Week of December 22, 2004

Dec 22, 2004 at 4:00 am
Killer Ideas
Boo hoo hoo: In response to Malcolm Gay's "Uncomfortably Numb" [December 15]: As they say, let's solve the problems right here on Earth before we try to rocket to Mars. As a corollary, let's try to end all painful deaths suffered by people who are not brutal murderers before we try to prevent a few possibly painful deaths suffered by brutal murderers.

And then, when we've done that, let's solve some other problems and not worry about a hypothetical few seconds of pain suffered by these assholes. Really, what does it matter?

Oh yeah, I forgot: It says something fundamental about our society -- the way we treat the most pitiable and powerless members of society, i.e., brutal murderers on death row. Boo hoo hoo. The fundamental thing it says is that we're not very concerned about a brutal murderer experiencing a few seconds of pain before death -- an amount probably far less than that which he himself inflicted in carrying out the murderous act. Personally, I don't lose any sleep over the fact that our society in general doesn't feel it owes psycho killers a comfy death -- certainly more pleasant than the natural ones most of us will experience.
James Christopher
Washington, D.C.

Train of Shame
A downhill ride: I wanted to let you know how much I agree with your "Amshack" articles [Unreal, December 7 and 15]. Not only have they ignored St. Louis as a whole and pretended like we are the bastard child of the nation, the quality of service has plummeted.

Both of my parents worked for Amtrak back in the '70s, and we rode the train every summer. Back then people said "yes, sir" and "no, sir." They wore beautiful, well-kept uniforms; they always smiled. They took care of you the whole trip and made the experience something that I remember to this day.

The other day I dropped my wife off after talking her into taking the train instead of a plane to the Kansas City area. The train arrived two hours late, and the conductor was rude and dressed, somewhat ironically, like a hobo, with torn blazer and all. She said the experience was OK, but it was a huge disappointment for me. The pride has gone down the toilet and made what used to be an adventure into fast-food drive-up transportation. How sad.
D. O'Keeffe
St. Ann

Show Stopper
Which way to Respectable Street? No doubt that Beatle Bob has his share of fans, yet despite what Chelsey Roy writes, not everyone "loves and adores the man" [Letters, December 15].

Over the past twenty years I've attended hundreds of concerts, and Beatle Bob was usually there too. As a detractor, the bottom line of what bugs me about him boils down to this: As a so-called local "colorful character," he's lacking in just that -- character. He's simply not a decent person. No, there's absolutely no law requiring us to be nice, but anyone who has ever stood near Bob at a show will know exactly what I mean. He has complete and utter disregard for his fellow concertgoers. Yeah, people can be disrespectful at concerts -- nature of the beast -- but he resides in the upper tier of rude. My friends and I know well enough to stay clear of his flailing extremities, but I've seen him karate chop and kick people, and when they asked him to stop, he merely ignored their requests. That's just wrong.

Chelsey Roy writes that Beatle Bob should "get the respect owed to him." I reply that Respectable Street runs two ways -- you've gotta be respectful in order to get respect. And in the end, Beatle Bob deserves no more "respect" than any other individual who goes to shows and supports bands.
Robin Hirsch
St. Louis

On Further Urinalysis
Still speedin': Regarding Ben Westhoff's "Hell on Wheels" [November 24]: I do appreciate that the time was taken to listen to my concerns. However, a few points were omitted that might have given some better insight to the reader.

Why did Mr. Westhoff not mention that he sat on my porch and watched the gear-jamming bus fly by? Why did the story go to print before police incident-report numbers were provided? This might have been nice to hand to the Atlantic Express PR guy. Why did Mr. Westhoff go to someone other than the safety director at Atlantic I had been working with? What was the purpose of all of the personal info? The street name was fine enough.

In addition, on November 18 Atlantic had a van sit on the corner at the stop sign to watch for a speeding bus. How may speeders get caught at a stop sign, especially when the observer is in a large white van with a yellow flasher on top and "Atlantic" written on the side?

My goals were simply to address the fact that a child had been deliberately enlisted in a petty crime and to get the buses to slow down to the speed limit. Nothing more. Today I clocked the bus at 37 in a 25. What is the next step?
Stan Crocker

Critic Cornered
The mystery of Dennis Brown: I don't understand Dennis Brown finding The Mystery of Edwin Drood unintelligible ["Hurts Like the Dickens," December 8], when my twelve-year-old niece seemed to follow and enjoy it perfectly well. Of course, she is unusually bright, but still. We attended on a Sunday afternoon, with a very full house, and didn't hear anyone complaining that they couldn't understand the play or the lyrics. We were fascinated by the possible permutations of the voting and the fact that the cast had to be prepared for so many outcomes. We enjoyed the silliness, the singing and the suspense. Our only regret was not having brought her older brother along with us. Sorry, Dennis, that you didn't get it. Of course, we didn't have the distraction of a fire alarm, so perhaps we should make some allowances, and you might want to try again. You might even get to see one of the alternate endings.
Mary Garrett
St. Peters