Letters to the Editor

Defending one of California's "blood brothers"; Conason got it wrong; stop demonizing the Backstreet Boys.

Topics: Joe Conason, Guns, Gun Control

Blood brothers
BY SARAH BEACH

(7/30/99)

Casting aspersions on Stephen Stayner, as did the lady in the coffee shop whom Sarah Beach refers to,
is clearly wrong. He emerged from his ordeal more a hero than a victim,
walking from Comptche to Ukiah (at least 10 miles, over a mountain range)
to save Parnell’s second victim.

But the questions about the Stayner family remain, and are really
unaddressed by Beach in her article. Steven was picked up by a stranger
in Merced and was told his family had given him away. I am not sure what is
known about Steven’s immediate reaction to that, but he does not seem
to have found it utterly unbelievable. He lived for seven years without, it
seems, ever telling anyone that he had an earlier family that gave him
away. Life with Parnell must have been hell on earth, but Steven does not
seem to have been nostalgic for life with his real parents. Beach, if I
understand her correctly, seemed to have had no inkling during the years
they were close friends in Comptche that Steven had a previous family.

People react to horrid circumstances in different ways. For Steven, the
circumstances seem to have molded his character for the good. But it is a
valid question whether those horrid circumstances started with or preceded
the kidnapping, and if they preceded, did they affect Cary Stayner as well — and not for the good? Still, it’s not a question to which the public has the right to an answer. Bothering Steven’s
widow or children would be, as Beach suggests, unconscionable.

– David Margolies

Oakland, Calif.

I was married to a woman who, as a child, had endured eight years of
sexual and psychological abuse from her father. Like Steven, this woman did a remarkably courageous thing — she saved her two nieces from the same fate by revealing her history to her sister-in-law when ‘granddad’ insisted on baby-sitting these children alone. Beach has done a great service by bearing witness to Steven’s courage.

– Rich Procter

It’s difficult for me to think about a man such as Ken Parnell living in
my neighborhood. It seems unjust that a
man can be convicted of such an unforgivable crime and then have the world accept him again as any normal citizen. He should continue to pay for the rest of his life for what he has done.

– Micheal Brown

Kalamazoo, Mich.

Shaheen draws a blank
BY JOE CONASON

(07/28/99)

I’m confused. Have Conason and Salon been lying to us or did Shaheen tank it? Doesn’t it have to be one or the other?

– Barry D Bayer

Homewood, Ill.

I appreciate Joe Conason for bringing the issue of Shaheen’s findings
directly to the public’s attention. But, come on, Joe, you’re normally more hard-hitting than this. Your point was made with me, but it was too subtly made to portray the irony to most readers. Or do you have something really slam-dang in the works that will crucify these Scaiffe-funded hypocrites on their own petard?

– Jo Ann Simon

Sharps & Flats: “Millennium”
BY JON DOLAN

(07/28/99)

In Jon Dolan’s outlandishly shrill essay, we learn that the
Backstreet Boys are “harvesting souls … by the millions,” practicing
“teensploitation” and “amassing an army of nymphet fannies.” I
thought the Boys were just a bunch of pop stars who’ve sold a lot of
records; it turns out they’re the most malignant corrupters of the
young since Baldur von Schirach organized the first Hitler Youth
cadres.

Even if we forgive Dolan his condescending (and
sexist) depiction of the Backstreet Boys’ audience as “feverish,
unschooled consumers,” it is fair to ask just what any of this has to
do with music. Dolan gets all worked up about the Backstreet Boys’
album cover and their “proto-Guido machismo,” but fails to make a
single cogent comment about the group’s songs. The fact is, the Backstreet Boys sell millions because they sing catchy
pop songs; any critique of the group should start with a consideration
of those songs. The Backstreet Boys aren’t evil; teenage girls don’t
need Jon Dolan or any other writer to “school” them about what music to
listen to; and “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing,” the Marvin
Gaye-Tammi Terrell classic which Dolan invokes, isn’t titled “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing, Baby.” It might seem odd to insist that an an article about a teenybopper boy band be reasonably nuanced, hold to basic standards
of accuracy and have something to say about the band’s music — but
until pop music critics bring a modicum of rigor to their work, pop
music criticism will remain, much more than any Backstreet Boys’ ditty,
kid stuff.

You Might Also Like

– Ned J. Soyor

New York

[Ed. note: The Marvin Gaye song title was a copy editor's error. It's been fixed. Thanks for pointing it out, Ned.]

Lights, camera, dissatisfaction
BY KENNETH RAPOZA

(07/28/99)

The creative life, mentioned by Miguel Santiago in Kenneth Rapoza’s article, is a privilege and a challenge and has very little in common with earning a good salary and being celebrated by the press. If you wake up in the morning and need to create, then you will do whatever it takes to ensure
that you do create. If you wake up in the morning and need to buy the
latest consumer item, then you will get a job. In a capitalist economy,
this is pretty much the way it works.

