I was appalled to find that the rules of the Seven Days MASKerade Contest, explained on page 47 of your August 26 issue, require contestants to travel to the South End Art Hop so they can take a selfie at the event. A contest that encourages and promotes mask use? Excellent. One that requires participants to physically travel to a crowded event? Absurdly irresponsible.
Please, for the sake of public health, revise your contest rules to allow contestants to take a selfie from any location, including their own homes. There's no reason to ask anyone choosing to express themselves through creativity and art to risk their health or potentially put others at risk while doing so.
Editor's note: As a sponsor of the South End Art Hop, Seven Days aims to encourage attendees to wear masks but make it more fun — and artful — by decorating them. Safety is a top priority for the event's organizer, the South End Arts + Business Association, too. There will be a mix of virtual and carefully monitored in-person exhibits throughout the weekend. There will not be a street closure, food trucks, live music or vending other than the Artist Market on Saturday. Security at the event will enforce social distancing and mask wearing.
'Very Fine Analysis'
I'm not a regular reader of the WTF column, but based on your "Insecure Mask-ulinity" piece in the August 5 issue, I probably should be. Very fine analysis. I read it with the sort of "Yes, that's it exactly!" glee I feel when I see something in print that lines up with my own thinking — fleshed out with more detail and scholarship.
I've been working downtown in Burlington for the last few months and take my lunch breaks outside at the corner of College and Church streets, a great place to observe the various mask cultures. From that bit of data gathering, I'd add one thought to your article. If you think about how your basic dude does his nobody-messes-with-me performance, a big part of it is the Scowl — the alpha-dog facial expression meant to make it clear who's the boss in his immediate vicinity. And, my point at last: Critical elements of the Scowl come from the lower half of the face — set of the jaw, curl of the lips, hard-ass grizzle. So you can't do it with a mask on. It'd be like covering the fins and bullet taillights on a 1959 Caddy.
Too Easy on Airport
"Despite Fewer Passengers, BTV Is Weathering the Pandemic" [August 19] was a bit one-sided. Featuring five establishment figures — aviation director Gene Richards, two airport commissioners, the mayor of Burlington and the former CEO of a major airline — it included just one dissenting voice, that of Burlington City Councilor Jack Hanson.
The article emphasizes airport money troubles from the sharp decline in passengers during the COVID-19 pandemic and the airport's supposed benefits to the local economy.
But it includes no words from any of the hundreds of people reporting continuing pain or injury from the F-35 takeoffs and landings that continue unabated. Nor does it mention that F-35 noise exposure is loudest on airport grounds — not good for a passenger caught outside the terminal when the F-35 takes off, even without afterburner. Nor does the article mention the BTV boycott campaign, launched by those calling for an end to F-35 takeoffs and landings at a civilian airport in a city.
The article appears designed to present government views. Does the establishment, with all its millions, really need Seven Days to promote its views for free in news articles while omitting mention of serious health and safety flaws? Where is the traditional fourth-estate job to challenge power?
James Marc Leas
It's great that Secretary of State Jim Condos is encouraging Vermont voters to vote by mail during the COVID-19 pandemic [Pandemic Primary Voters' Guide: "Mailing It In: A Q&A With Secretary of State Jim Condos," July 22]. But these efforts don't go far enough to address the problems faced by one group of Vermont voters: voters living or stationed abroad.
I live in France, and mail to the U.S. is slow now. Still, I am lucky. Many countries currently have no mail service to the U.S.! Recognizing this problem, the Statewide Elections Directive that Secretary Condos issued allows Vermont voters in countries with no mail service to the U.S. to submit their ballots by email. But those of us with slowed mail services don't have this option.
I mailed my ballot for the state primary on July 12, 30 days before Election Day. Two weeks later, I emailed my town clerk in Jericho to check if it had arrived. It hadn't. I began to worry. On August 10, it still wasn't there. I began to despair. It finally arrived August 11.
My experience clearly shows that no Vermont voters living or stationed abroad can feel secure in their right to vote with the current state of international mail. Many states allow all voters living or stationed abroad to return ballots electronically or by fax. If Vermont values the voting rights of all its citizens, including those living or stationed abroad, it must expand the right to return ballots electronically to all.
Jericho, VT, and Sierentz, France
White Like Me
Thank you for the great piece on what a father of color has to do in this country to keep his family safe [Kids VT: "A Black Father Reflects on Privilege and Power," July 7]. The story continues to remind me that, because I am white, I do not have the same worries as the author, Marlon Fisher, nor do I have to do the same things to keep my family safe.
I know the term "white privilege" can ruffle feathers, and many people simply refuse to acknowledge it exists. I would urge anyone to listen to psychologist John Amaechi, who recently explained it in the most simple and eloquent terms on the BBC. By understanding white privilege, we can make society more fair and equal.
The number of coronavirus cases among Vermonters jailed in Mississippi is of great concern [Off Message: "A COVID Outbreak Prompts Scrutiny of Vermont's Private Prison Contract," August 12; "30 More Vermont Prisoners Test Positive for COVID in Mississippi," August 17]. It's high time to end the Department of Corrections' authority to send any prisoners out of Vermont. That is not to recommend more Vermont jails, or further overcrowding.
Release all nonviolent prisoners. Upgrade probation and parole. Pay for services to convicted people by reducing police budgets.
Check Me In
[Re "No Vacancy," August 5]: I would love to see the downtown Midtown Motel restored! My wife and I have great memories of that place, though I must admit they were mostly made-up fantasies during date nights in Burlington.
Would jump at the chance to stay there in real life!
The Hilton has been our go-to place, but this would be a great alternative and, at 66 years young, an easy walk for me.
Any schmo can knock it down and pave paradise for a parking lot. Please do something fun with it.
