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Letters to the Editor 

Week of February 12, 2002

Now That's a Young Stud

Real young: Letter writer Lee Doolan asked why my book didn't mention "one of the most torrid love triangles of the age" -- Rilke, Lou Salomé, and Nietzsche ["Fun With Syphilis," Letters, Jan. 29, about Peter Byrne's "Disease Detective," Jan. 15]. Answer: because it never happened. Rilke was only 7 in 1882, when Lou and Nietzsche were intellectual friends.

Deborah Hayden
San Anselmo

Patting Their Own Backs

That's what bugs me about ChronicleWatch: I read John Mecklin's column on ChronicleWatch with interest, since I have reacted negatively to the feature since I first saw it ["Thinking Small," Jan. 15]. I am bothered by it for a completely different and simple reason: self-aggrandizement.

Sure, the Chronicle doesn't come right out and say it ("We're responsible for fixing things in your town!"), but every time I see the "Results" box, I feel like they are patting themselves on the back.

And without any journalistic credo to base this upon, this is just something you do not do.

Brent Daniel
Bernal Heights

Action, Not Paper Shuffling

God love the longshoremen, but they need to switch tactics: Lessley Anderson's "Bent Outta Shape" article asserts that the ILWU's messenger industry drive is suffering due to the failing economy [Jan. 22]. While a major recession and rising unemployment are problems for all workers organizing, the ILWU's strategy for organizing messengers has been suffering longer than the Dow has been declining.

As a former messenger and participant in the DMS/CitySprint strike in 2000, I reaped the rewards of, and believe in, the possibilities of direct action and organizing outside a traditional union framework when necessary. The transient and changing nature of the messenger industry requires rapid organizing and quick actions on the part of messengers. Gains need to be extracted in a relatively short period of time to build excitement and momentum for a penetrating organizing effort.

The union's strategy of filing papers with the National Labor Relations Board, collecting cards, and waiting, waiting, waiting doesn't grab hold of most messengers' spirits or attention. Gains, when made, often come years down the line when a significant portion of messengers have come and gone.

Creativity, unity, and surprise together are key elements for winning concessions at individual messenger companies, and for establishing industrywide standards, which are sorely needed. It can be done!

Natasha Dedrick

News She Can't Use

If you can't say something nice about Oakland, I'll kick yer ass!: I agree with the Raiders spokeswoman who said running back Charlie Garner's reaction at the comedy club wasn't news ["Boyz Night Out," Dog Bites, Jan. 29]. That two football players didn't do anything while out at a bar other than to be unwillingly pulled into a bad, insulting joke is not news. Sure, they said things, but last time I checked, it was still legal to speak in the U.S.

What's noteworthy, and sad, is that your writer, Rob Martinez, thinks it's OK to make racist, stereotyping comments about Oakland during an extremely painful period for its residents, who are trying so hard to improve their city. Why did he feel the need to point out that the audience was black? Would he have made the same "joke" about being stabbed if the club weren't in Oakland, or if it had been filled with people whom he perceives to be more like him?

I have news for him: All black people in Oakland are not members of crazed mobs.

Jill Sanders

A Heartbreaking Heap of Staggering Praise

Eggers is the man, Craggs is a sham: In a Dog Bites item titled "Staggering Genius, or Genius Staggering?" concerning a recent piece in the Chronicle written by Dave Eggers about me, a social studies teacher at Galileo High School, Tommy Craggs comments "this was standard daily newspaper stuff, the kind of thing usually dumped on a bored intern's desk," referring to the piece as "1,400 words of fluff" [Jan. 29]. I'd like to inform Mr. Craggs that what he perceived as a piece of self-promotion by Eggers certainly meant a great deal to me, my family, my students, my school, and the many teachers around the district who were pleased to finally have something positive said about the work we do.

Is it not enough that Dave Eggers' nonprofit organization (826 Valencia) provides much-needed free services to the struggling young of our community, especially at a time when serious budget cuts are crippling our inner-city schools? Is Mr. Craggs not aware that Eggers gives away his own money to support 826, and to recognize teachers like myself who can't even afford to live in the communities they serve, who struggle each day to elevate their students' sense of worth?

Why would an established writer need the Chronicle to promote his latest work (which, I may add, was published independently, unlike your own publication)? And I'm sorry that Mr. Craggs didn't catch Eggers' "über-iron[ic]" play on the title of that article. But if he is in need of work sometime soon, our school newspaper is always happy to take submissions from cool, up-and-coming writers.

Joel Arquillos
Inner Sunset

You bitter little bozos!: Your Dog Bites piece effectively blew the lid off of a couple scandals: Some nonprofits want to raise public awareness of their programs, and Dave Eggers is involved with a free tutoring center.

Other than that, what's the point here? If you're trying to say that the article should have appeared as an op-ed piece, that might make some sense. But to just throw out some snide comments -- at a Teacher of the Month award! -- is kind of mind-boggling.

Didn't Eggers once work for you guys? If he apologizes for leaving your staff, will you stop trying to hurt 826 Valencia, its students, its teachers, and Bay Area public schools? This city needs 826 Valencia and Youth Speaks much more than we need your bitterness.

Toby Eackles
Western Addition

You jealous little guttersnipes!: I'm having a hard time understanding why Tommy Craggs takes such a hatchet to Dave Eggers. So Eggers wrote a piece for the Chron praising a local teacher's excellence? I can't find the problem with that.

Eggers' name attached to the article probably meant more readers and more appreciation for Joel Arquillos' work, which seems a pretty noble thing to me. As far as non-news posing as news, to me this example of that is far more desirable than, say, another puff piece about Britney or Christina -- and maybe even more desirable than a puerile comic's account of his run-in with local football players. And it's not like Eggers was out there tooting his own horn, or anything; as Craggs notes, if anything he emphasized 826 Valencia over his own role there. From where I sit, it looks like Eggers is putting his fame and fortune where his mouth is, actually doing something to improve his community. Regardless of what you think about Eggers' writing, there's nothing remotely deserving of attack in this "story."

Jealousy is an ugly emotion. Craggs should think about putting his energy into more valuable pursuits than attacking someone who's doing good.

Full disclosure: I volunteer at 826 Valencia (so I know firsthand that the work they're doing is valuable), but am not a friend or protégé of Eggers or anything like that (so I'm not writing to "get my buddy's back" ).

Eric Wilinski


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