Let's get recycling in this city (“Money for Nothing,” Aug. 16) into perspective: 1) The state of California mandates recycling for the city; 2) Sunset Scavenger is not required to bid competitively for San Francisco's recycling contract; 3) The illegal scavengers are collecting 20 percent of the total recyclables (official haulers get $9 million per year and unofficial scavengers get over $2.3 million, for a total of $11.3 million per year. Scavengers therefore get over 20 percent); and 4) The residents of the city are paying on average about $200 per year for this program.
In other words, the law mandates that I must pay around $40 per year (20 percent of $200) to support people who are making a mockery of the system by stealing my garbage. What better proof does one need for coming to an understanding that the recycling system is broken?
If recycling was done on a competitive bid basis, then official haulers would probably be collecting at twilight. In that manner of collection, scavengers who operate under the cover of darkness would be put out of business. The cost of the program would decrease, and recyclers would make more money. Perhaps then the illegal scavengers could come out of their dark hiding places and find a real job working for the recyclers. They wouldn't even have to give up their day jobs.
Bruce S. Friedman
By now, the contributing factors to the premature death of Jerry Garcia — excessive weight, diabetes, alcoholism, heroin addiction — are well-known. Apparently, Paul Allen Musso (“Buff Garcia Rebuffed,” Letters, Aug. 16) believes that there was another factor — that Garcia was satirized in Smart Feller a month before he died. Uh-huh. If I ever need to have an autopsy performed on a loved one, I don't think I'll ask Musso to consult.
Even shakier than Musso's grasp of forensic science is his sense of perspective. Many have used Garcia's untimely passing to reflect on the joy that the Dead's music has brought to people over the years. Some have used it as an example of the tragic wastefulness of addiction. Musso uses it to bash a cartoon he doesn't like. And he calls Eggers and Leon “tasteless”? Astounding.
Shafer = Kojak
Gosh, what a courageous and iconoclastic guy that Jack Shafer is, denouncing the Unabomber (“Publish or Perish,” Shafer, Aug. 9) and joining the cattle chorus of sycophantic journalists, publicity-hungry academics, and wannabe police snitches advising corporate America and its cops on how to foil the elusive anarchist. Shafer's comparison of the Unabomber to Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment wasn't at all laughable, pretentious, vapid, or absurd, and I agree with Shafer about what a bad guy the bomber must be to send capitalist exploiters on a one-way ticket to the bone yard. The thought of a timber industry lobbyist or PR man for Exxon being assassinated by terrorists brings tears to all our eyes. People who kill other people are bad, except when we vote for them. In a democracy, politically motivated murders should be the exclusive province of the state.
Shafer surmises the Unabomber is friendless, but a recent Chronicle article described admiration for the puckish FC among people as disparate as punk rockers in Berkeley and defense attorneys in San Francisco, and I've seen pro-Unabomber graffiti in the Mission, in the Financial District, and on the walls of bathrooms at S.F. State. Solitary he, she, or they may be, but friendless he is not.
Shafer's brand of long-distance imaginary psychoanalysis owes less to Dostoevski than it does to reruns of Kojak, in which evil terrorists are mowed down by virtuous police. Shafer wants to make fictional comparisons; OK, let's do it: In a corporate totalitarian police state, where life is characterized by long periods of stupefaction interrupted by brief periods of intense fear, a mysterious enemy of industrial civilization assassinates prominent corporate functionaries, taunts and outfoxes the most sophisticated police apparatus in history, and blackmails the paper of record of the ruling class into publishing a manifesto denouncing the despoliation of the planet and of human life by capitalist technology. This isn't the career of a Penguin Classics antihero, but something more akin to a Marvel Comics superhero: cunning, quixotic, and heroic — like the fictional French bad guy Fantomas, with more Žlan and better politics.
Towing the Line
Sorry, but your apologia for unlicensed drivers is not convincing (“Tow-talitarianism,” Bay View, Aug. 9). Unlike Cathy Johnson, when my unlicensed friends ask to use my car (and they have), I just say no. Although it may be true that the majority of people affected by the San Francisco Traffic Offender Program (STOP) are poor but skilled drivers, I'd bet that in addition to being unlicensed, most of them are uninsured. In my opinion uninsured drivers are the second biggest vehicle-related problem in this city (after red-light runners). At a minimum, they cost me the premium on my uninsured motorist insurance. Finally, you pretty much ignored the problem of drunk drivers and other folks who've had their licenses lifted for good cause. As far as I'm concerned, STOP gets the green light.
Peter and Ray Redux
George Cothran's article on Shut Up Little Man (Aug. 2) was one of the most memorable pieces of fiction that I have read this year. At times, I almost didn't recognize the chain of events in which I have been a primary participant, for the article was riddled with misinformation and factual errors. Indeed, I almost didn't recognize myself, for in the 20-odd articles that have been written about or that have discussed Shut Up Little Man, never before have I been so thoroughly misrepresented and misquoted.
Initially, Cothran asked poignant and provocative questions concerning the larger issues of the Shut Up Little Man phenomenon and the significance of a subculture that would attach so much meaning to silly recordings featuring the arguments of two drunken old men. But Cothran shies away from postulating on what it is about the recordings that might induce such fanaticism. I mean, why do people bother to listen these recordings at all? Why do they travel across the country to get drunk in front of our old apartment? Why does the Shut Up Little Man PO box fill up every month with rhapsodic and enthusiastic letters? And why is it that there are four (not three) separate film projects in development based on the dialogues? It can't be merely hype and merchandising that fuels this behavior. Nor can it simply be greed, as Cothran suggests. It seems clear to me that there is something quite powerful and curiously compelling about the recorded material that inspires people to react so dramatically.
Furthermore, I was alarmed that Cothran's article was so singularly negatively cast. Indubitably, there are a few tales of pettiness to be told regarding the saga of Peter and Ray. But, there are just as many, if not more, tales of geniality and generosity, good faith and fun. When I personally think about Shut Up Little Man, I don't stew about legal battles or feel indignant about who claims that they own the rights to what. Rather, I think about how the recordings have inspired people to create music, visual art, and theatrical performances. I reflect on how much fun people have had with the material and about the remarkable friendships that have been generated. I think about how the phenomenon has enriched my relationship with my partner on the project, Mitchell D. You know — significant, substantial, and pleasurable ways in which Shut Up Little Man has impacted my life and the lives of others. However, these affirmations, of which I informed Cothran, evidently do not constitute what is press-worthy.
Eddie Lee Sausage