Letters to the Editor

(February 9, 2009)


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Wal*Mart and the usual Feel-Good PR: Gilles d'Aymery's Blips #78

To the Editor:

I've been reading Swans for several years...since Martin Murie is a friend whose work I enjoy as well as that of others contributors. This latest post completely won my heart by starting with a Janis Joplin quote (take another little piece of my heart)...and then stating the facts about Wal-Mart, yet again.

I sometimes feel like I'm the only person not shopping there...then I get a good reality check...thanks. This past week they were especially devious and I've been wondering if it's local or national.

Our local paper (Malone Telegram) printed a letter to the editor: "There are still good people in the world. On Friday, I went to Malone to shop. I bought some items from Wal-Mart, left and came home. When I got to my apartment I found that I had misplaced my purse. I called out to Wal-Mart and an employee there said that a customer had found it in a shopping cart and she then brought it to the desk. I'm so appreciative and thankful to the woman who returned it to the store."

Nice, nothing to find fault with, right? Just a subtle hint that people who shop at Wal-Mart are great citizens, as are their employees.... Then in the next town's Sunday paper (Plattsburgh Press Republican) I read the following: "This is yet another story about the honesty of North Country residents. On December 31, I carelessly left my purse in a shopping cart at Wal-Mart and didn't discover it was missing until I arrived home. After frantically returning to Wal-Mart, I was relieved beyond words to find that it had been returned to Customer Service. The gratitude I feel for the person who turned it in to the store is beyond words. You know who you are and I thank you from the bottom of my heart."

Call me paranoid... I thought I was, so I checked one writer was "Ruth" from Plattsburgh & one was "Shirley" from Moira. I'm not sure what this means, but I'd sure like to know how widespread this lost/found purse story is!

Thanks for all the good ideas. Please continue with Swans...it's a lifeline!

Jeanne Norris
Constable, New York, USA - January 28, 2009

[ed. Thanks for the kind words. The purse story is a Wal*Mart favorite all over the land, spreading like weeds...

Note to Swans readers: Mrs. Norris is an old friend of Alison and Martin Murie and a stalwart in the antiwar movement in Franklin county, New York State. Like Fran and Phil Greenspan, rain or shine, she's always been at the forefront of the everlasting peace march to sanity.]


John Updike not Fondly Remembered

To the Editor:

In the Italian town where I live, there's great respect for the dead. You gripe about someone for a lifetime and throw his spite back at him, but when he dies you suddenly respect him. I don't buy it. So my feelings for John Updike haven't changed. I marvel at his way with words. There are phrases in his book on golf -- on golf! -- that take my breath away. The Rabbit Angstrom saga is a monument. The rub is that it memorializes American suburbia, a place I'd go to Hell to avoid. Those God-fearing people trying out sex with the author's prodding make me giggle. Richard Yates in Revolutionary Road had the last word on them and their anxieties. For the rest, Updike was too busy making books. When they strayed out of his suburban backyard, they turned grotesque. His novel Brazil gave geography a bad name. His man-of-letters exercise, Terrorist, did more to empty the subject of interest than a communiqué from Homeland Security. By the way, I couldn't stand the man's smile.

Peter Byrne
Lecce, Italy - January 27, 2009


In Response to P. Matejcek's Letter to the Editor

Dear P. Matejcek,

I was very glad to read your comments regarding my thoughts on population control. Thanks for the input. Unfortunately, I must first point out that you misquoted me. I wrote, "The major religions of the world, notably the Catholic Church, are fundamentally against birth control. It is, of course, to their advantage in the short run, to create as many potential Catholics as possible." I was referring here specifically to the Roman Catholic faith that has made such a point of being fundamentally against any form of birth control, other than the notoriously unsuccessful "rhythm method," for centuries. If you would have said that it was cynical of me to believe that their refusal to evolve, in this regard, was somehow calculated, I might have taken your point, for I am, after all, unable to read the minds of those in the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. It only seems obvious to me that a church with such a long history of proselytizing in Third-World countries would not want to contribute to the lessening of the number of potential converts.

I am heartened to hear that most Italians are wise enough not to follow every dictate of their antiquated religion, but I still have serious doubts about the poor populations of Third-World countries, especially in Latin America, where the influence of the Catholic Church remains strong. It would certainly be helpful to those trying to stabilize populations in those countries if the Catholic Church would soften its views on birth control. Our "contemporary conditions" still consist of a skyrocketing increase in the human population, a dwindling of natural resources, exponential pollution, and an inadequate supply of nearly everything else, such as clean water, arable land, clean air, forests, wildlife, health care, education, etc., etc. I do not mean this to be a total indictment of the Catholic Church, or any other "major religion." For the most part, I believe they serve a beneficial purpose. If there are "shades" of these religions operating on the sidelines that recognize the terrible problems over-population is causing and are promoting the distribution of birth control pills, condoms, sex education, and family planning, worldwide, then that is a good thing in my opinion, and I will certainly give that further investigation. I can only hope that their influence, worldwide, is at least as strong as that of The Roman Catholic Church.

Thanks again for your comments.

R. Scott Porter
Laguna Beach, California - February 1, 2009


With Guido Monte Very Much in our Mind: Mużajk -- an Exploration in Multilingual Verse, by Antoine Cassar

To the Editor:

[Some of your readers may be interested in the following:]

Mużajk is an exploration in multilingual verse, a work in progress braiding together the sounds and cadences of different tongues into a fluid rhythm and a coherent stream of thought.

Written mainly in a blend of English, French, Italian, Maltese, and Spanish (in no particular order), and later sowing in other languages according to the subject, the mużajki or mosaics journey through a variety of themes, among them the pleasure and futility of living, love unrequited or fulfilled, the beauty of the Mediterranean, the desire for simplicity in an ever-increasingly complicated lifestyle, the absurdity of colonialism and its after-effects, and the at once exhilarating and disorienting feeling of variety itself.

The fifteen mosaics selected for this book show the swift evolution of an at once serious and ludic experiment into a genuine medium for personal, philosophical and planetary expression, allowing the nomadic poet to comfortably listen and respond to voices in different tongues without the pressing need to translate all thoughts, ideas and emotions into a single language.

Mużajk is published by Edizzjoni Skarta, on the occasion of two poetry readings in Sannicandro di Bari (as part of an artistic project directed by Italo-Palestinian musical duo Radiodervish) and in Lecce, Italy. The cover illustration, Gonbidapena, is by international calligrapher Massimo Polello. The book contains a detailed introduction to the Mużajk project, and all poems are accompanied by a translation in English.

Best regards,

Antoine Cassar
Luxembourg - February 1, 2009


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Published February 9, 2009
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