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Week of April 18, 2001

Our Own Oddities
The absurdity of seeing people in St. Louis: While Eddie Silva's "Street People" [RFT, April 4] succeeds admirably in pointing out the absurdity of St. Louis' ill-conceived public-art project, another point to make would be its similarly surreal qualities. After all, part of the joy of cows, pigs and dogs on parade amidst skyscrapers and pedestrian hotspots is the unexpected, historical and anthropomorphic self-reflectivity of it all. Bravo to St. Louis for realizing that the most absurd and unexpected thing to find in the city would be people! I fear that the best we can hope for, compared with the "Wow, cool" or even "Oh, how cute" responses associated with our four-legged friends, is perhaps a resounding "Hmm, that's odd!" Odd indeed -- but at least we're not a cowtown!
Douglis Beck
St. Louis

Failing Grade
The MAP test hurts students: Give Jeannette Batz a raise. A big raise. She scooped the Post-Dispatch big-time with her article on testing ["Testing, Testing, Testing," RFT, April 11]. I've taught for 28 years in Missouri's public schools. The MAP test hurts students. Batz did a great job getting toward this truth. I hope she or someone else at the RFT can follow up on this story. There's much more to say about the damage these sorts of tests do to our students and thus to all of us. Batz deserves a huge round of applause, if not a huge raise, for writing so intelligently about such an important issue.
Mike Holdinghaus
St. Louis

Overdue Bill
Proposed legislation needs a fix: Thank you for your update on Steven Toney and Ellen Reasonover, exonerated and released from Missouri prisons [Najeeb Hasan, "Show Me the Money," RFT, April 11]. The article poignantly described the hand-to-mouth existence these individuals have confronted since winning their long-delayed freedom. It did not, however, mention a glaring weakness of the legislation proposed by state Rep. Betty Thompson to allow the wrongfully imprisoned to sue the state for compensation.

The bill would not allow compensation for anyone who was serving a sentence for another conviction at the same time he or she was serving a sentence for the wrongful conviction. In Toney's case, parole for a prior conviction was revoked in 1983 when he was wrongfully convicted of rape and sodomy. Even though DNA evidence exonerated Toney in 1996, he was not cleared of the prior conviction for which he had finished out the sentence. Reasonover, too, served time for another conviction during her wrongful imprisonment. Neither would be eligible for compensation under the bill as written.

I pointed out this weakness to Rep. Thompson and then-state Sen. Lacy Clay after I testified about the bill before the Missouri Senate last year. It would be ironic if Toney and Reasonover could not benefit from a wrongful-imprisonment compensation law passed because of the very injustices they suffered. I hope Rep. Thompson offers an amended bill or writes Toney's name into the bill along with Reasonover's.
Rebecca S. Stith

Et tu, Hartmannus?
"It's not the critic who counts": I have followed but not participated in the work of St. Louis 2004, but I find the tone and content of Ray Hartmann's critique of St. Louis 2004 to much more closely exemplify the demoralizing impediments to our community's progress than any shortcomings in St. Louis 2004's efforts to timely meet its goals ["2004: A Wasted-Space Odyssey," RFT, April 4].

It is as though Theodore Roosevelt wrote his famous dictum for Hartmann: "It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

If, in the end, our community fails to timely move toward ending racism, rebuilding affordable housing, fixing health care, uplifting education, improving the environment -- goals, breathtaking in their ambition, announced by St. Louis 2004 at its inception -- I say to Hartmann, "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in St. Louis 2004 but in ourselves."
Eddie Roth
St. Louis

Masturbation isn't art: Regarding James Ribble's comments about his live masturbation performance at the Arousal festival with his female companion ["Letters," RFT, April 4]: Hey, James, masturbation is not art! Look it up in the dictionary, if you have one. You push the envelope too far and call it art ... now even more people will think the art community has really lost its mind. But you probably don't care, do you, James? Many people involved in the field of art education care, though. They work very hard to advance the field of art and create an environment of pride and professionalism with people who don't have the same appreciation at all.

Your "artistic" performance has helped lower that to the level of smut. Way to go, James! Bravo! A suggestion: Don't go into marketing. I suspect you just went from low-paid to no pay at the local colleges.
John Palmer

Inappropriate and unprofessional: Rest assured that James Ribble does not speak for the truly professional figure models in St. Louis. His comments border on sexual harassment, and his feelings are inappropriate and unprofessional. A true figure model is dedicated because of a love for art, never for sexual gratification. While we agree that the wages are far lower than what are deserved, we are not doing this for the money. Having been on both sides of the model stand, we have never known anyone to lust or yearn for the model to do anything other than pose. Perhaps James is in the wrong profession.
Liberty Marlow
Lana Camp
via the Internet

Arousal wasn't intended for jerk-offs: As an organizer for Arousal: The Festival of Saturnalia, I must respond to James Ribble's letter. He was hired by one of the artists as her conceptual piece. He was not paid by the festival's fund. He was hired to lie on a bed nude, covered from head to toe in exquisite red velvet. He was instructed not to expose any skin and occasionally, if possible, arouse his private part mentally. Evidently he was not capable of doing what he was hired for and kept exposing himself and using his hand to play with his penis.

