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Letters to the Editor 

Week of Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Lords of the Tenderloin

The feds are culprits, too: Thank you for Matt Smith's excellent and bold article on the perennial problems of the Tenderloin ["The Place That Time Forgot," Jan. 7]. His article goes beyond San Francisco -- it sounded very similar to Marin City, another place that time forgot.

Low-rent initiatives by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development actually destroy the motivation of some public housing residents, whose rent increases if they work. So they don't. They need not even clean up their neighborhood because that is done for them. But for many residents, Marin City provides the only affordable housing in Marin County. Nonprofit groups struggle to transform the status quo, but it exists in many ways due to a system that is, in Smith's words, "guided by the abusers."

I've heard it said in Marin City that questioning social policy is the equivalent of messing with someone's bread and butter. Perhaps the new Board of Supervisors here in Marin can make some changes, as Mayor Gavin Newsom will attempt in San Francisco. I'm skeptical but also hopeful. Smith's article was intelligent, illuminating, and honest, and many low-income communities could learn from it.

Matt Pamatmat

Slumlords also try to keep small businesses down: In my one year (2001) working in the Tenderloin as board/staff liaison for Central City Hospitality House, and recently serving on the United Nations Plaza Working Group, I saw much the same of what Matt Smith reports. Many of the people who live in the Tenderloin and many of the agency staffers there whom I met have a lot of courage and watch-out-for-each-other-ness that really belies the exploitative media and political stereotypes prevailing in my hometown.

Smith's views and recommendations merit a great deal of consideration and implementation because the current sweetheart deals between our city policies and the slumlords are a disservice not only to the intended recipients of service (Tenderloin residents) but a rip-off of us taxpayers and contributors to San Francisco. The slumlords also don't want real economic development of the small businesses in the area because those small businesses need to be kept down, just like their poor or homeless customers, in order to maintain the hegemony of carpetbaggers and other lords of the downtrodden.

Christopher Chow
Richmond District

Do Re Mi Fa So What?

Where's the beef in this article?: Bernice Yeung's story on Gibson's new MaGIC digital guitar, while an interesting read, failed to explain a very important question: What is the difference between this guitar and every other MIDI guitar out there ["Guitar Dreams," Jan. 7]?

Everything she mentioned has been available technology for years. It's been widely used onstage, in the recording studio, etc. She did mention (one sentence) that it existed, but didn't clarify. I find this poor journalism -- sorry. Yeung missed the most important question that we guitar players wanted answered.

Andrew Freeman
Union Square

Bernice Yeung replies: A MIDI guitar and a guitar with a built-in digital connection like the MaGIC are very different things. MIDI technology does not actually deal with audio information (it's a set of instructions sent to synthesizers about what notes to play). The MaGIC guitar, in contrast, deals in digital audio waves -- the actual sound itself. You could say it's the difference between sheet music and a CD. Because the MaGIC involves actual digital audio waves, it gives musicians the ability to do certain things that a MIDI guitar can't do, such as control each string independently for volume and tone (which is mentioned early in the story). But the central point to the article was that an instrument like the MaGIC allows tech-savvy guitarists to expand the boundaries of music in ways that would be hard (if not impossible) to achieve using other guitars (I mention the "yeah yeah pedal," some of the new guitar effects created by UC Berkeley's Center for New Music and Audio Technologies, and guitarist John Schott's improvisations as examples). For a traditional guitar player, this generation of a digital guitar might not be that useful, though perhaps future innovations based on it will be. Professional guitarist Joe Gore put it this way in the article: "Between the price point and the seeming complexity of the setup, I wouldn't imagine there'd be a huge user base. ... An adventurous, tech-savvy person could no doubt get some really striking sounds out of it."


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