I am a capoeirista from Canada. I read your article “Still Kicking” (Metro Times, Feb. 9), and have to agree with pretty much everything that was said. I discovered this art two years ago, and have been practicing for four months shy of a year. Everyone I talk to who plays always feels the same exhilarating, free, and inspiring secrets held within. I wonder if this would be said for all martial arts. I don’t know. But where you described how Capoeira was created by people who had lost their freedom hit home. Somehow Capoeira frees you. —Jonathan Webster, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
A low blow
Re: “Still kicking,” while I appreciate any publicity regarding the art of Capoeira, I am surprised and disappointed that the article is so one-sided. When the writer phoned me regarding the piece, he made it seem as though it would be an article about the Capoeira scene in Detroit. Instead, it reads like a long commercial for Mestre Caboquinho’s school and his philosophy, and my quotes are brought in to reinforce his view in a backward sort of way. Absent, however, is my mestre’s name, although I told the writer many times. The article misleads the reader, making it seem as though I had no teacher and that I read some books and decided to teach. The writer decided to leave out all the facts about me and presented a one-sided piece of propaganda. This shows a lack of journalistic integrity, and I am highly disappointed with the tone of the article and what it implies. —Gary Williams, Instructor Trovoada, Capoeira Mandinga, Detroit
Cooperation, not cuts
Re: “An institution founders,” (Metro Times, Feb. 9), it is clear that the city’s budget is in crisis — it is not clear why the Belle Isle Aquarium should take the largest hit in the Zoological Institute’s budget.
While the Detroit Zoo is in Royal Oak, Detroit is the only municipality to contribute to its upkeep. This year, Detroit will provide $4 million of its budget — a $4 subsidy per visitor for each of its million annual visitors — from a cash-strapped city that can ill afford it. Ironically, two-thirds of its visitors are not even Detroit residents.
It is time to revisit the topic of regional funding for metro Detroit’s cultural facilities. The Zoo is a great regional attraction — we need to support it accordingly.
The Belle Isle Aquarium is an incredible little jewel. Though the much-vaunted (yet still unfunded) plans for a new, $150 million aquarium on the riverfront sound great, the Belle Isle Aquarium, with an annual cost of $385,000, is one zoological institution that the city can actually afford to support. Perhaps Detroit should first care for the cultural institutions that are within its borders. —Suzan Campbell, Flint, email@example.com
The proposed closure of the Belle Isle Aquarium really disturbs me.
Of course, the city budget crisis looms. But surely the aquarium might be something that could be privatized and run by a nonprofit organization that might have better access to foundation grants and volunteers. I had read that attendance at the aquarium has declined, but in terms of attendance per square foot (which is often used to judge retail stores and other businesses) is the “foot traffic” really less than that at the much larger and more expensive main zoo? I suspect not, since the building is only 10,000 square feet compared to the acres of space at the main zoo. Surely it is a “lean” facility, and a modest one. And when was the last time the aquarium was promoted? It is barely mentioned in all the zoo literature.
I also think it is a bit dishonest for the zoological department to talk of closing the oldest aquarium in North America because of lack of funds and then, in the same breath, talk of building a 150,000-square-foot new aquarium. Who is going to pay to build and operate a building that will be several times more expensive to operate than the existing one? And would your average Detroit family be able to pay the much higher admission fee at a new facility? It will most certainly be much higher than $4 — probably $15 or $20, judging from rates at new aquariums in other cities. —Cy Chauvin, Detroit, firstname.lastname@example.org
A child’s plea
I’m writing to express my opinion about the closing of the Belle Isle Aquarium. I’m 10 years old and have been going to the aquarium and Belle Isle my entire life. I think it should stay open because I enjoy it and I’m sure other people do too. It’s the oldest aquarium in America and is part of Detroit’s history, Michigan’s history and America’s history.
Today I visited the aquarium again with my younger brother and friend and had a great time. I’d hate to see it close because that means other children wouldn’t have the same opportunities and memories that I’ve had.
Please do not destroy this beautiful place. —Leo Kopack, Oak Park
One man’s saint
Re: Jack Lessenberry’s piece “Now let us praise free minds” (Metro Times, Feb. 2), so “Rev. Harry Cook, rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Clawson,” calls himself a “secular agnostic humanist.” Without knowing the context in which the reverend made the remark, it seems patently obvious to even a non-Episcopalian like me that the Episcopal Church is neither secular (by definition), agnostic (presumably the church takes a position on the existence of God; presumably the church thinks there is one) nor humanist, at least not as the word is currently understood. Now, there is nothing wrong with being a “secular humanist agnostic,” but being one while remaining in an organization that ordained you to in fact be the opposite is a bit disingenuous, and hardly admirable. —Paul Machesky, Dearborn Heights, email@example.com
“Bush Bad, Bush Stupid, Bush Reckless, Bush, Bush, Bush …”
Yeah, yeah, we get the idea. You hate the president.
Problem is, that question is off the boards now. The election is over. When will guys like you make some sort of effort to contribute something to society other than carping, whining and complaining?
You have no ideas, no plans and no vision whatsoever. And then you wonder why liberals can’t get elected dogcatcher anymore.
