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Combating Stereotypes 

Letters published January 1, 2003

Martial artists aren't inherently violent:

I like your writing talents, but I'm a bit offended by your loaded phrase "Like so many martial arts, sambo cloaks its violence in honor" ["The Grappler," November 27]. This seems to imply martial arts lack honor or are deceptive by pretending violence is honor.

There is honor in the martial arts. I had a kung fu teacher who was walking into a mall with me and a senior student. A man ran up and tried to attack my instructor, pushing him and yelling about how my instructor stole his space. My instructor repeatedly backed away, apologized, and then even broke into a trot to avoid confrontation.

Mind you, this instructor is deadly. He never once mentioned how he could have kicked his ass or some other macho shit; he simply acted as if it never took place and never again mentioned the event. Sure, martial arts are filled with jackasses who think they're cowboys -- so is the military and many police forces. Don't toss the baby out with the bathwater.

Vince Bank
Medina

There's plenty of misery in the world:

I'm writing in response to Boris Shilman's letter [November 27] regarding the "mixing of races." [Shilman's letter was in response to "Unpleasant Meadows," October 30.] There is a huge cultural gap between the African American and the European. This is neither good nor bad. It just is. I do not wish to be assimilated body and soul into the African American culture, just as they don't want to be assimilated into my culture.

But we are all Homo sapiens, and by God, we'd all better start showing a little bit of love, respect, and consideration toward each other. There are only three kinds of people in this world: good guys, bad guys, and assholes. Life is short. Blessed are the peacemakers. We all have more in common than we would care to admit. Don't add more misery or hatred to one another.

John M. Heinrich
Lakewood

Staple time at Scene HQ:

Scene executives: You guys should staple your paper. Now that you are owned by a huge conglomerate, you can probably afford it.

Julia Tozser
Lakewood

Bracing for a Keith Josephless theater world:

I am gravely disappointed to learn of Scene's decision to terminate theater critic Keith Joseph. Joseph has been a champion of the theater community for over a decade. His writing generally represents what all theater criticism should aspire to: not a book report recounting the story, but an insightful, knowledgeable, sometimes biting, but always entertaining review of the show. The editor's decision deprives the Cleveland theater community of an avid supporter and the theater-going public of a critic with an opinion worth reading.

Keith Gerchak
Lakewood

Don't believe their positive spin:

I applaud your effort to bring Ohio Job and Family Services' (ODJFS) incredibly lousy service to light ["Encountering the Beast," November 6]. They also managed to lose my paperwork, and it was three months before I received anything. I received benefits only because I went to the Snowville office and demanded to speak to the branch manager, who took my appeal by hand. It was another three weeks before I received any money.

There exists a serious moral problem among the ODJFS staff. This is because outside consultants have taken over and/or revamped the existing computer systems, with little or no input from ODJFS staff. I do not say this as conjecture; this comes from the mouths of ODJFS staff themselves. Readers would do well to recall the front-page PD articles wherein the paper described how Arthur Andersen was paid over $43 million to revamp the ODJFS's computer system and failed miserably. Andersen's answer was to change its name to Accenture and continue billing the state for "enhancements."

The former OhioWorks website is just another example of Andersen's rip-off of the state. Of course, ODJFS officials are going to respond to your article with "We're doing a fine job here" and other knee-jerks. They do not have to use their own computer system. Anyone who's had to navigate the ODJFS voicemail-from-hell system knows only too well how many times it has crashed or taken incorrect information.

There is little incentive for ODJFS workers to perform their duties to the maximum, when they know their jobs will be severely cut back (layoffs) during the next two years. I have now fallen off the ODJFS roll with no job in sight, despite my 22 years in the computer IT field. I guess I don't count as unemployed anymore. I encourage you to continue pursuing this story. It's an outrage that will not see the light of day otherwise.

Name withheld upon request
Lakewood

No end to the incompetence:

How about some training for the new ODJFS? While there may be many improvements to the ODJFS, according to Director Tom Hayes, I would like to know when he will invest in training for people who answer 1-877-644-6562 -- the number that unemployed people such as I have to use to file a claim.

I filed an application over the phone the day after my employer, Cleveland Free Times, was shut down by the collusion-reeking deal between Village Voice Media and New Times. That was on October 3, and I have yet to receive any unemployment checks.

My experiences with the 1-877 operators include inconsistent answers, long hold times, and operators being unfamiliar with the very laws they are supposed to administer. Once I figured out how to talk to a real person, I was on hold for over 45 minutes. Two operators gave me two very different answers regarding my claim, on the same day. A gentleman in line at the Euclid office stated that he had been on hold for an hour and a half, and then got hung up on.

I do want to commend the Euclid Office. They show much compassion and willingness to help those of us who are "Encountering the Beast."

The hiring and training processes of the ODJFS need to be examined. You can have the best computer software (which is not the case, since the state allegedly got taken to the cleaners by the contractor responsible for designing it) and new automated phone systems, but with all the incompetence, it makes you wonder if the money spent on the phone system could have been better spent on training employees.

Shelley [last name withheld upon request]
Euclid

Protests keep the righteous fires burning:

Thanks to Martin Kuz for belittling the 1,000 people who showed up November 16 to protest the war ["Confessions of a Virgin Protester," November 20]. Kuz considers it passé to join with others raising their voices against an unjust situation. I'm sorry Kuz has never felt strongly enough about anything to participate in a protest. His snide asides and "I'm too cool for this" attitude are a sure sign that he has not yet reached a point where he sees that democracy and freedom are rapidly becoming as hollow in meaning as the propaganda Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Ashcroft spew every day.

Steve P. Lull
Cleveland

Your top source for sterile, impotent politics:

I am new to the Cleveland area and never understood why my more politically active friends had so lamented the downfall of the Free Times. That is, until I read Martin Kuz's article "Confessions of a Virgin Protester."

Kuz succeeded in demonstrating how little of the message he understood. We learn more about his own political opinions than those expressed at the event he was covering.

I understand and in some ways relate to his frustration with the modern rally atmosphere, but his coverage focuses entirely on his own reactions, at the expense of facts and information your readers might actually be able to use or gain understanding from.

I think there are three things we can all learn from the article: the power of selective coverage in the media, in this case to undermine and demean; the absolute sterility and impotence of political coverage we can expect from Scene in the future; and the fact that Martin Kuz is without a doubt "too hip to protest."

Joshua Johnston
Lakewood

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