From the week of October 25, 2000

People Who Love People

Planning hard to be whimsical: Despite Eddie Silva's cranky attempt to spoil a good time for the People Project ["People Persons," RFT, Oct. 4], folks all over the region are excited about next year's exhibition that will put hundreds of unique sculptures on display in public areas across Missouri and Illinois. These imaginative people figures will exemplify creativity, showcasing some of the area's finest artistic talent.

This is the first time an event of this scope and size has come to the St. Louis region, and we're proud to be organizing it. Sure, we've set up some limited guidelines and modest oversight to ensure that everyone in the community can enjoy this project, but that won't get in the way of creativity, expression and, yes, just plain fun.

We've received enthusiastic support from sponsors, artists and elected officials who want to help bring this whimsical display to our region. Artists like the flexibility this medium offers, and elected officials are eager to support a regional project.

There is strong community support for the People Project. We hope the Riverfront Times will lighten up and join the rest of our region in enjoying this program.

Porter Arneill
Director, People Project

Seems like New Times

Nostalgic at a tender age: I could easily begin this letter by deriding the new look of the Riverfront Times. However, there are bigger changes at hand (though I've suspected as much for a while now).

It is to my complete amazement that in neither issue 41 nor 42, the issues surrounding the presidential debate at Washington University, did the RFT carry a single news article, column or calendar listing related to the debates themselves or their associated rallies. The closest things to it were the O17 ad and the Tom Tomorrow comic -- one of which was (I assume) a paid advertisement and the other of which is nationally syndicated and merely picked up by the RFT.

There was also a listing for the Al Franken lecture in both issues, I guess because we all need to laugh it off and perhaps because this is what passes as a political event these days.

It honestly pains me to think that at the young age of 28 I will start invoking the "in the good old days" mantra with regard to the RFT, but it seems all too appropriate.

Even I can remember a time when the RFT was a bastion of the alternative press, ready to wear its heart on its sleeve and to do battle for the underrepresented and underreported. In the current state of things, there seems no more deserving story than the plight of Ralph Nader and the Green Party in the context of politics as usual.

While I realize that deadlines and publication schedules prevented the RFT from joining the postdebate hoopla (though not preventing Ray Hartmann's eulogy for Gov. Mel Carnahan), increased involvement and awareness during these events could have easily been facilitated by some predebate coverage. At the very least, some of these events could have been listed in the "Night & Day" and "Calendar" sections, or both. Instead, on Tuesday, Oct. 17, we are encouraged to attend the "Storybook Safari" -- undoubtedly more exciting but hardly less important than the debates and rallies that occurred on that day.

Perhaps it has been a long time coming, and I am being silly to expect the "new" RFT to give a damn. After all, in a paper that now devotes 85 to 90 percent of its content to reviews, advertising and movie and restaurant listings (of the last issue's 119 pages, only pages 11-26 contain real "news" stories, if we can even call them that), it seems entirely unreasonable to expect some real journalism to occur. Given these startling facts, it is about time the paper changed its look. I will add that while the design of the inside is mostly respectable, the cover is absolutely awful. What this design accomplishes is the impossibility of ever again identifying the Riverfront Times with the fine paper that it once was.

Douglis Beck
St. Louis

The end is near: Put Hartmann back on page 2! Please put Hartmann back on page 2 -- please, please, please.

This is a sure sign of the apocalypse.

Justin Domke
University City

Sh*t Disturber

Quick, call the RCGA -- Nelly's an economic-development tool: In response to Ray Hartmann's commentary, I would like to proclaim that the St. Louis Film Office loves Nelly ["Oh, Fecal Matter! Nelly is Naughty," RFT, Oct. 11]. In the highly competitive arena of trying to attract productions, it is always nice to have someone in your corner. St. Louis was very fortunate to get the music-video production of "Country Grammar." There is only one reason we got this production: Nelly. He fought with his record company to make his video in St. Louis and won. This was back in March, when he was just another MC trying to break into the rap game and not a superstar.

This music video, with a $250,000-plus budget, employed about 30 local production technicians, rented thousands of dollars in equipment from local vendors and spent about 100 room nights in local hotels. These are just the major expenditures made in St. Louis. Smaller expenditures are too numerous to mention. During the last three years, St. Louis has been fairly successful in landing film productions, but every production, large and small, is critical to our efforts to build this industry.

We look forward to working with Nelly on his music videos in the future. We hope that he will be successful in crossing over into acting and will bring feature-film productions to St. Louis. And most of all we look forward to the success of all the other St. Louis hip-hop acts that will follow in Nelly's wake and create even more production work.

Thank you, Nelly, for representing St. Louis to the fullest. This is just the beginning. Oh, by the way, your album is hot sh*t.

James Leonis
Executive Director
St. Louis Film Office

The RFT makes me glad Clarence is mayor: Ray Hartmann believes that "there's plenty of room for debate on the subject" of rap lyrics. A patronizing and cynical Hartmann apparently is untroubled by any part of "Country Grammar (Hot Sh*t)." But before he writes any more columns proving that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, Hartmann is well advised to listen to another Nelly song, "For My Niggarz." This tune -- if it even may be called that -- leaves no room whatsoever for disagreement or debate among decent-minded people of any political persuasion.

Hartmann is not generally known as a doctrinaire libertarian, at least not in economic matters. How odd, then, that he should enshrine the free market not only as the measure of financial success but as the ultimate arbiter of all other values as well. After all, can the purchasers of 3 million "units" of Nelly's "sh*t" be wrong? And is our sense of cultural inferiority really so great that we need to desperately seek celebrity and national media attention (from Rolling Stone and USA Today, no less) wherever we can find them, no matter what the cost to our self-respect and our public morality?