What Rapoza failed to mention in his piece is that world cinema courses
have been part of film school education for years. Every film school I know
of (and the two I attended in the early 1980s) require survey courses on
world cinema. I doubt that any of these courses have been offered as
“brain-napalming” for students who hope to direct the next “Something About Mary.” Film history or cinema studies courses serve the same purpose for film students as art history courses do for painters and sculptors: to expand the student’s awareness of what has come before and help define what
they might create. Did the film students I went to school with complain
about these courses? Absolutely. Most, like the students Rapoza quoted,
hoped to get rich or get laid from their success in the film industry, and
few had goals beyond getting their “reel” of film clips together in the
hopes that it would land them a studio job. This had more to do with the
lure of celebrity than with a promise by the university that a film degree was a “get into the film industry free” pass.

If Ithaca College professor Patricia Zimmermann is earnest about not giving
students the illusion that they will be the “next big thing” then I
suggest she talk the admissions office into more truthful advertising about
the college’s program. However, touting Ithaca’s cinema studies courses as
innovative borders on the ridiculous, as established film schools have been
offering these courses for years — and with better intentions. Choosing to
go to college and selecting a major is a simple business decision. Make
sure you know what your tuition investment is going to yield. Caveat emptor.

– Kevin D. Ramsey

New York

An impatient man
BY DAVID BOWMAN

(07/29/99)

I find it ironic that David Bowman mentions John Wesley Harding near the
beginning of his article, because while it is clear that Garry Wills has
great knowledge and understanding of early Christian history, he has
virtually none about American history earlier than 1900. Considering his
reputation as an historian and writer, I was shocked at the offhand way in
which Wills fobbed off factoids about the “old West” to support his case for
gun control — but I was not all that surprised. People of otherwise normal
intelligence have been regurgitating hysterical nonsense ever since
Columbine, and Wills is no exception.

I hardly think that an ersatz museum named after a “singing cowboy” contains better history than the numerous books on the subject that have been written, especially in the last quarter-century. Does Wills really
believe what he says about how many people engaged in and/or were killed in gun battles in the latter half of the 19th century? After the Civil War,
hundreds of thousands of men trained in the art of killing and
battle-hardened to boot were set loose on American society and the frontier.
Those who turned to banditry or law enforcement as professions were usually highly skilled with the weapons of their day (by the way, the mounted troops
commanded by J.E.B. Stewart and Philip Sheridan most certainly could fire
their pistols and rifles from their horses, so I think it logical to assume that
this skill persisted once the war was over). The notion that such men merely
shot in the general direction of an adversary and purposely missed is, well,
ludicrous.

Whatever one might think of the Earp brothers, there was indeed a gunfight
at the O.K. Corral, William “Wild Bill” Hickock did in fact out-draw many of his opponents and towns like Dodge City and Tombstone had higher per capita murder rates at their peak of lawlessness than modern Los Angeles, Detroit or New York. If Wills would like to make a persuasive argument against gun ownership, he should marshal more facts and fewer factoids or, better yet, stick to St. Augustine, either the grass or the saint.

– Rob Anderson

The article on Garry Wills was interesting, if only for his tired
interpretation of the Second Amendment. Does he think the militia back then was anything but common able-bodied men who brought their rifles with them
when called up? As for his claim that few people used guns back then, what
does he think people hunted with? Did the white man return to the bow and
arrow upon arriving in the New World?

It is striking the similarities of argument coming from foes of various
personal liberties; censors, drug prohibitionists, sexual puritans and
gun control partisans all justify imposing their beliefs on others with
the same refrain, your decisions about your own body threaten society. And
all stand against the tide of freedom that is flowing.

– Rolf Kirby

Triumph of the cure
BY ARTHUR ALLEN

(07/29/99)

I am a testicular cancer survivor myself, and I have to say that if
Armstrong is adorable for what he is doing now, he was just as stupid
before. This “ain’t nobody touching my balls” business is so common and so
silly it just gives me the willies. My doctor told me a story of a man seeking advice only when his testicle was as big as a soccer ball (sure enough, he died). I went to the doctor after I discovered some knots and swelling on one testicle (by the squirrel method, which I strongly recommend to any male beyond pubic-hair growing age). I didn’t need chemotherapy, as it was in an early state, although I underwent lymph node removal. Maybe
someone should spread word that all urologists are beautiful blond babes
raring to fumble your nuts. Maybe that’ll help usher men to the doctor
on first suspicious symptoms.

– T. Knute

Berlin

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>