Simplify Mail-in Ballot
While I am excited by the number of ballots cast in the 2020 Vermont primaries, I was not surprised to learn so many were cast incorrectly [Off Message: "Spike in Defective Ballots 'Concerning,' Secretary of State Says," August 14]. Although previously familiar with the ballot process, I found it to be complicated for many family members and close friends because the guidelines were scattered in multiple locations. After reviewing the data, the mail-in ballot process was too complicated for most, hence the number of incorrectly cast ballots currently projected at 6,000.
A solution: Make the process simpler for the public to understand. Keep sentences clear and concise, and use bold, large text utilizing symbols on voting ballots and envelopes for anyone who may not be a strong reader or whose primary language is not English. Keep information and directions in one place, including the signature line. I understand this will be the goal for future ballots, though you now run the risk of scaring away the number of voters due to both the process and the response for 2020 elections.
I do not write to be nasty but to express a point I felt needed addressing after reading the comments from Secretary of State Jim Condos and Will Senning, director of elections and campaign finance. With so many incorrect ballots cast, the flaw should fall not entirely on the public but with the system. Ideally, the simpler the process, the smaller the margin of error shall be.
Shelburne Road — or Street?
Thanks to Sally Pollak for continuing to bring us along on food adventures, like in the M-Saigon review ["Dining on a Dime," August 24]. Traditionally, that point of intersection of Route 189-Route 7-Flynn Avenue and north terminating at the rotary has been referred to colloquially as Shelburne Street, as opposed to Shelburne Road. This was likely an etymological effect of gentrification — that Burlington was becoming a sophisticated, gracious place with the explosion of industrial wealth in the late 1800s.
In 1836, the city purchased a 70-acre farm fronting Shelburne Street at the present site of Market 32, running west to the railroad tracks, and eventually constructed a substantial brick public poorhouse after the original farmhouse was deemed inadequate. The city sold the property in 1903, and thereafter it was referred to as the Circus Grounds, where the likes of Tom Mix and Tony the Wonder Horse arrived on June 6, 1930, to thrill the crowds.
Stephen C. Brooks
Protect Red Rocks
[Re "Neighbors Enlist Sound Experts, Lawyer to Fight Burton's Concert Venue," August 12]: Your story about neighbors' concerns regarding noise, traffic and tailgating, if Burlington's Development Review Board approves the Burton-Higher Ground project, makes no mention of protecting a most precious neighbor and shared resource: South Burlington's Red Rocks Park. A hundred acres of magnificent forest, trails and cliffs overlooking Lake Champlain, the park sits directly across the street from the proposed concert venue. Falcons nest here each spring as wildflowers bloom. Foxes and owls make Red Rocks their year-round home. Above all, this park has provided refuge and respite for people throughout the region during the pandemic.
Even before the pandemic, park officials had restricted access to the park's cliffs to protect the rocks, plants, animals, and people endangered by ill-advised cliff walks or jumps after a few drinks or hits. With the new norm of outdoor socializing, preconcert park parties will increase park policing and restrictions with impact far beyond Burlington city limits.
The pandemic has demanded new visions of responsibility that move us beyond narrow human-drawn boundaries such as city limits. Burton's proposed hub has great promise but must include protecting a shared irreplaceable natural resource. Daytime restaurants, a skate park, perhaps an arts innovation center and even a small-scale early-evening concert venue can expand the economy while also preserving Red Rocks. Ultimately, our long-term collective health requires a marriage of economic and natural sustainability based on interconnectedness, transparency and community stewardship of shared resources such as Red Rocks.
'Not Worth Reading'
[Re Feedback: "Seven Days Suspends Online Comments Until Further Notice," April 8]: Sorry, but the paper is just not worth reading with the comments section closed. Just my opinion. Thank you.
The closed borders make us sad. We miss you.
You get us. We admire your universal health care plan. Your poutine. Your joie de vivre (shout-out to my girl, Québec!). Your polite and warm welcome to us over the border!
You can have our rolling Green Mountains, our craft beer, our finest cheese and our innate weirdness. We promise to be a good little state — some might even say we are the bravest little state.
We are tired. Tired of the partisanship that is now not only annoying but downright dangerous. Tired of having to spell-check and fact-check everything our orange president says. And, quite frankly, tired of fighting with our own neighbors. We seek solace.
Please consider this our official petition for annexation. We really are nice people and have so much to offer.
The State of Vermont
[Re From the Publisher: "The Road to Resurrection," August 26]: Paula Routly's mention, along with photos, of the Bread and Puppet Theater troupe reminded me of the several times in the 1980s that I attended their Resurrection Circus.
The Circus was an annual summer event, directed by the artist Peter Schumann, featuring gigantic puppets and somber political themes along with humor, music, mask-wearing "washerwomen" and "garbagemen," and Schumann's chewy and garlicky rye bread served free to all. The white-clad participants also carried posters with cryptic words and paintings.
The vast scene suggested some ancient religious rite, perhaps deriving from old European Catholic festivals, with the distinctive bread an earthier precursor of the Communion wafer. Last year's wonderful horror movie Midsommar also reminded me of the white-clad Bread and Puppet troupers. Except that the celebrants in Midsommar took their defiance of the modern world even farther back, to the seasonal festivals of the ancient Celts, Greeks and others. As documented in The Golden Bough, Sir James Frazer's 1922 research masterpiece, those ancient festivals involved actual scapegoating, human sacrifice and cannibalism, along with maypoles and other innocuous vestiges that have found their way into today's religious and secular celebrations.
What makes Midsommar so terrifying is that it is an accurate rendition of the way many of our ancestors actually lived until modern science and technology liberated us. Those who would have us retreat from the noisy and confusing present into an imagined past might consider, as James Joyce once said, the nightmare from which we are trying to awaken.