Although the artist paid her model, she was disappointed that the man could not follow the concept of her piece. She did not honor him with money, as his letter implied, but dismissed him with it and left. This man was a separation from the festival theme and is only a "legend in his own mind."

Arousal II: The Festival of Saturnalia will occur in December 2001. It will have nudes like the woman [who was used] as a platter for sushi. But the theme will not be -- and never was -- masturbation.

Not only did Ribble not "get it," he decided to make the show his personal arena. Arousal is many things: enchantment from beauty, lights from candles, erotic shadows and nude figures, a hot-pink sofa, red velvet covering a reclining figure. It can be a mystery, an anticipation of pleasure and a time of play. Our festival is for the sophisticated sensuous human mind. People who want to jerk off in front of an audience, please go elsewhere.
Linda Horsley

I apologize to all of you creepy fuckers: Hello. I just wanted to say that in response to [my letter], most of the universities I model for, including Washington University, Webster and SIUE, called to cancel all of my remaining art classes for the rest of the semester. It's the same heartless fuckers who build multimillion-dollar, brand-new art buildings while people like me pour their blood all over the stage for their students. Of course, they were appalled that I actually "enjoyed" modeling for their art classes. But, alas, the whole point of living and dying, including experiencing the arts, seems to be extracting some type of enjoyment and/or love for what you do for a living. I apologize if I offended any of you creepy fuckers out there who are afraid to draw my dick. Do what you love; the rest comes ... or does it? Eat the rich.
James Ribble

Keeping Pace
Foppe's childhood experiences no longer are the norm: We read with interest the profile of John Foppe [Wm. Stage, "Getting a Leg Up," RFT, April 4]. We applaud John for his courage and his many accomplishments, empowering individuals with disabilities to pursue their dreams. We feel, however, that a few things should be clarified regarding services provided at Shriners Hospitals for Children.

In the article, John relates his unpleasant experience being fitted for prosthetic limbs. The initial stages of being fitted for prosthetic limbs can be awkward and uncomfortable, and all of us can identify with the fear a child feels in a medical setting. But for the hundreds of children who receive artificial limbs at our hospital each year, prosthetic limbs are a useful and comfortable device that improves daily function.

The fact is that a young person in John's position, with no residual limbs to be inserted into prosthetic arms, will naturally have greater difficulty in using artificial limbs. While we encourage use of prostheses in appropriate cases, many people in John's condition find prosthetic limbs simply too unwieldy and thus choose to live without the aid of such limbs. Still, being at Shriners Hospital allowed John and his family an opportunity to investigate whether prostheses were a viable solution, with no financial risk or investment on their part.

Also, John's comment that parents were unable to stay on the hospital premises during his hospitalization, while poignant, is severely outdated. Over the 27 years since John was a patient here, all hospitals have evolved in the practice of open visiting. In fact, our hospital today has 22 beds in a parent-housing area that allows parents to be near their children during hospitalization. We also employ 24-hour visiting hours, allowing parents to be with their children around the clock. While these comforts were not in place in 1974, we want the public to know that Shriners Hospitals have kept pace with modern medical environments and practices and are committed to the comfort and medical well-being of our patients.

We feel it is important to point out that more than 600,000 children have had overwhelmingly positive experiences with our system of 22 hospitals across North America. We encourage anyone who knows a child in need of our expert, free-of-charge orthopedic and burn care to call 800-237-5055.
Carolyn P. Golden
Administrator, Shriners Hospitals
St. Louis

Blown Lines
An otherwise fine review: A short note to correct an important detail in your recent review of the film Blow [Gregory Weinkauf, "A Kinder, Gentler Dope Fiend," RFT, April 4]. Anyone old enough to remember the 1960s who heard the drug-induced ramblings of Depp's character in front of the judge at his first trial would know that the words he uses have much less to do with a "Dr. Seuss-style rap" than with the music of Bob Dylan. I can't remember the exact titles of the song(s), but perhaps someone else from your staff can find out in a further film viewing? In any case, let no one confuse the words of most Dr. Seuss and/or modern rap with those of early Dylan! Kudos for an otherwise fine review.
Stamos Metzidakis
St. Louis

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