Letters for September 26, 2002

U.S. must change
Re “9.11.2001” [RN&R, Sept. 5]:

If we truly want to honor those who died on 9/11, then we must all demand of our leaders that they stop treating the Third World as a fourth-class citizen. We must stop arming every two-bit pissant leader or government that comes along just because they might protect our business interest at the time.

We have to stop turning a blind eye at what those leaders do to their people. Otherwise they just rise up and overthrow their leaders, and then we in turn are forced to go and kick ass, ensuring a new generation that hates us and believes that we are the Satan that must be destroyed at any cost.

Allen Ray Aston
via e-mail

Loved the burn
Re “Lessons of Burning Man” [RN&R, Sept. 12]:

It’s terrific to see that someone in Reno gets Burning Man! Thanks so much for your article, which I read online. It’s now circulating rapidly within the large and tightly knit BM e-mail community.

This was the first year that my wife and I attended the event, which we truly enjoyed. What the folks in Reno should appreciate is that we spent far more in your fair community than we did in Black Rock City. For example: 1) We rented an Alamo van at the airport for Thursday though Tuesday. 2) We bought our food and supplies at the local Wal-Mart and a nearby grocery store. 3) We stayed two nights at the Reno Hilton, where we ate, took in a magic show, and dropped about $40 in the slots. 4) We filled up with gas before departing. Our two tickets for Burning Man totaled $270 as we got them at the lowest rate, but our expenditures in Reno were closer to $700. We had a great time, and left with a great feeling about both BM and Reno. Needless to say, we’ll be back to do it again.

We are not kooks, hippies or social outcasts. I am a tenured professor at a major university and my wife of 17 years is a lawyer and professional fundraiser. We are both in our 40s and felt very much at home at the event. It was one of the best vacations we’ve ever had!

I hope the other citizens of your fair community will appreciate what Burning Man contributes to Reno. We were just two happy campers out of 29,000.

John Hoopes
via e-mail

Happy BM day
Re “Lessons of Burning Man” [RN&R, Sept. 12]:

I have one thing, and only one thing, to say … so I hope you’re paying attention: “Yay!”

Thank you and have a happy new day!

Mike Lawrence

Takin’ out the BM trash
Re “Lessons of Burning Man” [RN&R, Sept. 12]:

Your article on Burning Man as a model for a more inclusive, efficient society made me chuckle.

While I was working the day job, taking trash out back to our dumpster (a couple days after Burning Man concluded), I came across several foreign garbage bags, mostly filled with empty water containers. I called Reno Disposal and arranged for a double dump (38 bucks extra). When the garbage truck arrived, the driver stepped out, took one look and said: “Burning Man. They left them all over town, even in some residential areas this year. Mostly water jugs, but there’s even couches and old tires and all kinds of weird crap.”

I laughed and said, “That takes organization!” He just fixed me with a glum stare and said, “That takes balls.”

Now, my household may not be a microcosm of an exemplary society, but at least I don’t stuff my neighbor’s trash cans after a big party!

Shaun Damon Reno

BRC as Kabul mentor
Re “Lessons of Burning Man” [RN&R, Sept. 12]:

Who should mentor Kabul? Last night I clicked on the TV to a local news broadcast. The talking heads were proudly announcing that the Reno City Council had voted to volunteer Reno to be a Mentor City to Kabul, the capitol of Afghanistan. My first thought was, how can a city council with little understanding of, and less regard for, democratic processes be of any use to Afghanistan? Mayor Griffin spoke on how the Afghans have no potable water, no electricity, no sewer and how the City of Reno knows how to do these things.

