Letters to the Editor

Don't Fence Them In

The article "The Walls Come Down" [Fall Arts, Sept. 6] suggests that SAM's new Olympic Sculpture Park will be a place where visitors can "lean against, walk on, [or even] scream at" art. A sculpture garden that provides free access to art set in nature is a splendid thing. I love the idea of truly interacting with great sculpture—feeling the texture, viewing it from all angles, and just being in its presence. Unfortunately, most sculpture gardens in the U.S. fall short of this utopian ideal, and the article ignored American experience.

Art is a capital investment, and institutions such as SAM have an interest in protecting their investment. It's just a matter of time before art lovers and an institution such as SAM clash trying to protect their interests. American sculpture gardens are far more nervous about their property than their European counterparts, and the outcome is not pretty. The trend reaches its zenith in the National Gallery Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. The garden is dotted with security cameras, surrounded by a substantial fence (which is closed promptly at dusk), and patrolled by guards making sure you don't get too close to the art. All of this security undermines the very point of a sculpture garden. SAM should avoid pressure to "protect" its new sculpture, because in protecting the art, it will ruin the very freedom that art is supposed to elicit.

Lee Pyne-Mercier


Rant is Right On

Thanks for Roger Downey's rant re outrageous hospital billing and insurance ["Expensive Care," Aug. 30]. I have been hospitalized over a dozen times in the past 20 years for chronic illness and surgeries. Thanks to my previous employer, I've had great coverage, but now I'm on Medicare.

I figure my body must be worth well over $80K. What I really want for Christmas is a mind transplant because the billing drives me crazy. I've even lost several credit points because of billing gone bad that's been sent to collections.

I'd like to see Downey's column on the front page of every newspaper.

Melba Walton


System Breakdown

Roger Downey's essay on his medical episode ["Expensive Care," Aug. 30] drew a fine picture of the absurdities of our current health care "system." We are bankrupting ourselves, and busting the state budget with health care costs that grow at three times the rate of inflation. When I began in the state Legislature in 1995, health care costs accounted for about 11 percent of the total state budget. Now it nears 33 percent! Of course, that crowds out other spending, on things such as higher education, the environment, and so on. We spend twice as much on health care as any other country in the entire world, and our outcomes are mediocre. The unsustainable cannot be sustained, it's been said. So we must change.

We are once again embarking on an effort to "reform" our health care system. We're betting that we can move this behemoth over the next five years into some kind of rational, efficient, and transparent system. I hope Downey will follow us as we attempt to push and pull and lift and move health care forward. It will be a titanic struggle, I predict.

Sen. Karen Keiser

Chair, Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee, Olympia

Biting Critique

Thank the Goddess that Seattle Weekly still has two writers left that can put together a coherent and interesting article. Roger Downey also knows a good glass of wine when he tastes it. His article about expensive hospital bills ["Expensive Care," Aug. 30] rings exactly true to my own experience, and I am grateful that he has put a spotlight on it. Rick Anderson's short piece on the monorail [Buzz, Aug. 30] had value as well.

The rest of the Weekly is a shambles since Knute Berger and Geov Parrish left. Gustavo Arellano's ¡Ask a Mexican! is an embarrassment that I would not take to a Mexican restaurant to use as a napkin. Brian Miller's lame attempt at humor about Pluto, the viaduct, Mount Rainier, and Tim Eyman has all the "Buzz" of an anemic mosquito [Aug. 30]. Seattle Weekly used to be my favorite reading, but it has suddenly and sadly collapsed.

Janice Van Cleve


Keep the Mexican!

I just recently read the column of Gustavo Arellano [¡Ask a Mexican!], and liked it very much. I myself come from a foreign country, and one of the most difficult things to get used to was the "political correctness" that this society is so concerned about. Back in my country, we say it as it is, and even if what we have to say is considered insulting, we don't waste time on "how to put it nicely" so nobody's feelings would get hurt. Arellano is my type of a guy (but a lot of gringos at work said they like his column, too, even though I didn't conduct a further survey to find out what their main reason was). It amazes me that there is somebody like him (me) who doesn't care about expressing his opinions without worrying what goes in his file. Most of all, he is a source of information about a great part of our society that I wouldn't know where else to look for. Ever since I read his column, he became the main reason why I even reach for Seattle Weekly. Keep him!



Props to Hopfinger

Just recently I read Tony Hopfinger's profile of oil industry gadfly Chuck Hamel that appeared in your paper ["One Crude Dude," Aug. 23]. Hamel's an important figure in the history of watchdogging Big Oil's questionable environmental practices in Alaska. He's been giving the oil industry fits for a long time.

No doubt Hamel is enjoying himself these days, given recent screaming headlines around the country and in Alaska, including right across page one of the Anchorage Daily News on Sept. 8: "Congress grills BP execs; House panel asks if company profit precluded pipeline maintenance."

As a longtime Alaskan, I have followed Hamel's exploits whenever he got into the press; I remember his calling me when I was a reporter. He had a compelling way of luring journalists into stories with his remarkable inside information. Hopfinger captured Hamel's essence, including his guts, but Hopfinger also balanced the reporting with some of Hamel's not-so-great traits.

In any event, after I read Hopfinger's piece, I had to e-mail him: "Just read your story on Chuck Hamel," I wrote. "Just awesome. The copy sings all the way through, and you do tell his entire story. It was just an amazing read."

Hopfinger replied saying he's leaving Alaska to take a job with Seattle Weekly and, of course, with mixed feelings. For many Alaskans, it's never easy leaving this magnificent state with all it offers the creative spirit. Hopfinger's been a wonderful Alaskan. For those of us who have lived in remote Alaska for many years, we appreciate this man's uncanny ability to get an authentic take on complex issues in rural Alaska. He listens, really listens, to his sources. Seattle-area readers are getting a talented journalist and a sensitive, superior storyteller.

Washington is closest to Alaska in the Lower 48, so we feel a kinship with Washingtonians. We will miss Tony Hopfinger's high-quality journalism in Alaska, but surely we will all profit from his time in our state. We know Hopfinger won't forsake Alaska and will no doubt continue to interpret life up here, but this time to a larger audience.

John Creed

Kotzebue, AK

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