Letters to the Editor

What's a nice gay guy like me doing in a chat room like this? Plus: Remembering the most musical voice in baseball; can you still travel off the beaten track?


Letters to the Editor
October 19, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)

You've got male
BY MICHAEL ALVEAR
(10/12/99)

Alvear seems titillated by the most overtly sexual gay AOL users, and he paints a picture that is extreme and somewhat misleading. He states, "For heterosexuals, AOL is merely a
swinger's lounge. For gay men, it's more like a 1970s bathhouse." While I
can't argue against the notion that many gay men use AOL for sex, it is
also true that many gay men use it for more wholesome purposes. Many gay
teens use AOL as a venue to find other teens to talk to; it has nothing to
do with sex.

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The screen names Alvear selected represent the minority of gay users who
choose to express themselves so lasciviously. Of the 100 people on my
buddy list (most of them gay), none has a name like the lewd names Alvear
recounted. Neither I nor my gay friends have nude photos of ourselves that
we trade over AOL. Furthermore, I know firsthand of many straight men and
women who use AOL to find sexual partners, just as some of their gay
counterparts do.

It is shameful that your writer chose to sensationalize and skew instead
of presenting balance and background.

-- Michael Dushane

Ann Arbor, Mich.

I take issue with the implication that gay men congregate in AOL's M4M chat rooms solely for
the purpose of getting their rocks off. Though this claim certainly gels
with the stereotype of the singlemindedly horny gay male who eschews
meaningful long-term relationships in order to fuck a different trick each
night, the truth isn't quite this simple.

Perhaps you haven't been in a gay bar recently, but from personal experience
I can tell you that it's practically impossible to meet intelligent,
educated, considerate, quality guys -- ones in the market for either a
genuine friend (of the non-fuckbuddy variety) or for a real, monogamous
relationship -- there. That's where AOL comes in. For those of us who
aren't gay scenesters who live for bar-hopping and circuit parties, AOL is
one of the few places where we can meet queers who share our interests.

Now, yes, it's safe to say that a majority, or at least a plurality, of the
gay guys on AOL are only looking for one thing. However, you'll find plenty
of chaps there with broader interests too.

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-- Jeff Kirk

One critical point that you missed is the recent
San Francisco syphilis outbreak that CDC investigators sourced to an SFM4M
chat room. Of the seven infectees that had "hooked up" through AOL and
another chat service, five were HIV-positive, and had exposed up to 100 partners to
HIV and syphilis through unsafe sex. The investigators pointed to the
frequency of "barebacking" as well as anonymity and the ease of scoring as
major factors in the outbreak. So, your comparison of AOL chat rooms of the
'90s to the bathhouses of the '70s holds much more truth than you would allow.

While this small number of cases may not cause much alarm, the 20-fold
number of exposed partners is especially alarming and is a clear repetition
of the spread of AIDS in the early '80s.
With an end of the decline in AIDS cases, especially in the tech-savvy 19- to 25-year-old
demographic, I think it's irresponsible for you to publish an article like this without also mentioning the potential danger and consequences of having "dick at the door faster than pizza." Salon owes it to its readers, if not simply to journalistic standards, to publish the rest of the story.

-- John Brown

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Michael Alvear talks about "gay men" throughout the story, but he never mentions bisexual men, who make up a good percentage of male cruisers in America Online chat rooms.
I don't belong to AOL anymore, but when I did, a great number of chat rooms
were named things like "bi men" and "bi M4M" in addition to "gay M4M," "gay
in Phoenix" and so on. What's more, not all the men who visit generic
man-for-man chat rooms identify as gay. I found many bisexual and
bi-curious men in these areas. Bi men were (and I presume still are)
everywhere on AOL. Classifying all man-for-man interaction on AOL as "gay"
ignores and discredits all bisexual-identified men who use AOL and Internet
chat in general to find one another.

