News Update
13. August 2004
San Francisco Chronicle
Letters to the editor
Caution: Kids read Datebook
Editor -- I am writing to suggest that the large image accompanying the review of the Gottfried Helnwein show at the Legion of Honor ("The art of Gottfried Helnwein demands a response," Monday) was inappropriate to place on the first page of the Datebook section, especially above the fold and in such a large format. It is certainly right for art to be dark and disturbing, and certainly right for people to have relatively easy access to art of all kinds -- hey, I'm an ACLU member and an avid fan of some pretty disturbing artists -- but you have to remember that The Chronicle is a family newspaper and that the Datebook section is often the one that children turn to first when they pick up the paper to search for the comics. Anyone with younger children can easily imagine the really horrifying effect this particular image would have. Couldn't you have found an image that would have suggested the nature of Helnwein's art without being such so frightening to children? Barring that, you should have printed it inside the fold and smaller. Thanks for thinking about the kids next time. Leif Brown Berkeley
Beautiful Victim I
watercolor on cardboard, 1974, 53 x 73 cm / 20 x 28''
Editor -- This is the first time I've written to The Chronicle, I think. I want to thank Kenneth Baker for his thoughtful analysis and interview with Gottfried Helnwein concerning Helnwein's show at the Legion of Honor. An academic by training, I've learned to experience art without first reading critics and their analysis (or even biographical information about the artist). This I did with great success at Helnwein's exhibition at the Legion of Honor recently, which I came upon as if by accident.
After the initial experience, which included humor, horror, understanding and admiration, I added Baker's timely review. I'm glad to have read it after I experienced the exhibition. Baker's interview with Helnwein was fascinating. Helnwein is as remarkably articulate in English as he is as a pictorial artist. His work is huge, literally, and I'm delighted that a picture of "Epiphany II (Adoration of the Shepherds)" was included.
Baker's review and concluding remarks are, quite simply, wonderful and entirely warranted by the subject.
San Francisco
Editor -- I have long admired Helnwein's work and Baker's wonderful article has made me appreciate him even more. The dimension added to artwork when the artist's life is unfolded, the way Helnwein's was in Baker's commentary, is enriching and gratifying. Helnwein's seemingly approachable persona makes his work all that more personal to the viewer.
Lewd comics expose kids to bad things
Editor -- Children read the comics pages, remember? But I have to believe that the word "jackass" in J.C. Duffy's Fusco Brothers cartoon (Saturday) wasn't even an editorial consideration by Executive Datebook Editor David Wiegand, as that strip consistently illustrates some of the most sexist, racist, homophobic "humor" a general readership newspaper can offer. Children learn to love the newspaper with this section. They learn to appreciate the look, feel and smell of a newspaper right there where Peanuts, Dennis the Menace and Garfield once set the tone for the breakfast table. Now, those faces frown in confusion at the simmering hatred and misanthropic nature of cartoons like Boondocks and the Fusco Brothers. Yes, Blondie and Beetle Bailey always have been sexist, but they are not bawdy or vulgar. Doonesbury has been heavily political and For Better or for Worse gives us adult content, but both are written with an eye toward teaching tolerance and understanding.
I know it's not The Chronicle's business to provide a moral compass for our society, but this page is as distinct from the editorial pages as it is from hard news. Why would the decision to move the adult entertainment listings to a section other than that adjacent to the comics have been made in the past few years if not for the welfare of young readers? When will the editorializing environment of the comics pages stop being an excuse for the dumbing down of common decency among this special readership?
Shame on you.
Corte Madera
Documentaries provide new info
I Walk Alone
mixed media (oil and acrylic on canvas), 2003
Editor -- As an instructor of mass communication at Santa Rosa Junior College, I offer you congratulations for a superb, well-rounded look at the new trend in documentary filmmaking ("These are heady days for documentary filmmakers with something to say," Aug. 6). Steven Winn posed the question "Why?" I think the most cogent answer can be found at the point when Winn alludes to a "public skeptical of both mainstream media and mediated 'reality. ' " It's my sometimes joyless task to monitor and read the mainstream media. What I see is a general consensus about what is news. The mainstream media, eager to prove that they are not liberal, merely replicate handouts from the Defense Department and the president's national security adviser. Reading and watching mainstream media is like "doing the rounds" of the networks' Sunday morning talk shows. They all say the same thing. Those of us seeking new information and some investigation have to seek alternative sources. Thus, the success of "Outfoxed," "Corporation," "Fahrenheit 9/11" and "Control Room." Yes, they are polemical. None is objective. But they offer a different viewpoint. At least that's refreshing. Anything to counter the tele-pablum offered us by the mainstream news media.
Communication Studies
Santa Rosa Junior College
Santa Rosa
KQED cuts mystery show, once again
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