Letters for June 8, 2006

Breakfast club
Re “Positively 4th Street” (Cover story, May 25)

While driving along East Fourth Street, I spotted a sign on a motel which read:

“Bums, Drunks, Psychotics, Drug Dealers and Hookers: Ask About Our Continental Breakfast.”

John Fisher

Hogan’s my hero
Re “Positively 4th Street” (Cover story, May 25)

I wanted to add Hogan’s Carb & Tune (1335 E. Fourth St.) to your “Positively 4th Street” article, and I disagree with Kris Vagner’s opening comment about what Fourth Street is known for. Hogan’s has been my husband’s and my mechanic for going on 10 years now. His service is outstanding, and he has, I think, the only grass yard on Fourth Street. He’s got a cool Jeff Johnson (a Wildflower Village artist) neon sign. He’s got a clean, organized shop, and he recycles used oil to heat the shop. Most important, he has always treated me with respect, even allowing me to watch as [the staff does] the work. He gives me back replaced parts, explaining the why and how of the replaced part, and has taught me much about automobile preventative maintenance.

Morgan Alexandra

Skeptical inquirer
Regarding The Da Vinci Code, some of us approach modern literature with the same skepticism with which we approach ancient literature. While we might mistake fiction for fact, it is highly unlikely that we will mistake myth for reality. And which is the more grievous error?

Joe Beverly

Get connected
Congress is debating whether to make English the “official” language of the United States. I can see the need for having a single language: traffic signs, official documents, legal transactions, dispensing of medications, etc. But for Congress to mandate it? I have my doubts.

Each day we are moving faster and faster from standard English. Teens are using text messaging over the phone, and some of the terms are crossing over from text to oral usage: LOL, ROFLMAO, IMHO, L8R. Teens are also using slang that is changing faster than many adults can keep up with them, and I suspect they do that on purpose. Even in different parts of the country English is different—"y’all” or “you all,” for instance.

Language should be a unifying factor in building a country and maintaining its identity. Recently, France tried to remove words and many technical terms (CD, DVD, hamburger, Big Mac, etc.) that didn’t originate in France from their lexicon. Many countries have several official languages: Russia, India and China, to name a few.

But having a common base language shouldn’t be our main concern. It doesn’t define a country, though many would think that it does. What brings a country or society together are the stories, the collective consciousness of a nation, the oral history of the people.

For years, newspapers were the main source of news. The national news stories originated from a few news organizations and dispersed to newspapers around the country, and local news was sent to the same news desks for dissemination around the country. Television and radio news, regardless of the channel, had the same information as the newspapers with the exception of errors made printing on the local level. Until recently, there were three major TV networks and a few independent stations. … A majority of the country collectively knew at least the basics of what was going on on any given day.

Now we have movies, music and TV programs aimed specifically at a population and/or gender group. Cable TV brings in an entirely new set of programs that only those paying for the service can view. …With people having access to over 500 different channels of TV programs, fewer and fewer people are collectively watching the same programs at the same time.

We, as a society, are no longer connected with each other. We no longer have to watch the same TV programs, listen to the same music, watch the same movies at the same time. Some families don’t even watch the same TV program. Parents [are] in one room watching one program. The kids are in another watching another program, listening to the radio or MP3 player and sending messages over the computer at the same time. Dinner is no longer a shared experience in many households.

We are becoming a society of isolated individuals without a common thread to bind us together. The stories, the memories, the events, the way of life are not binding us together. Without that thread we are people who exist in a country that is defined by lines on a map, but we do not live in that society.

Congress may go through the motions of enacting legislation making English the official language, but until we have regained the collective memories of the society … this country will become further divided into us and them—rich and poor, black and white, English[-speaking] and non, high school and college dropout, you and me.

Dewey Quong