F. is a two-day town. It was in 1975; now it's a three-day town. Sounds like progress to me.
What were you saying? We fell asleep.: Matt Smith's argument rests on the assumption that the opponents of runaway dot-com office construction are lost in a nostalgic desire to turn back the clock to some bygone era of cohesive neighborhoods filled with working people, families, and a sense of community. He assumes there is a future that is set in stone and that the ravaging of neighborhoods by profiteers is an inevitable part of that. He would have us accept displacement of communities by adopting a different nostalgia: the one born after the Second World War, when the public apparently believed that our civic and business leaders cared more about our society than about their own profit, and more important, that the "progress" they pushed through was de facto "good." The progress we've experienced has seen a community in steady decline since the '50s. This type of progress only appears inevitable because large numbers of people fall asleep in front of the TV each night to the singsong of corporate news rather than talking about what is really happening and demanding what they want and need. We can have any future we desire, damn it!
No Laughing Matter
A man who doesn't like Hamburger: Finally a story on stand-up comedy in your paper, and it is about an obvious parody of all the bad qualities associated with the art ("Looking for Laughs," Music, Sept. 13). Instead of focusing on the small but thriving comedy scene, you write about Neil Hamburger, someone who was not good enough to be an actual comic, so now he stands before the super-hip being hacky on purpose, while they smugly pat themselves on the back for "getting the joke." There are talented stand-ups who manage to make people think and laugh. Go out, see your local comics. If you don't like them, wait -- there are always more people willing to put their opinions and emotions honestly out there.
Bonding with Barry
You don't understand. This is our life.: I just finished reading an unprovoked and one-sided attack of a professional baseball player ("Bow to the King," Sept. 6). Is it any wonder Barry doesn't talk to the press? It seems to me your attack is based solely on the fact that Barry will not grant you an interview. As a longtime Giants fan, I don't understand how you could write such a negative article during such a great season. Do you really hate yourself that much? Get a life, and let us enjoy this season.
We bet Beethoven gave interviews: For me to enjoy a symphony, I don't need to know Beethoven's thoughts; the music stands on its own. For me to assess Clinton's policies, I don't need to know what he's done with cigars. For me to enjoy a baseball game, I don't need to know if Barry wakes up sad, how many close friends he has, or what animal he'd be. I accept Barry Bonds as a great player who wants to maintain a level of privacy. I'll never know him. It's not a big deal.
Even the Buddha had a weight problem: I really enjoyed Benoit Denizet-Lewis' article on Barry Bonds. It was interesting and insightful. Most of the participants felt they were treated unfairly: Mr. Bonds, the other players, and the sportswriters. Maybe the Buddha was right, life is a painful experience no matter who you are.