The Baraka poem "Somebody Blew Up America" is about disorientation and paranoia surrounding 9/11, from the perspective of a man who isn't afraid to write "poems that kill." It criticizes, without compromise, numerous people and groups, among them the political leaders of Israel. Since several dollars of my federal taxes likely go to help Mr. Sharon and his cabinet murder Palestinians, I'm glad that I also can support dissent in the form of Baraka's poetry. If his detractors mistake his decades-long opposition to oppression for anti-Semitism, they aren't really listening to or reading Baraka.
Joker's wild: Being one of the players who competed against Brian Cooper on more than one occasion, and an avid Redemption player myself, I feel compelled to respond to Tony Ortega's " Deck for Brains" (April 15).
While Cooper was a good player, his strategies were neither "previously unknown" nor "perplexing" to other players. Both of the strategies mentioned in the article were used and known by players who had never met Cooper or heard of his deck.
Nor was Cooper as great of a player as Ortega's article made him out to be. In his one year as a presence on the tournament scene (not four, as your article claims), he failed to win the national tournament or his own regional tournament (the two largest tournaments each year).
Brian did not get kicked out of the game because he was too good or because he pushed the limits of the rules. He got kicked out for his attitude and actions outside of the field of battle.
All decked out: I was recently directed to Tony Ortega's interview with Brian Cooper, and frankly, I'm puzzled that this article ended up in your publication, a "victim piece" about a guy who actually lights trading cards on fire.
My first issue is with Mr. Ortega's depiction of Cactus Games as a copycat factory. Redemption is a card game unto itself, no more like Magic than Magic is like Pokemon. I imagine the Magic and Pokemon players might turn up their noses at having their games compared to each other in a similar fashion. Lastly, there are a number of original games in Cactus' catalog; I don't think it's particularly fair to portray Cactus as a company of copycats.
Mr. Cooper has been banned (in person) from tournaments in the past; his eventual dismissal had everything to do with his attitude and nothing to do with his self-proclaimed skill. I can't speak for Rob Anderson, but from my own experiences, I would say that his first priority is to make games that are fun to play and enjoyable for the whole family. Tournaments are competitive play, but they're meant for people to have fun playing a card game, not to gamble their decks against one another or to bully smaller children. I would be surprised to learn that this kind of behavior is tolerated in other venues.
Given all of these things, the article as a whole baffles me. I don't understand how Mr. Ortega can sit down with someone who admits to spending $350 a month on card games, then gambles to burn them. Is this what passes for journalism in Kansas City? Does Mr. Ortega like to seize opportunities to make Christians look bad in public? Is there some kind of inside joke to this column that I'm unaware of? I don't understand how something as poorly researched as this made it to print.
Stephen M. Schaefer
Rama lama: As a participant in the Basics of Buddhism class mentioned, I found Allie Johnson's " Trouble in Shangri-La" (April 22) of great interest. It seems a great deal of investigative work was done by the reporter, which is quite impressive.
I cannot comment on the validity of the facts presented in this article. But I can say that it did not present the whole truth. As we began the class, and throughout the study, we were told that we should not convert to Buddhism unless we felt compelled to do so. Lama Chuck recognized the compassion of many faiths and only encouraged students to find the path to find the one best suited to them. This is inconsistent with the fervent recruitment drive you present.
Also, I would like to mention as a feminist that I have not as of yet felt any amount of oppression or discrimination based on my sex, though I will admit that I do not have a working relationship with the center, which might present a different perspective.
If you were in class, you should know me. I was never hesitant about questioning the philosophy as a means of understanding both the religion and my own thoughts better. I'm not sure exactly what it is that you are questioning in this article. Is it only the credentials of Lama Chuck? Is it the amount of benefit or damage the Rime Center is to the community? Is it the faith itself?
I appreciate the information; accountability is important of any leader. I do wish that the tone had been less sensational and had had more direct criticism rather than implied accusations.
Higher road: I just finished reading Andrew Miller's article about Ken Lumpkins and his Higher Ground entertainment (" Bringin' It," April 15). I am a business professional, and I just moved to Kansas City from Houston. I have been very unimpressed by the nightlife (or lack thereof) in Westport. It's rough, it's annoying, and it's crowded, and at the end of the night, you end up sweaty and asking yourself why you came out in the first place.
Ken Lumpkins' events offer a much-needed alternative; it's a place where you can take your woman without worrying about some drunk idiot disrespecting her or getting in a fight with another drunk idiot who's in your face because you stepped on his "fresh Pumas."
Which is why it's closing: I read Andrew Miller's "Bringin' It," in which he referred to the top hip-hop clubs in Kansas City as "crappy nightlife options." As the operations director for Stanford & Sons in Westport, which houses Club 504, I find the reference both ridiculous and self-hating. Here we have a black guy, Ken Lumpkins, saying that he has a magic wand that creates better behavior from blacks with his hip-hop music (the same played at Club 504 and Chemical). Does he really think that he is the first guy to come up with the idea of a dress code? Here's a black man saying that other black people will behave better if they wear slacks instead of jeans. Like I said, I guess he has a magic wand.
Club 504 has been operating since July 1993. It has been one of the most successful hip-hop dance clubs in the nation. It has had more celebrities, from Chiefs players to movie stars, hit the dance floor than all other dance clubs in Kansas City combined. We have been written up and talked about in a positive way from coast to coast.
While nothing lasts forever, we have set a standard that will be hard to follow, let alone beat. I guess it's an honor to be put down by a novice. That's the way it goes. When you're trying to become a contender, you bad-mouth the heavyweight champ. Club 504 has been the reigning champ for may years. Good luck to the young contenders.
Craig Glazer, operations director
Club 504, Stanford & Sons Comedy Club
Kansas City, Missouri
Correction: We had no hesitation recommending that Pitch readers check out Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida at the Music Hall last week. We should have, though. The production opens April 26 and runs through May 1 -- of 2005. Our overeager calendar editors regret the error.