-- Keith Bowers

The most musical voice in baseball
BY GARY KAUFMAN
(10/12/99)

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As a fellow Bronxite, but a
staunch Yankee fan, the article was particularly poignant. New Yorkers in those days were very fortunate to have three sets of the best baseball broadcasters that ever did a baseball game. There were Mel "How about that" Allen and Curt Gowdy with the Yankees, Russ Hodges (who, by the way, started with Mel at the Yankees) with the Giants, and Red Barber and Connie Desmond with the Dodgers. Vin Scully not only gleaned his experience from working with Red but he was able to absorb some of the finer points from Mel Allen. With due respect to Vin, I still think Mel was the best of the bunch.

-- Ken Weinberger

Manassas, Va.

I, too, grew up listening to Scully on a tinny transistor radio, although mine was often hidden in my coat pocket with an earphone plugged into my head, lest my teacher see me trying to catch the playoffs of World Series. There weren't a lot of things when I was growing up in L.A. that gave you a feeling of home more than hearing Scully imploring you to "pull up a chair" and join him for an afternoon of America's favorite game with the boys in blue -- like it would just be the two of you. It's been more than 20 years since I've been able to listen to him regularly, having moved to Portland, but I still miss the gentle timbre of his voice and his wonderful stories. Like a lot of things in this world, broadcasting seemed better in the old days, when Vin Scully took you out for an afternoon.

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-- Terry M. Weiner

Scully's voice on the Dodgers' radio broadcasts is a sound I will
forever associate with my childhood in Los Angeles. I would always
make a point of listening to the broadcasts, even on weeknights when I
should have been sleeping or doing homework. I can remember lying in bed
with the flu and listening to Scully gently chide Pedro Guerrero for his
abysmal base-running. It was actually more exciting to listen to Scully's broadcasts than to attend games at Dodger Stadium. How many sports announcers can you say
that about? I'm just sad to see Gary Kaufman become a Giants fan.

-- Matthew Conroy

New York

California stole my Brooklyn Dodgers. For years after the Dodgers left, Ebbets Field stood silent, except for the occasional circus and rock show, with its sign "Next Game Dodgers
vs. _____" left blank and incomplete. I still feel the pain of
seeing that sign and watching the wreckers bring the field down. Sure, Vin Scully is a great
announcer; his broadcasts from the small cage suspended behind home plate
were a joy to hear, as were those of his mentor, Red Barber. But what does California
know?

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-- Robert Hechtman

Microsoft's annual report: Made on Macintosh
BY SCOTT ROSENBERG
(10/12/99)

Scott Rosenberg sneers at Microsoft for composing part of its annual
report on a Macintosh -- which is a bit amusing, I agree. But it does
seem to me that if we had learned Microsoft insisted its annual
reports be composed on a PC, in Windows, in Word, then we all would be
blasting Microsoft and Gates for authoritarian Micro-management.

-- Fred Dalzell

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Goodbye, Khao San Road
BY ROLF POTTS

(10/12/99)

I've traveled mainly in the Middle East over the past four years, and as my experiences have evolved, so has my perception of international travel and its impact on local populations. I'm an anthropology major; my profession has a long and noble history of completely corrupting unspoiled cultures. It is especially striking, I'm sure as you've seen in Asia, to see the Western middle-class travel revolution in lands that grow increasingly dependent yet distrustful of the Western tourists. On one hand, the money is of great benefit to the people; on the other, the trinkets they sell make a mockery of their heritage. That cannot do much for the collective self-esteem.

On my last trip to Egypt, I found myself initially annoyed and disillusioned with being a "traveler." "Authentic" experiences seemed few and far between; I was viewed not as a curiosity but as payday. But I learned that if I stayed in a locale long enough and let down my guard a bit, these people actually helped me out.

When I spent time talking with local people about my archaeology research, they were so surprised to meet some one who wasn't just looking for the quick "experience" that I was adopted into many of these families. I lived in the Jordanian desert for several months, attending all sorts of functions and "traditional" events. I was defended like a sister, and shown amazing things. It was always made clear that I was an outsider, but I could deal with that.

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Exploration and authentic experiences are still out there, they just seem to be more difficult to find and more labor-intensive. It will be impossible for anyone to truly experience what it is like to be a part of culture. Most travelers aren't looking for that anyway. They're looking for passport stamps.

-- Maia Engel

I spent two years traveling through Asia in the late 1980s, after I finished college, and I can assure you that the "middle-class travel revolution" was well under way then. One reason I've had no desire to go back to those places is that, while I've gotten older, I suspect they haven't changed one bit.

