EDITOR: I was very happy to look at the cover of your fine rag and see David Shields' name on the cover, however after reading his article "Welcome to America" [Jan 9], my delight turned to dismay.
In the second to last paragraph he describes his local video store and the suspicious white clerk who asked the African American individual for his ID. I am that "suspicious" white clerk. According to company policy I have to see the ID of our customers in order to insure they are renting on the right account. I do make exceptions to that, for our customers who rent and visit the store frequently. I recognize David, as he is one of our regular customers; each time he comes in we converse, usually on the topic of whatever freelance article he is writing. As such I don't check his ID. Dave Matthews, a prominent local celebrity, rents at our store. I don't check his ID either. Does this mean I treat him better because he is famous? No, I recognize him and do him the courtesy of not checking his ID, like I do for David Shields and many other of my store's regular customers. I checked the ID of the customer before David because he is a newer customer and I do not recognize him yet.
Was this racism? No, I was doing my job. I have over a hundred different customers every day. I cannot recognize them all, but I can recognize those who come in frequently. I hope that David can recognize this and apologize to me and my staff, who are just trying to provide him with a more personal visit.
Suspicious White Clerk, via e-mail
KEEP on TRUCKIN'
EDITOR: Just finished reading "Skateboarding as a Crime" [Matthew Preusch, Jan 9]. Let's see, a human being was killed. Blah, blah, blah, media bad. Blah, blah, blah, skateboarding is unfairly maligned. Blah, blah, blah, the Ave always gets a bad rap. Blah, blah, blah, killer as victim. Blah, blah, blah--WHOA!! Being intentionally smacked with a skateboard happens often enough to warrant a slang term ("trucking")??!! Well, gee whiz, maybe there was something to the skateboarding backlash after all! Thanks for clearing that up.
R. Gay, via e-mail
EDITOR: What in the hell crawled up A. Birch Steen's ass and died [A Critical Overview, Jan 2]? I'm a diehard fan of The Stranger, and have read it for years. I can't believe that someone who is supposedly an ombudsman can be so negative so consistently. Last week really did it for me, when he commented that the Seattle Weekly was far superior. Please, I wouldn't wipe my ass with that rag.
If it's a joke, let us in on it. If not, tell Mr. Steen to shove his head up his ass, look around, and after he's done biting his own farts, stop being such a negative prick about The Stranger.
Tando Mando, via e-mail
EDITOR: Let me get this straight: Emily Hall has never (that I've read) covered ANYTHING that's been on exhibition at Roq la Rue gallery, one of Seattle's most vital, interesting art spaces. The one time she DOES see fit to mention them, it's to slag off the owner for trying to not offend Muslims, who, let's face it, are taking it pretty hard on the chin these days [In Arts News, "Fear Factor," Jan 2]. Do we really need to shove a "mutilated Koran" in their faces too? Maybe "offend" isn't even the right word. I'm not an expert but I remember all the fun Salman Rushdie had not getting assassinated. Seems like Hall thinks it's worth putting both the artist and the gallery in that kind of jeopardy just so she can write something that's supposed to be shocking and sensational. The only thing shocking about "Fear Factor" was how callous and ignorant this writer is.
Disgusted in Seattle, via e-mail
EDITOR: Just how self-serving is Emily Hall? For the momentary glory of "breaking" this story, she's willing to put two lives at risk?
The incredible ignorance she displays in this piece is hardly any excuse. Making the connection between Serrano's Piss Christ and Geissel's work with the Koran is the only proof one needs that she has absolutely no grasp of what she's writing about. There is nothing in the Bible that [forbids] anyone from defacing religious imagery (even a crucifix). It's understood by most that this is simply "not a nice thing to do," and obviously has some shock value, but it carries no particular punishment or threat. Defacing the Koran is a little different.
Is it really worth putting both the artist and the [gallery owner] who originally exhibited this piece at mortal risk? Regina Hackett shows a great deal more intelligence and tact in her decision not to mention it. Pity that Hall, even after speaking with her, couldn't see the light.
Isabel, via e-mail
EMILY HALL RESPONDS: There is certainly something in the Bible about not worshipping false images, and you only have to talk to a devout Catholic for a few minutes to discover that Piss Christ is a bit more than "not a nice thing to do." And it's worth remembering, for those of you who insist on the Salman Rushdie comparison, that the eventual lifting of the death threat was partly due to the vocal activism of writers' organizations such as PEN--not a lot of silent handwringing and "tact."
And, for the record, I've reviewed a number of Roq la Rue shows, including Charles Krafft's, Dan Clowes', and Yumiko Kayukawa's.