Maybe Hartmann actually enjoys being assaulted by Nelly's "sh*t" on street corners, at red lights and in filling stations. Or perhaps, in the value-neutral and amoral world of the "hipoisie," it has become trendy and politically correct to identify the inexorable spread of the worst features of ghetto culture with fashionable "multiculturalism" and progress.

With voices like that of the RFT, I am more thankful than ever that we have Clarence Harmon in the mayor's office!

Harold Karabell
St. Louis

Kids listen to this sh*t, too: I agree wholeheartedly with you, except the children who are listening to this music are exposed to words and phrases that are not acceptable in the workaday world that most of them need to fit into. Our educators are trying their best to prepare them on the one hand, and the rap lyrics only harm them. I don't know the solution; I only know that to say this talk is acceptable is wrong.

Donna McGehee
via the Internet

Piping Hot

No one else would have done that story: I'm responding to the article "Pipe Schemes" by Peter Downs [RFT, Oct. 11]. I praise Downs not only for the accuracy of his article but also for his prolific detailing of the events with all parties involved. I feel that the RFT displayed intestinal fortitude by printing the article, and I can't think of another newspaper in town that would have done the same.

Patrick J. Dodd
via the Internet

People won't be steamrolled by the 'Fitters: Congrats to Peter Downs and his recent article on the Pipefitters. Finally somebody got the nads to tell the truth on that bunch. They think people will just let them do what the hell they want. Wrong.

James Shea
St. Charles

Taste Testy

Readers, judge for yourselves: I am upset with the recent review regarding the Park Avenue Bistro [Melissa Martin, "Walk in the Park," RFT, Oct. 11]. The fact that I and many others do not agree with your reporter's opinion comes secondary to the mean-spirited approach taken. There was no mention of the long hard hours of work invested in taking a distressed piece of real estate and turning it into a lovely place to meet, eat and drink. Perhaps a little understanding by your reporter of what it takes to establish a good restaurant today, especially in the city of St. Louis, is in order. I hope you print this letter. I hope someone reads it, goes to the Park Avenue Bistro and judges for himself the fine dining experience I and many others have had.

I consider it more than ironic that the other article header at the bottom of the same page should be what your readers do with your reporter's opinion. It should be taken with a grain of salt.

Andy Irvine
St. Louis

Can't swallow muddy metaphors: Your recent restaurant review was one of the most poorly written pieces I've every read in the RFT. After trudging through its muddy metaphors and swampy critique, I have no idea why someone wouldn't want to visit the Park Avenue Bistro. I have eaten there and found its atmosphere charming and its food sophisticated and delicious.

Randy Grim
St. Louis

Street Balk

Exactly who made those bunnies and cicadas? I've never responded to a newspaper editorial column, but as a believer in God, I had to voice a response to Lexie Korba, a college student who responded to the question "How do you envision God?" [Wm. Stage, "Street Talk," RFT, Oct. 11].

There's really so much I want to say to Lexie, who envisions God as a "crusty heap of garbage." I would want her to know that this God chooses to love her whether she wants his love not. As for those "little pink bunnies poking out," they are nothing more than God's warm, comforting fuzzies reaching out to all his creations. In regard to Lexie comparing God to sounding like "cicadas when they die," it made me wonder if Lexie ever gave any thought as to who had the power and imagination to make such a creature!

Lexie, my prayer for you now is that you will be open to your maker ... God!

Norma Schmitz
St. Louis

Dennis the Menace

Lindenwood isn't just about Spellmann: Lindenwood University has been my home for the past three years. I have seen many wonderful and horrible things happen on our campus. It is wonderful that our campus is growing and I am excited for the city of St. Charles. We the students are proud to call St. Charles home where we work and spend our money. The land around Lindenwood is in need of some major renovations, so I am glad that Dennis Spellman has bought the dilapidated properties to expand the university. The city of St. Charles should look at this as a way to make the city more beautiful and prosperous.

Now, I am not backing Spellman up here, either. I have seen him expel students for ludicrous reasons, and once one of the students was yelled at by him in his bathrobe in front of Ayres Hall for being loud on a Friday night (before quiet hours). Above all we need to keep in mind that he has turned this university around and I will be proud to graduate in May. The professors really do care about the students and are willing to take time to sit down and explain an unclear formula or concept. On this campus, the professors actually know their students' names and have interest in them. The other day I ran across a professor who attended one of my games and told me I did a good job. Even today I had a previous professor ask me how my studies were going and was excited to hear of my future plans. Here the faculty goes above and beyond the call of duty. Spellman has done his part by bringing Lindenwood back up to where it should be.

This is a work in progress, and everything will even out. Lindenwood is not all Spellman, as your article [Jeannette Batz, "The Talented Mr. Spellmann," RFT, Sept. 6] made it sound. It is also the faculty and the hardworking, diverse group of students, which have left me with a great feeling of accomplishment as I gear up to leave the gates and pursue an exciting career.

Shannon Lueders

Academics should speak freely: What a shame that in the United States in the year 2000, a faculty member at Lindenwood University must protect his or her job by withholding his signature from a letter to the editor. I must presume that said writer is fully qualified academically to occupy his or her position in higher education, just as I must point out that his or her necessity for anonymity belies the very foundation of higher education in general and American higher education in particular. Does the writer's professional/economic situation justify his need to protect personal identity? He or she must decide.

Kenneth Cox
Lindenwood Alumnus, 1964
Stillwater, Okla.

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