The challenge for the modern adventure tourist, I suppose, is to find territory that is "off the beaten track." That corner of the world is getting smaller, but the challenges, rewards and real discomforts of such travel, I suspect, haven't changed all that much.

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Tourists out for a unique adventure have to compete with all of the yahoos from back home. Over time, they realize that they are also yahoos. But that explodes the myth the tourist is seeking to confirm -- not just that the world is infinitely diverse, but that he or she is unique.
I suspect not much has changed in hundreds or even thousands of years. There are wonderful accounts of Englishmen in Venice during that city's golden age, Frenchmen in the United States during the early years of the republic -- and most of these accounts start with some attempt by the author to distinguish himself from the pack of yahoos who are doing the same, to separate himself from the herd.

If there ever was a golden age on Khao San Road, I suspect it was very brief. I question whether it existed at all, in fact; it's possible this was all the invention of people who were trying to assert some uniqueness to an experience that, over time, can become very mundane.

-- Kevin Douglas

Put the victim on trial?
BY DAVE CULLEN
(10/12/99)

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You assert that Aaron McKinney's attorneys "may argue that McKinney was
intoxicated, temporarily insane or suffering from so-called 'sex panic' as
the result of an alleged pass by Shepard -- the defense strategy that proved
effective in the Jenny Jones show murder case."

It is called homosexual panic, and Jonathan Schmitz, the perp in the "Jenny
Jones show murder case," was convicted of second-degree murder at both of
his trials, though the first verdict was overturned because of judicial error.
He received a sentence of 25 to 50 years. That means he does 25 years
before he is eligible for parole. Salon may call that success, but I doubt
that Jonathan Schmitz does.

-- Duncan Osborne

Too noble
BY CHARLES TAYLOR

(10/12/99)

In his otherwise thoughtful piece, Charles Taylor wrote: "The
Fred Goldmans of the world are offensive because they imply that their
grief is far more important than the basic tenets and realities of the law." Lest we
forget, Goldman's son was brutally murdered, and his murderer was acquitted by a
jury whose members appeared not to care a whit about the gravity of the
responsibility entrusted to them. Were it my son who was murdered --
if I had to watch his murderer smirk after a not-guilty verdict was
announced, and I had to watch his murderer walk around a free man,
spending his time golfing -- I too might offend Taylor with my grief.
What would he have Goldman do? Shrug his shoulders and say, "Oh, well, if
another one of my family members is killed, maybe next time we'll
receive justice"?

I find the Johnnie Cochrans and Robert Shapiros of the world far more
offensive than the Fred Goldmans, whoever they are.

-- Vern Morrison

Apparently Charles Taylor has never been in college or never lived in a dorm,
because he writes that despite there being "all sorts of good, perfectly
understandable human reasons" why Bernie Rodgers failed to intervene in a
timely enough fashion, "that doesn't make him innocent of criminal
negligence." Oh yes it does; overreaction to potential and/or real threats is what
is turning this society into a practical police state.

The simple fact is that prank calls to the front desk are commonplace in
all college dormitories, and a residence director cannot be expected to
handle every "help me, I'm on fire!" as if it were an actual emergency.
Rodgers did not know "that Lo had a gun and was in his dorm." He knew
that someone else thought that, and he would have to investigate it before
taking action. To suggest that he was negligent is to suggest that he
should have possessed ESP.

-- Rob Anderson

This review mentions that Eddie Polec was killed "in a church parking lot in his Philadelphia suburb," and that "some of the 911 operators weren't familiar enough with suburban Philadelphia to recognize where the trouble was."
Those references to the "suburbs" are entirely incorrect. Eddie Polec was killed in a church parking lot squarely and most definitely located in the city of Philadelphia -- not the central financial district, but one of the outlying neighborhoods. The killers were from the suburbs, and ventured into Eddie Polec's neighborhood; it was a fight of suburban kids vs. city kids.

It is even more galling that the Philadelphia 911 operators were not familiar with this Philadelphia location (by a landmark church), and that Philadelphia police officers thus did not respond quickly.

-- Eric Packel


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