Letters to the Editor

Week of September 4, 2002

Om Improvement

When bliss goes amiss: Meditation is for some a religious exercise. There are plenty of examples of people partaking in religious exercise and having it mess up their heads: i.e., [who] read the Koran and decide to kill people, [or] read the Bible and decide to hate gays or Jews ["Bad Vibes," Bay View, Aug. 28, on the negative side effects of meditation on some people]. I think the consensus you found from most meditation instructors was that the patients in question did not do meditation properly and probably needed more help [on] how to do it and how to interpret their experiences from it. In Tibetan Buddhism the presence of an experienced guide is advised as being essential.

Also, you must be careful in describing physical or mental phenomena as solely due to physiological (i.e., chemical) reactions in the brain. I am a chemist, and there is absolutely no proof that the levels of chemicals in the brain are not the result of mental states, instead of the other way around. Any scientist [who says he knows] which one is the root cause of the other one is lying. Obviously correlations can be made between the two (mental state, chemical activity), but it is a classic chicken-and-the-egg question.

Justin Kittell
Alamo Square

The Search for the Perfect Bagel

A theory that's full of holes: Thanks for the piece on bagels being relatively tasteless outside of New York ["A Few Good Bagels," Dog Bites, Aug. 28]. I was born in New York, and it does seem that, besides boiling beforehand, it is the water that makes the difference. When I visit relatives in South Florida, they have me go to one establishment because the proprietor, an ex-New Yorker (like half of South Florida), imports his water from back home and ... voilà, the bagels there do taste exactly like those from my childhood! Who would think the Catskills' water could make such a difference?

Christopher Gil
Ashbury Heights

A taste of New York: Starting with Noah's in the first place was a mistake -- they actually serve stale doughnuts, not bagels. Although I haven't found anything approximating a real N.Y. bagel in the Bay Area, the closest to actual edibility, in my opinion, is Izzy's Brooklyn Bagels in Palo Alto.

Michael Norwitz

A Commie Ragging

Better read than dead:The next time you assign someone to write a review of an important political book like [Max] Elbaum's Revolution in the Air [capsule review, Books, Aug. 28], please assign someone who has some basic familiarity with left-wing politics and doesn't have his own ax to grind. "American revolutionary communism, a political trend born inside the protests of the 1960s"? Come on. You'd think the U.S. [hasn't had] a Communist Party from the 1920s on. Elbaum is writing about the "new communist movement," and Mr. Byrne couldn't even get that basic fact right.

Allegations [that] Elbaum gives short shrift to Maoist, Trotskyist, and black nationalist trends simply aren't true. In fact, chapter after chapter closely examines Maoist ideology and political practice, while Elbaum carefully assesses the overlaps and differences between black nationalist currents and those of the new communist movement.

In fact, this is one of the best books on the American left written in years. Elbaum explains why so many '60s movement activists turned to revolutionary politics from 1968 to 1973, and the enormous strengths and insights of the movement that have been left out of the historical record.

For young activists and more experienced ones simply trying to get our bearings in a right-wing world, Elbaum's book offers positive lessons about what we should learn from the new communist movement's experience -- like its emphasis on anti-imperialism and anti-racism -- and mistakes we should avoid. It's invaluable.

Hany Khalil
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Getting personal: Your Dog Bites account of the Youth Speaks/826 Valencia fund-raiser was bewildering ["Scrambled Eggers," Aug. 14]. Why was the reporter so unhappy? According to her report, the performances were entertaining and the organizations are doing great work. Also according to her report, Dave Eggers only spoke briefly and generally avoided the spotlight. So why the bitter tone of the piece? For everyone else, the fund-raiser was a good-spirited way to support two great organizations; for your reporter, it seemed to be an opportunity to vent some unclear personal grievances.< p> Simon Huynh

Wrong target: Shame on you Karen Zuercher, whoever you are. Indeed, I cannot decide whether to accuse you of being mean-spirited or just plain pathetic.

Get your facts straight, girl! Tickets were $35 apiece, not $30.

If "Eggers himself laid fairly low" (which he did), why do you suggest the evening was all about him? It wasn't. Of course Dave Eggers was there. Of course he was one of the MCs. And of course some people were probably there to get a gander at the young literary star. But in the end money was raised for the two hosting organizations.

In a time of extreme hardship for arts and other nonprofit organizations, why are you trashing those who are trying to do something good and heartfelt and cost-free for the kids in this town? I am a volunteer workshop instructor for 826 Valencia. I do it for the kids, not so I can catch a glimpse of Dave Eggers in the back office. So, Ms. Zuercher, my humble advice to you is this: Pick on someone and something else.

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