Letters to the Editor

Week of October 15, 2003

Brain Candy

Bring a good book with you when you fly, knucklehead: I don't know why Karen Zuercher even bothered to write her column about how lousy airport bookstores are [“Ticket to Read,” Books, Sept. 24]. It was so negative and whiny it's prompted me to whine back. I've had long lags of time at SFO having to wait for delayed flights. I've also had a chance to browse the bookstores. They do not rank any worse or better than what one should expect at any airport.

Literate passengers with any brains usually bring their own reading material with them anyway. If the need arises to make an unplanned book purchase, there is certainly enough material available at SFO.

Jinni Bartolome

No power to the people: I enjoyed Zuercher's article about airport bookstores. One thing puzzled me, however: her reference to Books Inc. as a “worker-owned chain.” I have worked for them for three years, and there is nothing remotely collective about them, as far as I can tell.

We, the workers, have no say in how the company is run; there is no profit sharing. The actual CEO of the company does not work in any of the stores; the organizational structure is quite corporate.

Name withheld by request

You're on your own, sucker: Regarding Ms. Zuercher's review of SFO's bookstores, some of her comments are well received. As to her experience at WH Smith, I invite her to return and take a closer look at our stock, our IBID inventory system, and our display tables, which, excepting one that's split down the middle — I know, it's terribly confusing — are quite obviously either fiction or nonfiction, Maxine Hong Kingston's unclassifiability aside. We could place large signs, or employ docents, perhaps, but I do so enjoy challenging our customers to figure these things out for themselves. (Oh! Sorry, Karen.)

I would say only that her correct assessment of the difficulties involved with operating at the airport (corporatization, space and profit issues) answers nearly all her snarky criticisms. It might be useful to remember, too, that the new SFO, while architecturally prepossessing, is not on the shortlist of desirable workplaces (even in this troubled economy) for San Fran's well-read and boorish hipster elite.

Jedediah Palmer
Store Manager, WH Smith Booksellers
San Francisco International Airport

My Neighborhood, the Media Toilet

Give us a break!: I apologize for this late response but I just read Lisa Davis' cover article “Diseaseville” [Aug. 27].

My husband, two children, and I live on Innes Avenue, two blocks from the Hunters Point Shipyard gate. I've always been very interested in identifying the specific hazardous exposures in this area and their pathways to humans. I was one of the residents who originally joined with the Department of Public Health and UCSF to form the Bayview Hunters Point Health and Environmental Task Force.

I have a concern that areas such as the shipyard mischaracterize, with the help of the media, the entire community of Bayview­Hunters Point. Yes, there definitely are issues, hot spots. But please, let's be specific. Our whole diverse community is constantly being condemned by the correlation of health statistics to assumed environmental exposures in specific locations. As Tomas Aragon pointed out in Davis' article, there clearly is not one smoking gun.

A few years back I ran a grant program funded by the EPA where we created a database of the documented “toxic” sites in the community. We listed identified contaminants and the effects on humans of those contaminants. Frankly, after completing the project I had much more peace of mind. Besides issues related to the shipyard and another serious site, Bay Area Drum, many sites were historical and already cleaned. Much of the lesser “contamination” was heavy metals, which have little ability to migrate.

One of the things I found interesting when I was on the Task Force was that there were studies occurring in the southern states where similar trends in African-Americans were being found. Many issues can come into play, including environmental justice. But beyond that there are documented issues. Ask the American Lung Association about indoor air pollution, lack of ventilation during fry cooking, and the impact of household cleaning solutions on asthma rates, not to mention the most commonly implicated, secondhand smoke. Ask the American Cancer Society about frying foods and temperatures at which particles in oil become carcinogenic.

A title such as “Diseaseville” implies widespread disease throughout the community. Our community is large. There are wonderful areas in it that are never identified in any of the articles about the shipyard or power plant. I desperately wish the media would stop condemning our entire community with sensationalistic titles such as the one SF Weekly used. The media sure helps to keep the perception of our community as a toilet bowl. Can't there be another approach that is not so damaging?

Wendy Brummer-Kocks
Bayview-Hunters Point

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