Letters to the Editor

Barely Legal makes an end run around kiddie-porn laws. Plus: The real winner in the free-PC movement is Apple; let the Cuban boy go home!

Published December 10, 1999 5:00PM (EST)

Thank heaven for little girls


Can you imagine hoards of grown women salivating over adolescent boys,
hoping to find ones that look as close to underage children as possible?
Why don't these guys grow up?

"Fortunately, true pedophiles are very rare birds indeed," says Jeffery
Douglas in the article. Really? Tell that to the one in three
females who will experience some form of sexual assault before the age of
18, or to the 84 percent of children who experience sexual abuse who had the experience
before the age of 12.

Child pornography laws are in place for a reason -- the industry puts
children at risk. Pedophiles (or people with tendencies in that
direction) are not so rare, and Barely Legal is just another way around
those laws.

-- Heather Morgan

The difference between pedophilia and normal lust lies in the sexual
maturity of the object of desire. Our society has chosen the age of 18 or thereabouts as the age at which a person can decide to have sex, regardless of their sexual maturity. I
have no qualms feeling lust for a sexually mature female who happens to be
under 18 (though I would not act on it, since our society deems it a
crime). I would classify as pedophiles those who are sexually aroused by
people who aren't sexually mature yet.

-- Mike Persons

The free PC is dead!


Mark Gimein wonders who will get the last laugh in the fall-out of the
free-PC phenomenon. It certainly won't be buyers, who will realize what a cheap system that low sticker price really
got them. EMachines uses cut-rate parts and sells at such low margins that it
will likely make sense just to replace the whole computer when anything small goes wrong.

The real last laugh will be Steve Jobs'. While the sub-$1,000 market has torn
the heart out of low- and mid-range PC makers, Apple has avoided the
pitfall and is busy pumping out pricier -- but far better built, and far
easier to use and, hell, just cooler -- computers. With 2 million iMacs
sold in the first year, a stock price over $100 and analysts bullish on a
$125 or better, Apple has the answer: Screw the trend; make good, cool
products; and you'll laugh all the way to the bank.

-- Scott McKim

Mark Gimein makes a huge assumption when he
calls a home PC costing $650 "almost free." For many Americans, that's
still a lot of money; it's a month's rent, a doctor bill,
three car payments. Even with rebates that can bring the up-front price
down by a cool 400 bucks, we're still talking about $250. If you
support a family of 3 on a $10-per-hour wage from Home Depot, you might
opt to squander your cash on the luxury of groceries rather than that
"almost-free" computer.

Mark, can I borrow $250? I need a home computer. Or so people keep telling me.

-- Laura Magzis

Adrift in America


I find it unbelievable that anyone in the United States could justify keeping this Cuban child in this country.

Every day, in courtrooms across this country,
children are returned to their drug-addicted, jobless, unloving and
uncaring and/or abusive parents. Parental "rights" often outweigh the
best interest of the child, in spite of the fact that there are loving,
caring, nurturing homes for these children -- and that the return of these children
often leads to further disastrous results.

The Cuban child's father appears to be none of those things; the only
justification for keeping him here is political. It bothers me
tremendously that this Cuban child is not being returned when -- in the name of "parental rights" -- children who are American citizens are given less consideration and are not protected from more terrible situations.

-- Donna Davis

Let's imagine that it's the 1850s, and a black woman with a little boy
takes the Underground Railroad to Canada, but does not survive the trip.
Then the boy's slave father is brought forward, on his Massa's front
porch, to publicly proclaim his passionate desire that the boy be returned
to his loving arms.

Should we return the boy? Should we even take the father's protestations
at face value, made as they are under pressure if not outright duress?

If, instead of demanding the child's return, Juan Gonzalez had stated the
obvious truth that his son was better off in America, he
would have at the very least lost his job -- privileged by Cuban standards -- as a doorman
at a tourist hotel.

-- Taras Wolansky

Elian Gonzalez should be immediately returned to his father. Were he an
American lad of Cuban descent on a trip to Cuba and his mother, who had
reared him, had suddenly died, but his relatives who had
remained in Cuba had decided that he belonged in
Cuba, how would the American government respond?

I dread the answer. There would be volunteers lining up to invade Cuba to rescue the "American
boy." Shame on American immigration for not immediately returning the lad to his father.

-- Lillian Adelman

I am an American Cuban whose family fled from Cuba in the early 1960s.
Does the writer know that the children of Cuba are only allowed the quota of milk (a glass a day) till the age of 2? That children watch as their family
members are beaten and sometimes shot in their presence? Does he know what it feels like to hand over a child to strangers, not knowing if you will ever see him again?
Would he have sent a Jewish escapee back to Nazi Germany?

-- Allyson Arcieri

Unhappy meal


There is a great movie
about Mary Roach's somewhat unsavory subject. Marco Ferreri's 1973 "La Grande
Bouffe" (starring Marcello Mastroianni) is a funny and disturbing piece
about four bourgeois guys who decide to eat themselves to death. Highly
recommended for anyone (like Roach) who has an unhealthy fascination with

-- Stephan von Pohl

Oakland, Calif.

