Overture for critics
Regarding Paul Kosidowski and Tom Bamberger's reviews of the Overture Center ("Does Overture Work?" 7/21/06): The Overture Center is a flawed masterpiece. It is flawed because of Madison's approach to city planning. That approach indulges the amateur city-planning and architect impulses of the Common Council and, at the same time, forces any project to surrender to the whims of a few neighborhood activists.
The flaws of the Overture Center were inevitable given the city's destructive approach. This need not have happened. The sections of the building that were not interfered with are exquisite. Overture architect Cesar Pelli has designed magnificent performing arts facilities in other communities that have a less pathological city planning process.
What parameters did Pelli have to deal with? The most destructive was the requirement that the old Yost's storefront and the Capitol Theater tower be preserved. This made a coherent architectural design facing State Street impossible. The requirement that the Capitol Theater be preserved dictated many of the internal design problems.
Were it not for the misguided demand that the Capitol Theater be preserved, together with other flotsam and jetsam, Madison could have had world-class architecture on State Street.
It's not too late to restore the integrity of the design and to create a fitting State Street entrance by tearing down the Yost faÃade and the Capitol Theater tower. Maybe they can be incorporated into the faÃade of a new big-box store, or perhaps the Midvale neighborhood would like them in its new shopping center.
I have to question the seriousness, if not the motivations, with which you undertook these reviews. Might the entire package be nothing more than an exercise in the Milwaukee-Madison rivalry? Whitney Gould, the architecture critic of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, lauded the Overture Center as a "stellar project" and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art as "beautiful."
The absence of any reference to the careful appraisal of the Overture Center made, arguably, by the most important commentator of architecture in southeastern Wisconsin is a glaring omission understood in one of two ways: as an ill-informed attempt to evaluate the Overture Center or as a cheap shot at Milwaukee.
Paul Kosidowski's criticisms of the Overture Center are mostly on the mark, especially with regard to the State Street entrance doors that are now routinely locked and serve only to frame the unwelcoming message to use another entrance.
Kosidowski notes, too, a greater disappointment ' that of the Overture Hall's spectacular lobby mostly affording a wide-angle view of the backsides of the homely buildings on Fairchild Street.
Imagine if this entire block were a small park (think Jackson Square in New Orleans). The view from the lobby would unfold across the sweep of the greenspace to meet the Capitol; strollers, shoppers and tourists on the Square could glimpse the faÃade of Overture Hall, and the entrance to upper State Street would be made all the more enticing.
I was glad to see I wasn't the only one who believes the Overture Center misses the mark. Whenever I go to there, I feel that something is missing: personality, movement, a welcoming feeling. I look at all the open space and feel sorry for the businesses that had to close their doors to make room for Overture.
I agree with Tom Bamberger's description of MMoCA's space looking like an enclosed fire escape. On my first visit to Overture, the smoke detector motif became apparent. Look at those doohickeys dotting the ceiling, then look up to the atrium skylight: You're standing in a giant smoke detector.
Aside from the vertigo-inducing stairway, I still think the design will endure and endear. And the bathrooms are great! Please, please keep them open to the public.
I agree with all of the points made by your reviewers. One aspect they missed is a new addition ' the cobbled-together ventilation system on Mifflin Street. I'm reasonably certain that for the same design fee I could have figured out a way to improve the ventilation short of propping a couple pieces of plywood with plastic tubes duct-taped to holes in a doorway.
There is one benefit. During the recent heat wave it was nice to have the cool air blasting out onto the street.
Turn Overture over to the graffiti artists. Hang art on those dead mausoleum walls on the outside. Let kids from Allied Drive dance on the sidewalk. The tragedy is that the media thinks of Overture as Pelli's house. No, it is art's house.
Sykes the hack
Rather than offering any substantial refutation to the ideas espoused by Kevin Barrett, Charles Sykes sinks to name-calling and character assassination ("Grin and Barrett," 7/14/06). Where is his outrage at the real "fetid rot" in our midst: the war in Iraq?
This war is built on a foundation of lies. And it leaves American citizens wondering what is the real story behind 9/11. We need to look for answers with the understanding that Americans have been subjected to the "fetid rot" of disinformation. Maybe, just maybe, the 9/11 Truth Movement is onto something.
Charles Sykes exposed himself as a shallow, clueless hack. With nothing to back up his claim that Kevin Barrett is way off-base, he used the smear tactics of political hatchet men by insulting those he cannot face down with facts.
The vast majority of the Muslim world knows 19 hijackers did not carry out the attacks on 9/11. Most of the intelligence world knows it was a black ops mission.
Dick Cheney may not have killed 3,000 Americans on 9/11, but he is nonetheless a mass murderer. Ditto for Bush. Their hands are drenched in the blood of the untold thousands of innocent victims of their gratuitous and deceitful war.
No one, not even Charles Sykes, should get his shorts in a knot because someone calls Dick Cheney a mass murderer. The Bushies and the rest of them ' including the Clintons and the spineless Democrats who fall all over themselves to support the U.S/Israeli "war on terror" ' are mass murderers hundreds of thousands of times over in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and now Lebanon.
Even if every word of the "official" 9/11 story were true, there is still "no flag big enough to cover the blood of the innocent."
