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Letters to the Editor 

Week of October 9, 2002

The Silent Minority

Come now, everyone's motivated by possible shags: I could not tell whether Dan Strachota's article on the "dying" S.F. music scene ["The Sounds of Silence," Sept. 18] was geared to get musicians and audiences motivated off their asses, or to get more "celebs" as he calls it to come out and stand around so he could impress his friends and possible shags.

Hello, stop watching MTV and start taking your own advice and going out! New local bands that already have a buzz across the country: the Coachwhips, the Numbers, the Vanishing, My Lot, the Evening. Local bands with a healthy following and cult status that still keep a buzz about the Bay Area: Vue, High on Fire, Phantom Limbs, Neurosis. And that's just a start.

The thing this city needs now is more venues to increase exposure. If places like Slim's continue to engulf venues like the Great American (who put prominent booking agent Lisa O'Hara out of business), we are truly screwed.

Western Addition

Editor's note: We've covered six of the nine bands listed.

Welcome to amateur hour: I'm sure that many nattering nabobs in local bands will take exception to the articles pertaining to your Sept. 18 cover story simply because of the fuzziness of your theses and the lack of supporting evidence. What they will be missing is the crucial point boldly (and correctly) set forth in a quote by a local quisling: People are indeed afraid of excellence, and musicians are hiding behind amateurism. I hereby pledge myself to the pursuit of excellence and challenge all other local musicians to do so. Enough with the shameless promotions through empty huffery.

Sir Dance A Lot

Disturbing the War

It must be serious if Texans wanna know: Your article about the apparent financial connections of President Bush and his family to "persons of interest" in Saudi Arabian-financed terrorism is disturbing ["Rude Awakening," Mecklin, Sept. 18]. Rude questions to powerful people must be asked now. What is the U.S. Foreign Relations Committee doing? After World War I, congressional committees found very disturbing relationships among American weapons manufacturers and politicians, suggesting that our entry into the foreign conflict was strongly influenced by the profit motive of a few corporations. Who will get rich off the Iraq war? What are the financial relationships of the Bush family? Will they profit from this war?

Terry O'Rourke
Houston, Texas

Mad Science

The psychology of cinema: In reviewing Das Experiment, Bill Gallo quickly dismisses the complaints of social scientists who are "bound to grouse about the exaggeration of scientific practice" in the film ["Might Makes Reich," Film, Sept. 25]. The statement implies that psychologists might only quibble over the inaccurate details in procedure -- no debriefing, or that the researcher disappears midway -- just as they groan at "psychiatrists are expensive/uncaring" jokes in other movies.

However, the makers of Das Experiment bolstered their film on the fame of a specific experiment, without the slightest regard to the consequences of its fictional thriller ending on the actual participants. The European release and press reviews began with the subsequently removed statement that it was based on the Stanford Prison Experiment of 1971.

With no clear distinction drawn between what is similar and what is fictional in the plot, the film suggests that social psychology is dangerous and ultimately pointless. Those who were previously unaware of the historical connection are then vaguely informed so by journalists, who took Psych 101 or read the press release, like film reviewer Dennis Harvey at the Bay Guardian [in the Sept. 25 issue]. The Stanford Prison Experiment was notoriously terminated early because it got out of hand, but it certainly did not end in the brutal rape of a female assistant and murder of a student.

Ideally, global audiences would come away from the movie like Gallo, reflecting on Nazism, the U.S. prison system, or other examples of normal citizens violently abusing their power granted from authorities. Unfortunately, misunderstandings and mad scientists characterize science in the history of cinema. My father [Dr. Philip Zimbardo, who led the Stanford Prison Experiment in 1971] has been inundated with letters and e-mails expressing outrage and disgust that he, and therefore other psychologists, can allow for the violence and lack of ethics depicted in the film. Psychology research, not the real-world situations it intends to simulate, is the target of public criticism. Their anger is not equivalent to advocating for a policy change, like after One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest as Gallo mentions. It is a typical reaction to this piece of trendy ultraviolence.

Tanya L. Zimbardo
Russian Hill


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