Grace Note

Week of January 9, 2002

Grace Note
He's a true gentleman who deserves better: Thank you so much for your wonderful bio of my hero, Willie Akins [Jeannette Batz, "The Ballad of Willie Akins," Jan. 2]. I've been an admirer of his for over 30 years, and I'm elated that someone has finally "discovered" him in St. Louis. After hearing him the first time, at the old Moose Lounge, we knew he was a natural. It's a shame that he's virtually unknown locally outside local jazz circles. Hopefully your insightful piece will wake people up to the rich jazz history of St. Louis and get them out to hear it and support it.

I remember that time at the Moose Lounge, my friend and I were the only white folks in the house, and Willie immediately came over to our table on his first break and sat down to tell us how he appreciated us being there. My musician friend and I were in awe of hearing what was the closest our generation had come (at 22) to hearing real bebop played in a smoky, noisy bar. I'll never forget his grace and quiet articulation -- a true gentleman who deserves better. It really is a shame he couldn't have stayed in New York longer, because I'm sure he'd have made it sooner or later. Hopefully your piece will help him "make it" more so in St. Louis. He certainly deserves better.
Steve Knarr
via the Internet

Comic Relief
More daft than deft: Too often, journalists who write about comic books produce sloppy, condescending copy, and Byron Kerman did just that in his piece on local artist Rick Burchett and Burchett's work on Batman: The 10-Cent Adventure [ Sign of the Dimes," Jan. 2].

Although usually Kerman comments deftly on area events, he seemed less deft than daft in covering a recent signing by Burchett at the Ellisville Comics Universe, 15634 Manchester Rd. Kerman described Burchett's art on that one-shot as typified by the "muscle-bound-guys/boob-heavy-gals technique that comics have employed since day one"; that gibe not only generally mischaracterized Burchett's work but also suggested a profound ignorance of the medium -- no knowledgeable commentator would so describe the work of Bob Kane (Batman's creator) or most of his contemporaries in American comics during the late 1930s and 1940s, Kerman's "day one." (Let's pray Art Spiegelman never visits St. Louis, lest Kerman dismiss Maus, Spiegelman's Pulitzer-winning murine meditation on the Holocaust, as "Mickey Mouse with a bad attitude.") Moreover, in what appeared to be a nonsensical nod to overpricing, Kerman also dunned Burchett's Batman: The 10-Cent Adventure for costing such an "embarrassing" sum -- leaving one to wonder how little to value Kerman's own comments, which grace a publication that costs a dime less than the one-shot by Burchett.
Bryan A. Hollerbach
St. Louis

Keeping comic-book art alive: Rick Burchett should be commended for his efforts to restore faith in comic-book reading. Like so many young boys, when I was growing up in rural Missouri, comic-book stands were the first stop at any local store. I owe my artistic interest and drawing ability to comic books. I still read comic books when I can find them ... mostly at flea markets and antique malls. I remain a devoted subscriber to MAD magazine. And, most of all, I continue to love comic art and do some illustrating for free for local and state publications. Thank you, Rick Burchett, for keeping comic-book art alive.
Paul Cameron
Ste. Genevieve, Mo.

'Fess Up, Ray
You've been selling us worthless liberalism for years: Ray Hartmann's editorial regarding the heretofore unused prison facilities at Bonne Terre ["Taking No Prisoners," Dec. 26] covered a topic that has been discussed on most/all of the 10 p.m. news broadcasts in St. Louis. So it's not a new subject to most of us.

What is new is Ray's criticism of the goofs in Jefferson City, but his editorial would have packed a bigger bang had he named those legislators guilty of poor fiscal planning. We suspect that the reason he steered clear of this is because most of Jeff City is run by liberal Democrats, many of whom Ray has endorsed in past elections.

When will Ray finally break down and admit that he's been selling us a worthless piece of liberal goods for years? This situation could have been an ideal place for him to start.
Richard H. Gerding
Concord Village

Religious Sacrifices
How important is his faith? As a Christian who works at an auto factory, I fully sympathize with Talibdin El-Amin's dilemma at the Ford plant [Elizabeth Vega, "All Work and No Pray," Dec. 19]. At Chrysler, like Ford, deer season holds an unusual sway over most of our union membership and the life of the plant. As stated in the well-written article, seniority plays a very important role in shaping the lifestyle of an auto worker.

My seniority has prevented me from working days and has kept me on nights for the last six years. As many night workers can attest, this affects your metabolism and your "mental clock," so even when I don't work on a Saturday night, I find myself going to Mass only after a couple hours of sleep. This is also true on Easter and Christmas, and the older I get, the harder this becomes.

Unlike Mr. El-Amin, I never thought I had the recourse to seek the intervention of the federal government and the EEOC. And, as also stated in the article, Mr. El-Amin finally (after long last) has seniority, which gives him a choice. Many of us, myself included, have no choice. Finally, I would like to recount what happened several years ago when the St. Louis minivan plant started running production on Saturdays. Several Seventh Day Adventists (whose Sabbath, like Jews', is on Saturday) actually had the courage to quit and find other work. I hope it never comes to that for me, but as for Mr. El-Amin, if he waives his rights by seniority so he can pray while working nights, he may have to make that choice. It all comes down to how important our faith is to each of us.
Tony McMillan
Millstadt, Ill.

Gee, We're Dumb!
Petty and sleazy, too: The Riverfront Times has run a series of articles on TIF projects in this area, all of which have one common theme: All TIF projects are evil and exist for the purpose of enriching large corporations. The ignorance of the Riverfront Times and its writers on this subject is incredible.

As stated in the most recent article, these corporations come into a city, pick a location and demand millions in "subsidies" from the municipality [Safir Ahmed, "Selling Out," Nov. 28]. In the first place, the city requests proposals from developers in areas generally preselected by the city's planners for redevelopment. These are areas either considered blighted or conservation areas. It is an intentional falsehood for your paper to say that the developers come in and pick out a location they wish to develop.

Second, it is also intentionally false to say that these developers get public subsidies from the municipality. All TIF financing comes from self-financed bonds totally funded by sales tax generated internally by the project. No project, no sales tax, no development, no TIF. The municipality provides no public funds for these projects.

Third, your article states that TIF projects are supposed to be used only in blighted districts. This is also intentionally false. As stated by the Missouri statutes, the TIF projects also are used for conservation districts. Those generally are areas 35 years or older, showing signs of economic decline, and are subject to deterioration over time because of location or other circumstances. This is never mentioned in your articles, either out of your slanted opinions or your ignorance.

Fourth, your article also states that it is unfair for large, profitable corporations to get public subsidies. Again, your ignorance and untrue statements about these projects is especially glaring. These corporations get no public subsidies whatever. They are merely tenants in the development. They pay competitive market-rate rents for their space.

Fifth, you totally ignore the alternatives for cities facing financial problems. Many cities are having problems maintaining police and fire departments, adequate municipal salaries, rendering other essential services [...] Without finding additional sources of revenue, the entire city structure will decay and decline. If the Riverfront Times has some better ideas to solve these problems, it is time to reveal them or shut up.

The Riverfront Times has some peculiar journalistic practices. Most publications will investigate a story, get the facts and then reach a conclusion. The Riverfront Times makes its conclusions first, then scrounges for tidbits and anecdotes to support its preconceived notions on these issues. Most often, your paper bases its conclusion on its own ignorance and prejudices. The Riverfront Times has become a petty, sleazy publication.
Isaac E. Young
Maplewood

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