EDITOR: At first, Erin Franzman's reviews of the new albums from Ben Harper and Chris Cornell [CD Review Revue, Sept 30] came off as cruel and misguided, but then I realized this must be some kind of practical joke. Calling Ben Harper "the poor man's Lenny Kravitz" was PURE GOLD! Not that I have anything against Mr. Kravitz, but everyone knows that "Lenny Hilfiger's" groove doesn't hold a candle to Harper's one-of-a-kind Weissenborn sound, meaningful lyrics, and smooth vocals. And then to imply that Harper ripped off the bass line of "Alone" (though Franzman didn't actually know the name of the song) from Chris Cornell's "Can't Change Me" had me doubled over in laughter. Since Harper's Burn to Shine was released on the SAME DAY as Cornell's Euphoria Morning, there's no way that said bass line could've been plagiarized.
And then the show-stopper -- calling Harper a "race traitor." Brilliant. Especially the way Franzman backs up these libelous words with absolutely no evidence, just saying that he "trades on his background for instant credibility." True fans know that Harper's "background" is that of a middle-class skater from Southern California, whose "credibility" happens to come from a wicked slide guitar and soulful voice. Funny stuff, Erin. And the jokes just go on and on, even into the album review of Euphoria Morning, where Franzman suggests that Chris Cornell's success is owed less to vocal and musical talent than to "powerful good looks." Gosh, MTV would've gone off the air in the '90s if not for all the Soundgarden (and Ben Harper) videos they incessantly aired in heavy rotation.
Doug Nellis, Seattle
EDITORS: Erin Franzman's review of Ben Harper's new album Burn to Shine is so ridiculously misguided, I have lost all respect for The Stranger's CD Review Revue. What's up with Franzman's blatantly jealous remark that "[Harper's] entire career is owed to his good looks...."? Whoa. If that's true, why are the CD booklet's images (including the cover) of Ben either shadowed or otherwise obscured? A similar comment appears in Franzman's other "review" (Chris Cornell): "For the most part, Cornell can coast on his good looks...." Let's keep Franzman's inferiority complexes out of the CD review pages, please!
DEAR EDITORS: I have to wonder if the CD Review Revue is somewhat of an afterthought, and assigned to writers lacking merit or experience. I understand that everyone jumps on music critics (it's an easy thing to do), but I would hate for anyone to read Erin Franzman's review of Burn to Shine and pass over Ben Harper. What, I have to wonder, is playing on Erin Franzman's stereo? I now know why The Stranger is better known for Dan Savage and disturbing classifieds than music information.
Josh Thompson, the U-District
EDITORS: The reason Ben Harper is as popular as he is? He has a strong and loyal fan base, who spread his music through college radio and word of mouth. It's just fucking sad that [Erin Franzman] has to take cheap shots. I know you guys are all cynics, but stick to Charlie Chong and the SPD. Don't put down a good thing just so you can sound funny, or whatever you're trying to do.
EDITORS: In "Learning Their Lesson" [Phil Campbell, Sept 30], you [paint] a very negative picture of the "big teachers' unions." As the President of the Washington Federation of Teachers (WFT), I feel the need to set the record straight. At our 1998 WFT Convention, a resolution was passed that made the achievement of equal pay for part-time faculty our top legislative priority. Part-time issues have always been major elements of our legislative agenda.
This past year, however, was different in one important way. All of our members voluntarily put aside all other pressing issues to focus on the plight of part-time community and technical college faculty. We worked with Representative Phyllis Kenney and Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles to get bills drafted that called for equality between full and part-time faculty salaries. Both bills passed out of their respective House and Senate Higher Education Committees. The only person who voted against either of these bills in committee was Senator Ken Jacobsen.
Our local affiliates and their members wrote letters, called, and e-mailed their legislators on this issue. They packed the Senate Higher Education Committee, which Senator Kohl-Welles had designated entirely for the discussion of part-time issues. Much time, energy, and heart went into fighting for equal pay for equal work under the banner of our individual union locals. Your article failed to mention any of this work. Your article also failed to mention that as a result of all this effort and publicity, the legislature, in its 1999 session, allocated $10 million and authorized a local match of another $10 million exclusively to solve the pay equity problem. While this does not close the disparity gap, it is a big step in the right direction, and it deserves recognition.
Senator Ken Jacobsen was not involved in the negotiations surrounding the pay increase, which we finally got for part-time faculty this past session. Therefore, we wonder why you chose to use his voice to be the final words of what might have been an informative and balanced article.
Susan J. Levy, President, Washington Federation of Teachers
EDITOR: Phil Campbell has done a fine job outlining the problems facing part-time faculty. Because I was quoted indicating that the union leadership is biased toward the needs of full-time faculty, union leadership is attacking my efforts for part-timers. For the record, I have been a supporter of part-time faculty issues during my nearly two decades in Olympia. I have drafted the most comprehensive bill to improve the lot of part-time faculty, and I have called for an ethical audit of the state community colleges and their treatment of part-timers.
I have repeatedly said that I believe the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges has been running a chain of academic sweatshops. As Susan Levy, President of the Washington Federation of Teachers (WFT), says in her letter, I did vote against a pay equity bill for part-timers this last session. What she fails to mention is that I did so as a protest, since the bill had been significantly watered down from its earlier version. I did vote for the final Senate budget, in which we secured with Senator Kohl's leadership an additional $20 million for part-time faculty.
That the membership and leadership of the Washington Education Association (WEA) and WFT are predominately full-time is a factual statement. To my knowledge, there has never been a part-time faculty member ever elected as president of any local college chapter or the state chapter of either faculty union. Indeed, Terry Knudsen, who co-founded the Part-Time Faculty Association with Keith Hoeller, tried to run for president of the WEA chapter of the Community Colleges of Spokane, but was prevented from doing so by the chapter's by-laws, which forbid part-time faculty from running for president or vice-president of the union. Like Terry, I am concerned that part-timers' issues get lost.
Ken Jacobsen, State Senator, 46th District
DEAR EDITOR: Well, well. The Stranger and Phil Campbell cobble together an article on part-time faculty by quoting perpetual interviewee Keith Hoeller (apparently the media thinks he is the only part-time faculty member in the state) and bitter Senator Ken Jacobsen. As a union member, a voter in Jacobsen's district, and an activist for part-time faculty issues, I resented seeing such a shallow, narrow article on such an important issue.
Keith Hoeller deserves credit for the work he's done in Olympia, but he is not the only person to have lobbied and rallied for part-time issues. However, Jacobsen has never forgiven the faculty unions for not supporting his plan to inflate college tuitions, so he uses every opportunity to bash them, especially on part-time issues. Keith is one person among hundreds working on these issues; many more part-timers were lobbying Olympia through WFT and WEA in last year's campaign. Keith just gets more press than the rest of us.
Sandra Schroeder, the U-District