How Overture functions
I was disappointed by the point of view of the Milwaukee critics toward our Overture Center ("Does Overture Work?" 7/21/06). What happened to the connection between form and function? They saw only form, and, except for one sentence in the four-page article (Paul Kosidowski's comment on the off-limit entrance doors), didn't touch function at all.
As an older patron (and most people at the events I attend are "older"), I have a few critical comments. Because I am unable to climb the stairs to the cheaper balcony seats, and the elevators and escalators were not designed to go to the top of the balcony, on all three of my visits to the Symphony Hall I was seated in one of the boxes, from which only one half of the stage is visible.
This is perhaps tolerable for some at the symphony, but was completely unacceptable for the Hubbard Street Dance Company. And everyone I know who has been seated in the balcony has complained about the inconvenience and discomfort inherent in the lack of a center aisle.
Having attended the Madison Rep since its infancy, I had looked forward to the opening of the Playhouse, but that was also a disappointment. First of all, we couldn't find it. Luckily, we heard people talking on the level below us, and leaned over the balcony to inquire and found we were on the wrong floor. After finally reaching our seats, about 30 minutes into the play, I was forced to move to one of the folding chairs at the back because of the pain caused by the lack of leg and foot space.
And if you have a handicap, be sure that your balcony tickets are on the same side of the theater that the little box elevator is on, as our seats were on the opposite side of the balcony, to which there is no access after exiting the elevator.
Despite my negative reactions (and I have more), there is one supreme jewel in the O.C. crown, and that is the Capital Theater, which is as close to perfection as it could get. It is beautiful, and it is functional: not a seat in the house from which you cannot see and hear perfectly.
If Richard Corley is at all interested in increasing audience size for Madison Rep ("Madison Rep's Master Plan," 8/11/06), he really needs to stop brazenly insulting potential audience members. And if the Madison Rep board of directors is interested in the Rep's survival, they really need to take a close look at whether or not they want an artistic director who is so thoroughly and completely out of touch with that audience.
Mr. Corley's suggestion that the Madison theater-going audience wasn't "ready" for his attempt to "step into the national theater arena" three years ago is a startling indication of the contempt that Mr. Corley has for us. He clearly views us as a bunch of hayseeds that wouldn't know real art if it bit us in the back of our manure-stained overalls. But not to fear: After three years of his tireless work, he's thinking that maybe ' just maybe ' we're starting to "learn what it takes to sustain and support a professional theater."
Well let me tell you something, Mr. Corley: If "learning what it takes" means paying outrageously inflated prices for the privilege of watching the pretentious tripe that you're attempting to pawn off as "professional theater" on us unenlightened folk, then I am proud to say that I will never learn what it takes. And I don't think that's a critical comment, it's just a fact.
Paul Kosidowski replies: Scott Stanley takes Richard Corley's quotes out of context. From what I heard, Corley has great fondness for Madison and its audiences. His comments about "supporting and sustaining" the theater were about institutional, governmental and philanthropic support for the Madison Rep.
Don't forget us
I was incredibly disappointed by your article on the upcoming Madison theater season ("The Play's the Thing," 8/11/06). Broom Street Theater and three other groups were summarily dismissed in a tiny sidebar listing a few upcoming plays, because your writer decided to focus on "known quantities."
Broom Street has been producing original, creative, experimental work for 37 years, and while you may not know the titles, the theater is a known and respected quantity in Madison and elsewhere.
We strongly believe in producing new and vibrant work for the times in which we live. Without groups that produce original work there would never have been Hair, Paula Vogel, Urinetown, family comedies from Neil Simon, or even Shakespeare. I'm sure the other groups' work will be entertaining, but please don't ignore us just because you're not familiar with us.
Callen Harty artistic director Broom Street Theater
Kudos to Bill Lueders for busting the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for violating wage laws through its fund-raising front-group (Watchdog, 9/1/06). Ironically, these exploitative labor practices are typical of the fund-raising efforts of many liberal organizations with fat budgets.
Though efforts to unionize these canvassing workplaces have typically failed due to the seasonal nature of the work and heavy resistance from the organizational brass, it is heartening to see these workers sticking up for themselves and demanding fair treatment. May many more follow their lead!
A worker wanting back wages should call the state Department of Workforce Development's Equal Rights Division at 266-6860.
Ald. Austin King Dist. 8 Madison Common Council
Reading "Canvassers Have Had Enough" was a horrible deja vu experience for me. Last summer, I worked for Grassroots Campaigns for one day, that being the "observation day." Upon realizing that this day was actually a day of both mandatory training and a day of non-paid work, I decided to inspect labor law a little more closely. I can say with assurance that what Grassroots Campaigns does is illegal.
I explained this to the director, Emily Larson, and was immediately referred to someone out of state. I was offered $60 compensation for the observation day, but I nonetheless decided to file a complaint with the Department of Workforce Development. This seemed to both upset and confuse the national official, who probably understood that the company would be forced to pay. And that's precisely what happened.
I urge everyone that has ever worked at Grassroots Campaigns to file a complaint through the DWD. If you are unsure how this is done, call the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice at 255-0376.
