Week of January 5, 2005

New Year's Evolution
Contrary to popular belief, the holiday season around the office of the Riverfront Times wasn't all mistletoe and tequila shots. Between bouts of debauchery, we managed to put the finishing touches on some new weekly features.

On page 10 you'll find the debut installment of Timothy Lane's new illustrated column, "You Are Here," in which the author/artist shines a fine and focused light on St. Louis and its inhabitants.

In Film, staff writer and cinephile Mike Seely weighs in with "Blind Phyllis," in which he celebrates (or skewers) films you can "rent" for free at the St. Louis Public Library. And in the Cafe section, we say farewell to Michael Renner and (starting next week) welcome Rose Martelli aboard as the RFT's week in, week out restaurant critic.

One last note before we tend to our hangover: Careful readers of our Music section may have noticed a few subtle changes over the past several months, as clubs editor Jess Minnen tweaked the database to include more listings covering a broader range of nightlife categories -- including karaoke, comedy clubs and poker nights. This week brings a more obvious improvement: club capsules. Beginning this issue, listings for many local nightspots come complete with a helpful description of amenities and ambiance. Look for new capsules to be added on a regular basis.

Party Pooper
Up in smoke: Unbelievable! After suffering days of pep-talk on KMOX about First Night, I made my way to one of the fine establishments that stocks your paper, hoping to find some sophisticated coverage of New Year's Eve. What do I find instead? The first article about New Year's Eve in Night & Day [December 29] doesn't give us a guide to the delicacies of the Central West End or Grand South Grand. Rather, it glories in the least-lame aspects of First Night. Come on, now! We're talking about an event featuring "A Wish Called Wanda," in which people write their hopes for a new year on paper and watch as they go up in smoke before the stroke of midnight -- and it's not meant ironically! I expect this from KMOX. After all, if they made anything whiter, they'd have to work for Wonder Bread -- but not you. You're supposed to be the "alternative news source."
Peter A. List
St. Louis

Date with Death
See ya at the execution! I'd like to address this to Mark Lehde in response to his rude, crude and socially unattractive remarks about capital punishment [Letters, December 29]. It's a shame you didn't live in the time when you could've attended the events in which Christians were mauled and devoured by lions. It's clear that you would have enjoyed it. You have a sick, inhumane and disgusting attitude. You must be great company. Thank God I live on the opposite side of the river, and I hope never to be so unfortunate as to run into you. I would, however, like to invite you to join us (the Eastern Missouri Coalition Against the Death Penalty) on the St. Louis courthouse steps the night of the next scheduled Missouri execution! Looking forward to seeing you there!
ReDella Good

Return of the Blog
A noble calling: It's disconcerting to learn from Ben Westhoff's "Attack of the Blog" [December 22] that a writer for the Post-Dispatch who covers material aimed at young people is apparently so immature and uneducated. While I oppose censoring anyone, especially a reporter, on the basis of his personal biases rather than on the basis of what he writes, it is hard to imagine that Daniel P. Finney could be bringing enlightenment to our youth if what you wrote in this article is the whole truth.

I do wonder where this Finney went to journalism school. I would hope those schools are still teaching that a reporter's job is a noble calling. As the mother of three teenagers, I try to encourage my sons to read the newspaper beyond the sports and comics. Unless we can develop the newspaper-reading habit in our teenagers and young adults, these generations will be dependent on FOX News and the other right-wing "news sources."

Finney had a great opportunity to make a difference, and he wasted it. He shouldn't be allowed near a position of public influence again -- unless he reforms and shows that he's become educated as well as grown up.
Mary Ann Zaggy
University City

Private thoughts on the World Wide Web: Honestly, what did you people think was going to happen? I can't say I'm fully surprised that Finney was fired; from what I saw, there were some postings that surely would've rubbed his bosses the wrong way.

On the other hand, as you say in the December 15 Unreal, his blog profile had only been viewed 32 times since September, so it seems fairly apparent to me that the journal was probably intended only for a few out-of-town friends to read, and he probably wanted to keep it that way. The blog likely would've had little chance of being personally/professionally damaging had its address and an excerpt not been published in a comedy/entertainment section of the (unless I'm mistaken) second-most widely distributed publication in St. Louis behind the Post.

At the very least, I'd imagine there's a greater chance that he might suffer some personal embarrassment by having what seem to be fairly private thoughts published alongside a jokey narrative about holiday shopping.
Eric Seelig

Critics Cornered
Smokin' crack and gettin' laid: I understand that taste is subjective [Annie Zaleski, "Marrying the Mainstream," December 22]. I also realize that the qualifications for becoming a music critic consist primarily of the ability to spit out pretentious bullshit and to reference obscure indie bands that may or may not actually exist. I recognize that the main objective of any music critic is not to inform the reader, but to see one's name in print, get into shows for free and hopefully use his or her minor-celebrity status to get laid. I have no problem with that.

However, because of these facts, most music reviews are totally useless, and complaining about them is as pointless as the review itself. But, sweet baby Jesus, Avril Lavigne on a Top 10 list? Was Annie Zaleski smoking crack and masturbating to a Hello Kitty poster just before the deadline? Lord.
Rob Dunnett
St. Louis

Connecting the dots: In the RFT's Top 10 movie roundup [December 22], Robert Wilonsky accuses Michael Moore of "getting messy with the facts" in Fahrenheit 9/11 but doesn't say which ones. He wishes Moore had "tried harder to connect the dots," when the movie's dots connect themselves. Wilonsky asserts that 9/11 is entertaining but not be confused with "truth."

I contend Wilonsky, like mainstream media, got messy with his accusations. If -- and that's a very big if -- Moore is off by a debatable fact or two, does that mean the entire film is untruthful? And is the actual footage presented (which mainstream media had neither the work ethic to ferret out nor the guts to broadcast) untruthful?

9/11 wasn't meant to be a balanced docu-debate. It was meant to tell the other side of the story that wasn't being told. Moore's film was to politics in 2004 what the Zapruder film was to the Kennedy assassination. It didn't answer all the questions, but it sure raised the questions to ask, and America would be uninformed to an even greater extent without it.

Because of its courage and significance, 9/11 is outstanding. Unfortunately, Wilonsky's let's-take-shots-at-big-fat-Michael-Moore-for-having-the-guts-to-do-what-we-didn't hack-job of a review wasn't.
Michael Ankelman
Webster Groves

In last week's restaurant review, we mistakenly pegged the hamlet of Glasgow, Missouri, "downstate" of St. Louis. To be precise, Glasgow is located outstate -- about 35 miles north of Columbia. Additionally, our December 15 story about the prefab homes of Rocio Romero erroneously stated Romero's occupation. She is a designer, not a licensed architect in the state of Missouri. Finally, in an Unreal item in that same issue, we erred in describing a renovation project at the Museum of Transportation. The automobile-display building at the museum will be closed until October. The rest of the museum remains open for business.

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