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Letters to the Editor 

Support the Steeple

Imagine my astonishment when I turned the page in Seven Days and saw the steeple of the brick meetinghouse where I am a minister depicted as a flaccid penis. An arresting image to accompany the article “Sex and the Queen City,” [October 6], certainly. Respectful? No, but it provides an alternative view to the hundreds of printed images and thousands of tourist’s pictures taken of the iconic, beautiful First UU Society meetinghouse at the top of Church Street. Artist Sean Metcalf has broken new ground, but did we need to go there?

A picture of this building with our rainbow banner calling for marriage equality spanning the Church St. doorway would have provided a more pertinent and characteristic image, to my mind. [Seven Days reporter] Sarah Tuff could have made mention in her article on sex in our fair city of the pioneering role this congregation has played and continues to play in securing and celebrating equal rights for all genders. Or she could have noted Planned Parenthood, which members of this Society founded. Folks who aren’t even members here send their youth to our nationally acclaimed Unitarian Universalist religious education program on sexuality.

But let us look on the upside. Perhaps Seven Days and readers would like to make a donation to the First UU Society of Burlington building fund? We’re going to need to keep this steeple upright for another 200 years. Sexual justice, health, well-being and respect don’t come cheap. We welcome your support.

Reverend Elaine Bomford


Bomford is assistant minister at Burlington’s First Unitarian Universalist Society.

Tag, You’re It

I’m so happy the people who deface the property of others [were] honored by the Shelburne Art Center [“Wall to Canvas,” October 6]. I am down with it! The emotions I experience every time a street artist chooses to decorate my building are deep and varied. I certainly am shaken out of my humdrum, day-to-day routine! Take, for instance, last year when at long last, after thousands of dollars and countless hours scraping, gouging out loose mortar, pointing bricks, sealing, priming and painting, I came out within about a week of being done and found two tags on my place. Can you imagine my emotional response? Thankfully, the street artist had disappeared, or today I would probably have a probation officer or still be confined. For assault. Imagine: me at 57 attacking some person with a spray can. Sheesh!

Well, let’s just say the Shelburne Art Center has shown me how infantile my initial response was, and that these cowardly — sorry, make that invisible (see, still catching myself!) — artists are beautifying neighborhoods everywhere. Yay! Hip hip hooray, SAC and the Magic Hat Artifactory. How hip and edgy can a commercial enterprise be, huh? Makes me want to drink Magic Hat, that’s for sure. I want to be hip and edgy, too. Come on down, street artists, my place is your canvas. Maybe if I get enough tags, I’ll get some kind of award, as well. (Health warning: Before pressing the spray button outside my house, asphalt Michelangelos should check to make sure I’ve had my nap. Without it I can be way uncool, like, cranky and medieval.)

Eric Johnson


Preservation Problem?

I’m generally a big fan of Seven Days — I usually read it on Wednesday, as soon as I can get my hands on your latest edition — which is why I was perplexed when I read your article entitled “The Preservation Police” on September 22.

The article seemed familiar. No wonder. On May 14, 2008, you published an article entitled “Property Owners and City Wrestle With Historic Preservation Standards,” which was essentially the same article. This time, however, you focused on Mary O’Neil, whom the article described as “the human face of Burlington’s building restrictions.”

Landlords like Bill Bissonette, who was quoted in both articles, don’t like Burlington’s zoning ordinances and building codes. That probably comes as a surprise to none of your readers.

Does somebody at Seven Days have a problem with historic preservation?

Tom Simon


A Lie is a Lie

Three loud cheers for Tim Newcomb’s cartoon exposing Dubie’s lies [“Tim Newcomb,” October 6]. Newcomb had the guts to actually use the word liar to characterize Dubie. How refreshingly straightforward! How unusual in the craven media, who bowdlerize the English language to avoid (gasp) violating the mealy-mouthed code of opinionators hiding behind the vague notion of “civility” at the expense of the truth. Mr. Newcomb could have used any number of chickenhearted euphemisms — like “misspoke” or “error in judgment” or “exaggeration” or “unfounded statement” — but he struck at the core of Mr. Dubie’s character: He was a liar. Oh, if only the New York Times had stopped emasculating the truth with their “family newspaper” prudishness, and put the lie to Bush, perhaps we wouldn’t be slaughtering innocent people in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Al Salzman


Preserving What?

Regulators are often unpopular [“The Preservation Police,” September 22]. Burlington buildings inspector John Rasys was, but he safeguarded our community from the self-destructive potential of rapid development. Mary O’Neil is an advocate of a discipline without content. The relationship of historic preservation to history is fundamentally flawed.