Yes, our civic engineers seem to how to run an existing system, and they certainly know how to expand the heck out of one, but can they really build one from scratch? Then I remembered D. Brian Burghart’s excellent article on the lessons Reno could learn from the Burning Man art festival. Burning Man’s Department of Public Works (DPW) turns a lifeless expanse of desert into Black Rock City, a fully realized town of 30,000 inhabitants. The DPW builds streets (with street lighting!), a power grid, a sanitary system, and more, including an airport, a business district and civic structures. They run it for a week then make it disappear into the sand as though it had never been. Surely, I thought, the people of Kabul have far more to learn from Larry Harvey (the founder of Burning Man) and his friends, than from Jeff Griffin and cohorts! So, my suggestion is: Black Rock City should be the Mentor City to both Reno and Kabul! They can teach the Afghanis to build a new city from scratch, and, with any luck, teach Griffin and company how to disappear!

Jerry E. Smith

Lose artsy pretensions
Re “Where’s the Art in Artown?” [RN&R Guest Comment, Sept. 12]:

I am curious to know if Paul Mellendar is willing to subject himself to his own narrow definitions. He does not mention what medium he works in as an artist, but if his efforts fail to “transform” me, will he stop calling himself an artist?

If I laugh at a velvet painting of dogs playing poker (thereby being transformed from a grouch) but am unmoved by a Picasso, does that make the former better art? Maybe to me, but I am not going to print up copies of a rant to hang on the paintings of Picasso declaring them “lawn-trimmings.”

Art is in the eye of the beholder, of course, and I understand some of Mr. Mellendar’s frustration at what passes for art to some people these days, and I hardly find decorating sheep to be “significant.” But who says that all art has to be serious and mind-altering? Artown, as far as I have seen, has never pretended to be the sort of pretentious, unattainable forum that you seem to think is the only respectable way to enjoy art. Rather, it is a citywide celebration of all things creative, from the silly to the sublime, the serene to the ridiculous.

So enjoy it or hate it. Exercise free speech and criticize it. But I am tired of hearing it’s not art because it’s popular or easy to understand.

To use your last paragraph: “You are not an expert and I am not a fool! Please be quiet!”

Mike Morgan

Lighten up on sheep
Re “Where’s the Art in Artown?” [RN&R Guest Comment, Sept. 12]:

Wow, what a great performance piece … Paul Mellender gave us such a great portrayal of a pompous ass that I thought he must really be one. Oh, excuse me, I forgot, we are talking about SERIOUS ART here. Heaven forbid that someone without a SERIOUS commitment to ART might find someone’s work enjoyable or fun. What sacrilege.

I found the sheep in question to be wonderful fun. They made me smile. They made a great day along the river even better. I saw children trying to climb on some of them. What a compliment to the work.

So where is your work, Paul? Hidden in some closet, kept from the eyes of the unworthy so that no one will be able to understand your work till you are long dead? Lighten up. I might find your work to be enjoyable and to have value, but, of course, I have been one of those “imposter (temporary) artists” for about 40 years now.

Paul, I believe that there is room in the world for your art and for mine. Sorry, art is a celebration that I am lucky to be able to give to the people, and art is a celebration that I hope that people give back to me

Michael Kiriluk
Carson City

Keep art pure
Re “Where’s the Art in Artown?” [RN&R Guest Comment, Sept. 12]:

God bless you for publishing Paul Mellendar’s intelligent, witty and dead-on commentary. Mr. Mellendar’s points are all excellently supported and his words are like spring water in the desert.

Tom Stoppard said: “Wars are fought to keep the world safe for artists … the easiest way to determine whether good has triumphed over evil is to examine the freedom of the artist. The artist is the magician, put among men to gratify, capriciously, our urge for immortality. The temples are built and brought down around him from Troy to the Fields of Flanders, and if there is any sense in any of it, it is in what survives as art.”

If we are to survive as a people, create a cultural and artistic legacy in northern Nevada, we must have the chutzpah to stand up without fear and say, “Hey! Pay attention!” when the emperor, indeed, wears no clothes.

Bravo, Mr. Mellendar, and bravo, once again, Reno News and Review, for calling “TRIPE!” whenever tripe is served.

Jeanmarie Simpson
Artistic Director
Nevada Shakespeare Company