Mary Roach overlooked a famous (and happy) overeater, Diamond Jim
Brady, who "typically ate single dinners consisting of three dozen oysters,
half a dozen crabs, two bowls of soup, seven lobsters, two ducks, two huge
portions of terrapin, a sirloin steak, assorted vegetables, a platter of
pastries, and a 2-pound box of chocolates -- all washed down with a gallon or
two of orange juice" (from "The People's Almanac No. 2," by David Wallechinsky and Irving Wallace, 1978).

-- Richard Corwin

Appreciation: Quentin Crisp


Quentin Crisp not a "self-hating gay"? Please! Crisp is responsible for
some of the most vitriolic, odious comments about homosexuals ever. The
most famous, of course, is (in a paraphrase from "The Naked Civil Servant"), "No homosexual, no matter how exalted, is the equal of any heterosexual, no matter how degraded."

-- Michael Taeckens

The name game


Ruth Shalit's article was neither
serious nor accurate. She misquoted, misplaced and misspelled her way
into a mess. The vituperative put-down of the name "Agilent" that
Shalit attributed to Rick Bragdon was cobbled together from Rick's
opinions of a completely different name, as well his thoughts on a
particular research methodology. Shalit made an even more
egregious error when she attributed a quote to Rick suggesting that
we don't like it if clients fall in love with our names. Nothing
could be further from the truth! That's why we're in business -- to
create names that our clients love. A clue that Shalit
misattributed this quote is the fact that she simultaneously
misidentified Rick as working for our competitor Lexicon. To top all
this off, she originally misspelled his name as "Bragden."

Shalit also made light of Idiom's idea that naming and creativity
should be fun, by suggesting that we were "sheepish" about having
created the name "iMotors." For a company selling used cars over the
Internet without a $50 million advertising budget, iMotors is a
simple, direct and memorable name. We had as much fun creating
iMotors as we did naming Fogdog Sports (formerly SportSite.com), AirTouch (formerly PacTel Cellular), Dreamery (the new ultra-premium ice cream from Dreyer's Grand), Gather Round (Intel's new photo-imaging Web site), Yumsters (Yoplait's newly renamed yogurt for kids)
and literally hundreds of other names.

Shalit did an excellent job of
creating controversy where no controversy really exists. In the
highly subjective world of names, we all have opinions. And guess
what? We tend to like our own names better than the names of our
competitors. This is neither news nor newsworthy.

-- Rick Bragdon and George Frazier


San Francisco


I apologize for the misspelling of Rick Bragdon's name, and for
referring to his company, Idiom, as Lexicon in the third reference.
But Bragdon is wrong to use these regrettable errors as an excuse to
disavow quotes that were, in fact, accurately reported and presented
in context.

Bragdon claims that his criticisms of the name "Agilent" were
actually directed towards "a completely different name," which he
mysteriously declines to divulge. This is nonsense. My notes make it
clear that Bragdon was referring to Agilent, Hewlett-Packard's new
instrumentation and measurement division, when he declared: "Thank God
it's a terribly important company ... Because this is the most
namby-pamby, phonetically weak, light-in-its-shoes name in the entire
history of naming."

The comment about not wanting clients to fall in love with names was
part of a longer discussion about brand differentiation, and how to
create a brand that stands apart from its competitors. "Emotionally,
if you're very comfortable with the name, that's not a good thing,"
Bragdon told me. "Brands at their core have to be differentiated. If
a name doesn't provoke you, and irritate you, and get under your
skin, how memorable is it going to be?" It was in this context that
Bragdon told me he considered it a bad sign, not a good sign, when
clients fell head over heels in love with his creations. "If you fall
in love with the name, it's a good sign that there's something wrong
with the name," Bragdon told me.

I wanted to capture Bragdon's perspective as accurately and vividly
as possible, which is why I interviewed him
twice, with both interviews lasting over an hour. While I'm sorry
Bragdon felt misrepresented by my account, I stand by the piece as reported.

Trapped and torn


As a mother who lives and works in a neighborhood many consider
dangerous, I frequently ask myself if I'm doing the right thing to expose
myself (and my child) to the possibility of being caught in someone else's
violent act. I know that there are other mothers who don't have the
choices I do, who bring up their children here by necessity. And partly
for them I remain here -- to keep it from becoming a forgotten place, to
daily walk in and out of the neighborhood and invite others to do the
same, and to bring our neighborhood issues to the attention of people in

Guide serves the same purpose at the WTO talks and her daily job. We
all take risks; some of them have bigger payoffs than others.

-- Robin Mohr

Lisa Guide wrote, "I have always believed that the most important local action a person can take is to assume responsibility for her own family, to make sure they have what they need
to be safe and happy: shelter, food, laughter, clean air and water. Places
to play." Sure, if you're wearing sweatshop-manufactured skirts
from Banana Republic, pieced together by exploited 12-year-olds, and live in a neighborhood where anyone gives a damn about clean air, water and

Guide is an elitist bleeding heart of the highest
degree. She is a living, breathing example of why the WTO protests, while
unfortunate, were necessary -- a wake-up call to ignorant bureaucrats like her.

-- Sylvia Chan

By Letters to the Editor

Related Topics ------------------------------------------