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Week of March 31, 2004

Cop Talk
It goes way, way back: Bruce Rushton's March 3 observation in "Cop Secret" that "[o]nly someone with deep pockets will have the privilege of knowing how the police spend money" goes back to 1861. Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 election in the city of St. Louis but not in the state of Missouri, so the Missouri legislature took the control of the St. Louis police department away from the board of aldermen and placed it under the control of a board of police commissioners appointed by the governor, with concurrence of the state senate with one seat for the mayor.

Therefore, the police can tend to think that they do not serve the citizens of St. Louis but serve the governor. No other city in the country operates this way. Everywhere else, police departments are under the jurisdiction of the city council -- equivalent to our board of aldermen. If civilian oversight is needed, they are all elected officials that can form ad hoc committees to oversee police internal affairs at any time.
Joseph J. Kuciejczyk
St. Louis

Great Britney
Read between the ads: Kudos to the Riverfront Times' layout staff on their excellent placement of the Britney Spears concert ad on page 25 in the March 3 issue. It's really a knockout advertisement that shouldn't be overlooked, interesting on more than one level in its message to her audience.

Foremost, the photo of Britney sliding off her pants appears to have had her head replaced with that of J-Lo. The cocked hat she's sporting obscures one eye, but the remaining face and hair are almost certainly lifted wholesale from a shot of Ms. Lopez, making Britney's current transitional identity crisis look that much more pronounced.

For our added pleasure are the strategically placed knotted twists rising from her frayed macramé belt, substituting for the region of hair that isn't even typically seen in the pages of the RFT.

A line at the bottom brings things back down to earth, informing us that "A portion of each ticket sold will be donated to the Britney Spears Foundation" -- hopefully for causes more uplifting than further surgical and/or airbrush manipulations of its founder.

But the kicker is the typography of the RFT article surrounding the ad. Its large, bold and downward-angled quote precisely points to Britney's barely covered glory, in the proud sly tradition of sin-taxed-product billboards everywhere. And the quote from the article reads, "...You could feel that its days were numbered, and indeed they were."

Good luck to you, Britney.
Peter Wallach
St. Louis

Kritic's Korner
Two thumbs down: I found the Riverfront Times' reviews of two recent films misleading: The Butterfly Effect, reviewed in capsule form by Gregory Weinkauf [January 21], is a riveting drama about the conundrums of time travel, about its effect on past, present and future and the relations among alternate realities. To quibble about the film's strengths as a "thriller" or as a "portrait of a people" distracts from one of its big points: The border between metaphysics and psychology, reality and self, is unclear and slippery.

The Butterfly Effect also asks an ancient and moral question: How does Evan finally solve the defining challenge of foreseeing -- and changing -- the consequences of his choices? [He] succeeds in quieting the karmic ripples of time through an act of selfless renunciation. The film makes a vital point: Ultimate power and liberating omniscience emerge when we give up the desire even -- or especially -- for them. Still, there's likely to be subconscious bleed-through between lifetimes: Evan and Kayleigh pass as strangers on the street, both do a double-take, but move on. The delicate, saving order of things thus is preserved. The greater the desire, the trickier and more subtle its approach. The eternally potent, creative, elusive nature of omniscience and real power is the big winner. The truth remains the same, but each seeker has to relearn it for himself. Evan has learned the hard way, but has come out with a measure of peace -- maybe more important than knowledge.

About Cold Mountain, reviewed December 23 by Bill Gallo: While I enjoyed the strong performances, I'd hardly call it the greatest film of the year. It suffers from the [same] bloated excess [as] Saving Private Ryan. It's not even that it "doesn't leave anything to the imagination." Rather, it continues a sad illusion. It may dull our sensibility and make us think we know what war and violent death is, but experience alone gives us such knowledge. It may be a good story, but as an "epic," it hardly surpasses Gone with the Wind. To paraphrase Edward Albee, it may have the sound but it doesn't have the swing.
Jim Harris
St. Louis

In Shelley Smithson's March 17 feature story about the Roberts brothers, "The Kings of Kingshighway," we erroneously attributed the vacant Enright School to architect William B. Ittner. According to Carolyn Toft, executive director of the Landmarks Association, the Enright School was originally Washington University's Smith Academy and Manual Training School, and was built in 1905 for $275,000 from plans by the St. Louis firm of Mauran, Russell & Garden. The building was sold to the St. Louis Board of Education in 1917.

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