The essence of history is dialectical change, not stasis. Historic preservation should mean the preservation of the existing at the service of change. As it is, historic preservation is a defensive position; it has nothing useful to say about modification and growth — the qualities that characterize all beautiful cities over time. Its relationship to design within a contemporary notion of the tradition of innovation is ignorant.

The architectural community is complicit. We need to get off our butts. Look at the scant handful of significant recent buildings: Can we really say that we have a common goal, a common understanding of what we want Burlington to be, of the urban fabric we’re weaving, and a creative strategy to get there?

Cities have historically evolved from fragile settlements to truly protective and therapeutic environments. Wood or stone is not the issue; we should be collaborating to develop organic, appropriate solutions to the transformative needs of our city and our social and natural environment. Neither administrative regulation nor zoning  — nor historic preservation — will get us there.

Louis Mannie Lionni


Same Music, Different Frequency

I’m responding to Sandi Hall’s letter [“Feedback,” September 22] regarding one of the IDs on our radio station, 97.9 WZXP. “Progressive Radio Without the Livestock” DJ Chip Hobart was just having a little fun. It’s just one of dozens of station IDs … and the only one that refers to livestock. The ID doesn’t say anything bad about that other radio station, which, by the way, does make a big deal out of imaginary farm animals. It just says we don’t have any … unless two dogs and three cats count.

However, for Sandi to continue to comment about our website is a bit of a reach. Stating on our own website “Accept No Substitutes” is self-promotion. All businesses do that. We just want to make sure visitors to our website know that it’s not us on that old frequency.

Sandi implies we should be encouraging people to tune in to all stations in the area because everyone is just trying to “get the music” out there. She doesn’t understand the radio business and is obviously unaware of the story behind our move. The folks who slid into our place on the radio dial are meandering along the path we bushwhacked for many years…

Sandi, we’re happy that you are “basking in the return” of the Album Station to the airwaves. Call or email us so we can communicate, musichead to musichead. Meanwhile, we’ll continue to play the music, as we’ve done for more than a decade.

And we’ll continue, as we always have, to have fun with it and our station IDs.

Diane Desmond


Desmond is program director of WZXP 97.9 FM, “The Album Station.”

Taser Temptation

Good to see someone raising their voice about the growing use of Tasers in Vermont [“Poli Psy: Don’t Talk, Tase,” September 29]. I was most appalled when a Taser was used on a protestor at St. Johnsbury Academy’s commencement a couple years ago. It seems that because they are not generally lethal, they are too tempting to employ, particularly in situations in which everyone’s cortisol is up and flying. I’m not excusing the behaviors of the unruly, but this just does not seem like a good trend.

Barbara Morrow


Storytelling Territory?

Thanks to Lauren Ober for her piece about all the storytelling events cropping up in Vermont [“Story Core,” October 6]. Creating, producing and emceeing events is partly how I make my living in central Vermont, so here’s a plea to all people who like storytelling. Cardinal rule #1 in this business is: It is incumbent upon you to make certain there’s not a live storytelling event already happening in your immediate area before you go trying to start your own. Please patronize the extant event if you want your fix!

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but when that imitation is too similar and too geographically proximate, it is not flattering at all. It is actually fairly hurtful, and it’s just plain uncool. Live storytelling events are hot right now because the audience pool for this type of entertainment is infinite, and that’s great. However, the number of storytellers in Vermont (who are actually willing to stand up in front of that infinitely large audience and be the entertainment) is not.

In small communities, epigones never go unnoticed and are not suffered lightly.

Jen Dole


Dirty Life Lover

The book The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love grabs your soul [“Tales of Terroir,” September 22]. You don’t want to put it down until you’ve consumed every last morsel. It is truly a love story! A story about the love between a man and a woman, love between farmers, and love between a community and a farm. It is a story about a man who so believed in a dream that he made it materialize in spite of being surrounded by skeptics, and about a woman who lost her heart to a man and to the land. This is a powerful book that is destined to be an award-winning movie. A man, a woman and a community come together to make a dream a reality. It proves that life is about so much more than money. Money cannot buy what the Kimballs have built!

Laura Smith

Willsboro, N.Y.


In last week’s food column, “Side Dishes,” writer Alice Levitt identified Barb Bardin as the owner of Splash and Let’s Pretend Catering. Bardin still runs Splash, but she sold her Let’s Pretend catering business to Liane Mendez and Daniel Samson in 2005.

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