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Letters published March 1, 2001

A system burned by the sympathy card

In a letter concerning Scene's article on the pending Ohio bill SB 179 ["Age of Innocence," January 4], Miriam Carter Gibson writes that "by subjecting children to the adult criminal system, we are taking a major step backward" and are "using quick-fix solutions on our most precious resource -- our children."

Reading this, I thought of 20-year-old Kenyon student and Shaker Heights High graduate Emily Murray, who was found murdered last December. In custody and under heavy suspicion is Gregory McKnight, 24. At 15, McKnight was sent to an Ohio juvenile center after killing a man. But while McKnight accurately fits Ms. Gibson's paradigm of a sympathetic, systematized juvenile offender (young, black, clearly troubled), the limitations of said system (which she argues to limit further) can't be ignored: At 21, without parole or hearing, he was set free.

None of us has the right to invoke this tragedy as a means to a political end, justified or not. By all accounts, Emily Murray's bright life far outshines the brief darkness of her death. But reading Ms. Gibson's argument for "compassion for the children," within the above context, really angered me. I didn't really know Emily Murray; that she was someone's child, friend, and baby sister should be enough for any of us. Any measure we can put forth to protect children and families such as hers from such violence should be embraced, not glossed over with flowery, naive rhetoric that sounds like a Whitney Houston song.

Forgiveness, compassion, and second chances are admirable, sought-after things, but they are the gifts of sympathetic individuals, not of a system of judges and prosecutors seeking to protect the public from what can only be described as evil. Let these people have the authority to adequately protect us from those who commit the most serious crimes. I don't care how many taxes I have to pay -- the corresponding cost of McKnight's obviously premature release is far too much to ask of anyone. If Ms. Gibson is still so concerned about being compassionate to those wrongfully imprisoned and desperately in need of a second chance, I urge her to take her "coalition" down to the local animal shelter and adopt some dogs instead.

Brad Ricca
Cleveland Heights

Let no Oberlin point go unanswered

I'm writing in response to the article "The Ream Team" [November 30] and a letter concerning that article written the following month by Kelly Larson of Oberlin ["Everyone Loves a Loser," December 7]. I am a junior at Oberlin, majoring in law and society. While I, too, enjoyed the article, I found Ms. Larson's response somewhat unwarranted. While a college music major may not have a legitimate interest in college sports, there are others who do not share this view.

There are three students in my hall who are on the football team. Each of them worked tirelessly all season, and one of them earned All-North Coast Athletic Conference honors for the 2000 season. Although the team has yet to claim a victory since Oberlin began retooling its team two years ago, there has been marked improvement over that time.

The student body understandably has become pessimistic about the football program in light of the hardships they've suffered over the years, but the new coach is making an honest effort to turn the team around, and snide remarks and uninformed opinions are not taken well by those who are investing their time and energy in the program. If you choose not to support our football team, that is your prerogative, but publicly ridiculing the sports program here is uncalled for. I apologize on behalf of my school for the thoughtless, inconsiderate comments made by one of my fellow students.

Jeffery Scheur
Oberlin

Niesel's ignorance gets noticed again

You'll probably stop reading this after a couple of lines, because you're afraid that something might knock you off the pedestal you placed yourself on as the official "God of Music." I'm talking about your incredibly terrible and biased article about the High School Rock Off [Soundbites, February 1]. I would think that someone employed to write about music would be able to look beyond personal tastes when covering events.

I was highly amused by how you bash every band for being unoriginal. I laughed as I pondered, "Yes, he's right. I forgot how many high school bands have a truly original sound and are ready to hit it big with their hit singles." Do you honestly expect these kids, no older than 18, to have an original sound? If you do, you're a bit deluded about the music scene. Kids write music to be like their musical heroes, and it's not odd to predict that some 18-year-old kid won't have his own musical genius.

You seemed to like only the band that put on a "non-serious" show. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but if that's how you judge bands, maybe you should write articles about productions rather than performances.

Finally, let's make fun of kids who bring their picture-taking parents to shows. For many kids, this was their first show, and their parents were proud of them. Do rockers have to be too tough or too rebellious for parents? Then you make fun of people who stacked the audience with their friends. Maybe their friends were proud of them, too, and wanted to see them perform live.

I think you sadly mistook what the Rock Off is about. It's not about being an incredibly new-sounding band. It's not about being a real show. The Rock Off is about kids who play their instruments, want to get their name out, want to have fun, and are given the opportunity to do so in front of a large audience. I'm sorry that I wasted my time reading your terrible article, and I had to spend time writing this because I couldn't let your extreme ignorance go by unnoticed.

Andy
Seven Hills

Getting more Rock Off rocks off

In your holier-than-thou attempt to be hip and cool by ragging on the lack of originality in the high school music scene, you come off as an old, boring stick-in-the-mud. Or maybe someone who buys music only at Bent Canyon and only goes to Speak in Tongues to see shows.

First, think back to when you were in high school. Who was original then? The bands at my alma mater sounded a heck of a lot like U2, the Dead Kennedys, or John Mellencamp. Second, these are probably the kids who are spit upon by their peers. Have you considered what a thrill it must be for them to have a chance to play at a real venue, instead of in someone's basement? Third, you're totally right about those annoying "rocker moms." Parents should butt out and let their kids build their arsenals and pipe bombs in peace.

Finally, I find it amusing that, for someone who demands so much originality in his music, you lack such originality in your writing -- by the frequent use of the phrase "jerk off." Takes one to know one, Mr. Niesel.

Anne Steiner
Lakewood

Those who can't, critique

I have always believed that music critics, as part of their education, should have to write, perform, and produce a musical work of their own. Other music critics would then critique it. If the general consensus is that it sucks, the wannabe goes back to waiting tables or something else more beneficial to society.

Being paid for one's opinion does not give anyone the right to render savage and personal attacks against anyone. Being a critic is not about your personal taste in music, and an open mind is an absolute necessity if one is to have any integrity. By the same token, just because a critic gives someone's favorite band a bad review doesn't mean the band doesn't know its ass from a hole in the wall. Especially here in Cleveland, where so many of the bands are simply derivatives of whatever is selling, and artistic integrity and creativity are at an all-time low.

Bruce Vavra
Wickliffe

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