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Wake Up, Gene!
Gene Lazo, your ignorance is physically painful to be subjected to. I'm as liberal as the next guy, but damn, do a bit more research before you write an article. Please don't suggest that one can't connect dots simply because said dot-connecting may put a Middle Eastern non-citizen in the public eye ("Ban Video Cameras!," August 18). Your benevolence is clouding your ability to reason.

-- Bryan Wall, Charlotte

On The Other Hand . . .
I want to express my enjoyment of Gene Lazo's column in Creative Loafing. Before I started following his column I saw the paper out on the street but since then I actively seek it out to see what he has to say each week. I save his column and post it on the walls of my cube at work and tell other people what I read there. He's an asset to your paper.

-- Ken Sarris, Charlotte

The Dubious Role of Critics
Two letters in the August 11 issue caught my eye right away for connected reasons, critics being the tangent. First, Curtis Gaston made an excellent point in his letter "Kiss Off, Schacht": most new bands today owe their success to those that have gone before. KISS was the example used, but I dare anyone over the age of 30 to listen to Jet's new single without having flashbacks of AC/DC. Today's critics often have a tendency to denounce the classical forms of whatever they're critiquing in a vain effort to be "tragically hip."

Another good reason to "flip off" critics was oh-so-clearly (though unintentionally) demonstrated by Jill Walker's letter, "Lucas the Lighthouse Keeper." The absolute hardest hurdle for artists to get over is critical acceptance and her letter shows why. Ms. Walker plainly states that she prefers having the critic tell her what the artist means and what the art says rather than trusting her own reaction and opinion of what she's witnessing.

Critics help guide readers to new experiences; good critics can enlighten a reader on subtle nuances. But, all too often, they simply speak for those too lazy, or dim, to think for themselves.

Simply put, if a piece moves you, be happy (excited, even!). If it doesn't move you just by contemplating it, it never really will -- regardless of what a critic says. Love the art, not the critic.

-- Randy Carson, Charlotte

Strawberry Hill Forever
I want to thank you very much for mentioning my name in the critic's choice for BEST GOURMET FOOD/ SPECIALTY STORE ("Best of Charlotte," August 4). But I would also like you to mention the hard work and dedication of the many employees it takes to make this one of Charlotte's finest stores.

Lee, Matt, and the entire staff in the deli, Joe and Faun and the bakery staff. Charlie, Kelly and the rest of the staff in grocery. Jen and Orvilla in the flower shop. Howard and his crew in the meat department. Sandra in seafood. Precious and all the cashiers up front. Eric and David throughout the entire store. The assistant managers Marc, Kathleen, and Michelle. Carla, candy & coffee specialist; Derek in bulk foods; Joyce, our resident wine steward; Mary Ellen and Angela, our sampling ladies. Also, the former manager Don Kerns, and our current manager Carla Fisher.

They take a great deal of pride in their jobs to ensure that the customers get the best quality they have to offer. We also think we have the best customers in Charlotte.

-- Joe Dzuris, cheese specialist at The Fresh Market, Strawberry Hill

Editor's Note: We thank you for your thanks and your appreciation of the teamwork shown by, apparently, the entire staff at Fresh Market. We, too, would like you, and readers everywhere, to know that although Associate Editor for A&E Matt Brunson was the team leader in putting out our Best of Charlotte issue this year, he couldn't have done it without the help and support of our editor John, Associate Editor for Operations Lindsey, the music guys John and Tim, listings dude Samir, news writers Tara and Sam, copy editor Linda and freelancers Karen, Tricia, Perry, Chris, Ann, Gene, Amy, Scott and Shannon; not to mention our designers, led by John and Jason, who report to Lisa, who is overseen by Ted. Needless to say, we couldn't have had such a big issue if it wasn't for our sales staff, led by Carolyn, Tricia, Andy and Rachel, and including the talents of Leigh, Matt, Brad, Jan, Sean, Chris, Bryant, Kelly, Kelly2, Craig, Jason, Nick and assistants Adara and Maria. And we'd have all been running around like headless chickens if it wasn't for our operations people Lydia, Licy, and Melissa, led by Laura. And don't even get me started on our distribution honchos Mac and Kelly3. So, to sum up, thank you.

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