Keep up the good work. —Bill Archer, Uniontown, Ohio, firstname.lastname@example.org
A shove from the right
Re: “Why we must lose this war” (Metro Times, Feb. 9), Jack, let me see if I got this right: You say President Bush cannot say Social Security will be in trouble in 2042, but global warming is going to happen in the next 20 to 30 years.
Get real. You libs are so transparent.
All the best. —David Brown, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
And a push from the left
I’m somewhat surprised at Mr. Lessenberry’s commentary on Professor Dyer. He is using the future tense in referring to this country’s position in the world community as a rogue state. The history of the United States, not the varnished hogwash printed in school textbooks, is replete with examples of terrorism and genocide, both domestic and foreign. This country has fought one war to protect its freedom, and that would be World War II. Past that, as Marine Major General Smedly Butler suggested, the U.S. military has been used singularly to make the way safe for corporate America. Communism was a pathetic excuse just as terrorism now is. The United States is the leading purveyor of terrorism on earth, followed only by its poodle, Israel. It is clear that the United States has been involved in terrorism throughout South and Central America, Vietnam, Cuba and the Middle East, to name a few. These are documented historic facts. It is clear that the U.S. public has lived a comparatively cloistered life compared to the other peoples of the rest of the world. There are few countries so caught up in admiring themselves for unearned greatness, for saving countries they didn’t, and for how all these clearly criminal actions around the world were done in the name of “freedom” and “democracy.” It is quite clear that the meaning of these two words, among countless others, eludes the average American. Out are the flags, bumper stickers and fireworks as America saves Iraq from Hussein! Only, as the world made clear prior to this debacle, especially Iraq’s neighbors, Hussein wasn’t a threat to anybody. The greatest threat to peace on earth is the staggering ignorance and stupidity of the American people. —Ted Bohne, Silver City, N.M., N96173@msn.com
But they did disclose it
Re: “America: Still eating its young” (Metro Times, Feb. 9), when you were writing this story, did you ever wonder where the Children’s Defense Fund got their data from? Since they do not disclose their source, wouldn’t that make you a little bit hesitant to reprint their numbers verbatim? Did you wonder how many of those “children” were gang-bangers, drug-pushers or hold felony warrants? Does it matter to you? It does to me. Why don’t you dig around a little bit on your own, do some research, then let us know what you’ve found out with regard to children and guns. And don’t forget to include in your study the tens of thousands of armed youth (children 12-15 years old) that take to the fields here in Michigan during hunting season. —Jim Kleiman, Fennville, email@example.com
I am certainly not an expert on the causes of death for young persons in Detroit. Important, though, is the fact that if the problem is not properly analyzed and described, it cannot be effectively addressed. You seem to have more data than the average citizen, so take a look at it from some different angles.
1. How many of the deceased had criminal records (juvenile or adult) for violent acts and thus had put themselves and others at risk and were known?
2. How many of the deceased were members of groups that subscribed to a subculture of violence (gang members) and thus had put themselves and others at risk and were known?
3. How many of the deceased had histories of violence in the home or school where they might have escaped an official record even though they exhibited risky behavior and were known?
Drop the deceased youth who meet the above three criteria and see what you have left. Now present this remaining group as the problem. A sustainable solution to the problem of death by firearm for this last nonviolent group will be simpler to identify and implement. Its ranking on the causes of child death scale will be somewhere below drowning in five-gallon pails.
For the rest, a former Wayne County Medical Examiner, John Burton, had an answer. Addressing a graduating class of the Detroit Police Academy, he spoke of the record homicide rate for the prior year. His research revealed that two-thirds of those homicide victims were engaged in acts or lifestyles where violent death should be expected (and it wasn’t cap guns and video games). His exact words were “they had it coming.”
Detroiters are not leaving because of gun violence. Detroiters are leaving because they realize that Detroit’s leaders cannot accurately define the problem so there is no hope for a solution. —Jim Rhodes, Casa Grande, Ariz., firstname.lastname@example.org
Critiquing our critic
Lisa Collins needs to practice what she preaches.
Her recent review of the film Paper Clips (Metro Times, Feb. 9) concluded by stating, “The point of the story: the evil of stereotypes, discrimination and hatred. Detroit could take a lesson from these kids, teachers, adults and elders. We all could.”
Indeed, Ms. Collins certainly could learn something from the film, because she started off this very same review by perpetuating a discriminatory stereotype of Southerners, writing, “Welcome to Whitwell, Tenn., where everyone is white and loves God, America and chicken-fried-steak. The Ku Klux Klan was founded not far from here.” This derogatory stereotype is long outdated, unfair, and has a much greater impact than just hurt feelings. As Kentucky Gov. Ernest Fletcher has noted, the perpetuation of the Deliverance stereotype results in worsening economic conditions in some of the nation’s poorest areas, discouraging potential employers from investing and creating job opportunities in areas like Appalachia, areas where poverty is high and job opportunities are scarce. In the future I would appreciate it if Metro Times would take its commitment to journalistic integrity a bit more seriously by editing out bigoted comments like the one so capably illustrated here by Ms. Collins. —Robert Brammer, Ypsilanti, email@example.comSend comments to firstname.lastname@example.org