Charles Sykes' opinion of Kevin Barrett as a "nut-job" doesn't make Barrett wrong. Sykes could have marshaled plenty of facts to counter Dr. Barrett, but he compromised his credibility with name-calling and his own inventive conspiracy theories. I was disappointed.
I want to applaud Charles Sykes for his moral outrage and enthusiastic smackdown of UW-Madison lecturer Kevin Barrett who, in the words of Sykes, is "controversial because he is a nut-job who distorts history, politics, science, and logic to serve his political agenda." Bravo! Well said!
If only Sykes had covered the 2004 presidential election. He would have nailed those Swift Boat Vets for Truth as nut-job liars who distorted history, politics, and logic to serve their political agenda.
When I find myself agreeing with 90% of what Charles Sykes writes, you know something is wrong.
In his cover story "Scandalous" (7/7/06), Bill Lueders referred to my guest columns in The Capital Times and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wherein I lamented the erosion of ethics in state government. He said: "The media and citizens like Douglas King (me) are quick...in drawing sweeping conclusions that Wisconsin has lost its ethical bearings. They don't make fine distinctions between who is and who isn't genuinely corrupt."
Not exactly. In my columns I said: "Most people in the public service knew where the bright line was then, and most of them know where it is now." I didn't say a few people or some people. I said "most people" know where the line is now.
Lueders asked "why (I) would write such an incendiary column in the first place" when I believe that 95% of state employees are honest, hard working, trustworthy and ethical. Because the few who misbehave are in a politicized system of cabinet appointments. They have direct lines of political influence all the way down into the heart of agency staff. They define the entire culture and expectations of state government. And they are expanding the boundaries for what is acceptable behavior. That is an outrage!
Lueders says that although the public has lost faith in the integrity of Wisconsin government, things are not as bad as people believe. I agree with him. They are not. Not even close. But it only takes a few reckless crewmembers on a flight to make people lose faith in an entire airline. That is what has happened to Wisconsin government.
Thanks much for your fine article regarding corruption in Wisconsin government. While enlightening, a piece about Wisconsin government corruption without a single reference to former Gov. Tommy Thompson is analogous to an exposÃ about those responsible for the Sept. 11 airplane attacks without mentioning Osama bin Laden.
Thompson's 14-year patronage-laden reign is almost solely responsible for the transformation of a clean, accessible Wisconsin government to one of corruption, favoritism and payola.
Daniel R. Bohrod
I'm passing through Madison to visit my daughter who attends the university here and just read "The Promised Land" (6/30/06). I'm "Hispanic," whatever that means (I thought we were all just "Americans" now.) In the nine days I've been here, I have seen only four Hispanics. They were all sitting at a table in the Union watching the World Cup. That this is such a pressing concern for Madison left me more than a little amused.
You see, I'm from California. We know Hispanics! Madison, is, well...white. Sorry. I just don't see why this is your story. But I'll tell you what I have seen here: lots and lots of rather plump Madison citizens eating lots and lots of ice cream.
Not just one scoop, mind you, but two or three on a huge waffle-cone. I've got a suggestion for a health story with a legitimate immigration tie-in: Have three average Madison families cross the Arizona desert in the middle of July. See how long they last! Instead of putting out water bottles for the poor Madisonistas, the ranchers would put out huge buckets of ice cream.
Santa Cruz, Calif.
Thanks for your excellent article on Madison's immigrant population. I found it interesting that those coming across the border often had worked in border-town "maquiladoras," manufacturing plants paying poverty wages that are owned and operated by large U.S. corporations.
The maquiladoras are aided and abetted by NAFTA. Supporters of NAFTA and so-called free-trade policies believe that capital should be entirely mobile, able to set up shop across borders without encumbrance.
This, economic theory tell us, makes for efficient allocation of capital. The same theory, however, argues that labor should be able to move freely as well. To the contrary, Mexican workers making $30 a week in U.S.-owned sweatshops may soon be looking out their windows at a huge fence, their mobility restricted all the more.
U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner, the author of the draconian fence-building legislation, voted for NAFTA. I'm not surprised.
Kenneth Burns was mistaken when he reported a new entrepreneur as "Wisconsin's sole producer of crackers" (Food and Drink, 6/23/06). My company, Tart's, has been producing handmade crackers for several years. We make about 15 varieties available at local farmers' markets and to order by the pound. Made with organic flour, Wisconsin butter and sea salt, our crackers may also contain herbs, fruit and vegetables grown in Tart's urban garden, Wisconsin-harvested nuts and wine from Wollersheim. Fresh, seasonal, local-' you bet!
I hope your readers will continue to search out local food sources and help farmers, producers and activists build a sustainable local food system.
Susan Bostian Young Tart's Sun Prairie www.thetartlady.com
I appreciated your piece on the acoustics of local music venues ("The Sound of Music," 7/7/06). Having attended many shows in different venues, I can fairly state that good acoustics, mixing and volume levels at a rock performance are the exception to the norm. Unfortunately, most clubs do little to manage acoustics, and then crank the volume to ear-splitting levels.
While many concertgoers are oblivious to these problems (some may enjoy shouting at each other over their drinks), I believe many of us would rather the music be quieter and more precise. Volume reaches a point of diminishing returns, where higher levels mean it is actually harder to truly hear what is being played.
The best acoustics and mixing I've heard locally was at the now-defunct Luther's Blues. That venue was designed for music, and the mixing engineer usually did a good job of keeping the sound clear and balanced.