The recent exchange on biofuels (Letters 7/21 and 8/18) missed the important factor. Sure, the CO2 released when ethanol or vegetable oil is burned does not add to net atmospheric CO2 since it is recycling CO2 that was withdrawn from the air when the plant was grown. But when the biofuel plants are grown using fossil fuels, the net energy balance should be considered.
Studies done during the energy crisis of the 1970s concluded that corn-derived ethanol was a net energy sink. That is, the petroleum would have been better utilized to power transportation directly rather than to grow corn to create fuel. Since then the, energy balance has shifted to a small net gain, due mostly to the increased yields from GMO crops (corn and soybeans).
Does that mean biofuels can replace petroleum in the U.S.? No. Because the land area needed to grow the biofuels needs to be considered. Since most of the biofuel produced would be used to power the planting, harvesting and processing of the fuel, a recent University of Minnesota report estimated that if every acre of corn grown in the U.S. were to be made into ethanol, it would supply just 12% of U.S. motor fuel.
Ethanol made from cellulose would improve the prospects if it became practical, partly because it would make grasslands a potential fuel source, but even then biofuels would soon be in competition with food production for land.
If we want to end our petroleum addiction and reduce CO2 emissions at the same time, the best bet, given current technology, is hydrogen produced from water using nonfossil energy sources: hydro, wind, solar or nuclear.
Our brutal society
In "Kink Exhibit" (8/18/06, Melissa Faliveno quotes me as saying that "people involved in the BDSM communities are no more or less disturbed than those who are not." She neglects to make the slightest reference to the hypothesis I offered ' that there is a connection between the numbing of Americans to torture, preemptive warfare, and "collateral damage" and the overt expression of sado-masochistic impulses that are generally suppressed.
Societal brutality and the willful denial being invoked by our government create a state of feelinglessness and anesthetizes the citizenry, which in turn gives rise to a need for sensation powerful enough to penetrate the trance.
Yes, people in the BDSM communities are expressing impulses that are universal, and yes, recognition of this is as frightening as it is enlightening. However, to neglect the particularities of our brutal society in an effort to comprehend the behaviors Faliveno writes about is to create the illusion of understanding.
Dr. Richard Levine
Having recently read "Kink Exhibit" I, for one, was appalled. During the several years that Isthmus kept its offices in the Hotel Washington, had I but an inkling of what was going on downstairs every night at Rod's, I would have hastened away to my priest for consultation. Um, er, either that, or to my dominatrix.
When I first read Kitty Rankin's intemperate and disingenuous response to my letter to the editor regarding the tragedy of the Overture's State Street faÃade (Letters, 8/25/06), I was puzzled that the City Planning and Development Department would express itself in such a manner. The response was more personal vitriol than reasoned argument.
An Aug. 28 State Journal story on the Plan Commission's proposed changes for denying demolition permits puts Rankin's response in context. The people, including Rankin, involved in forcing the inclusion of the Yost faÃade and the theater tower into the Overture Center's faÃade now want to make it even harder to demolish old buildings, even those with no significance.
As a result, you will see more Frankenstein buildings in Madison: new buildings with bits of this and that stuck in their faÃades, or Potemkin villages consisting of new buildings hidden behind the faÃades of old student houses. That is, if anything gets built.
Your coverage of the Clerk of Courts race was cursory, but fair (Madison.gov, 8/25/06). The only point requiring clarification: My endorsement from outgoing Clerk of Courts Judy Coleman is significant, but it is by no means the only one, as your piece implied. I have the backing of several Dane County supervisors, including the chair of the Public Protection and Judiciary Committee, Paul Rusk. Juvenile Court Administrator Jim Moeser was an early endorser as well. I am also grateful for the support of several of Dane County's Latino and African American leaders, such as Peter MuÃoz, Gladys Benavides, Richard Brown and Isadore Knox.
Carlo Esqueda Democratic candidate for Dane County Clerk of Courts
WRL's AG choices
Bill Lueders: I just wanted to note that in your article about the attorney general race ("Mudfest," 8/25/06) you did not mention that both J.B. Van Hollen and Paul Bucher have been endorsed by the Wisconsin Right to Life political action committee. Given that we represent over one-half million members and supporters throughout the state, those endorsements are most certainly significant.
If you wish to see our complete list of endorsed candidates statewide, it can be accessed at our Web site, WisconsinRighttoLife.org.
Sue Armacost Legislative/PAC director Wisconsin Right to Life
Bite on this
Your mercury article did not list silver-mercury dental fillings as a danger ("Eating Fish Is Good for You, Right?" 8/4/06). Amalgam fillings are usually 50% to 60% mercury, and when it is methylated in the body, which is easily accomplished in a digestive tract that is damaged, it can become much more toxic.
In addition, mercury conducts electricity ' pounding it onto a tooth tends to upset the body's rather touchy electrical circuits. As my great holistic dentist has said: "Installing a mercury amalgam filling is easy and cheap ' a monkey could do it." To this, I replied, "Yeah, but the monkey would know better."
For a full discussion of this potentially "Armageddon"-level danger, see the "Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients" (townsendletter.com).