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Woodstock remains a culture-defining moment

A Woodstock overdose | Aug. 12

It remains a culture-defining moment

Being a "certified boomer" doesn't mean that you were part of or understood the counterculture. Bob Dylan pegged people like the Philadelphia Inquirer's Dick Polman who were around during the '60s but didn't fit in with the counterculture with a line from his song Ballad of a Thin Man: "Something is happening and you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones."

With nearly a half a million people at the Woodstock music festival there were bound to be some mishaps, but the producers' vision of three days of peace and music was fully realized that weekend in '69.

There will always be revisionists who view some historical events as a glass half empty. Today's commercialism and hype can't diminish a culture-defining moment where the political chaos of the day was largely put aside and the Woodstock Generation showed the world that despite adversity, peace, love and cooperation was possible. Peace.

Gene O'Brien, Palm Harbor

Awakening consciousness

No question that Dick Polman is a "certified boomer," but his comments lead me to believe that he is not a "leading-edge boomer" like myself. This difference makes me neither worse nor better than Polman; it just informs my differing perspective.

Although Woodstock, no doubt, sprang from a profit motive, it was far more than the "contrived celebration" he described. From my perspective, it was a spontaneous overflow and awakening of the social consciousness of half a million young men and women simply seeking peace, harmony and understanding over hatred, intolerance and injustice.

That counterculture, as Polman described it, may have been naive and glassy-eyed in more ways than one, but it did not vanish. Quite the contrary, it merely became the normal culture — not perfect and certainly not a utopia but far more humane that what he and I experienced back then.

Polman chose to be a risk-averse adult, based on his belief that Woodstock changed nothing. I respect and tolerate his freedom of choice and sincerely hope that he can eventually shed his skeptical shackles and embrace the greater good made possible by Woodstock and other social happenings of that era.

Lean on me if you're not strong. After all, I am your brother.

John Mullins, Seminole

Possibilities for change

Many varieties of grapes are grown around Woodstock, N.Y., but the only variety that seems to have been consumed by Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Dick Polman is the "variete acide," which is French for "sour variety."

Poor Polman — who states he had "a low-paying teenage summer job and was convinced that the tickets were too expensive ($18 for three days)" — didn't go to the Woodstock music festival with all the other teenagers who also had low-paying summer jobs but decided that perhaps something bigger was happening that was worth the sacrifice of a few bucks.

He quotes lyrics by Joni Mitchell, who wrote the song, Woodstock, which was famously performed by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. He writes, "She boasted that, 'we are stardust, we are golden,' '' and mockingly writes that boomers loved that line.

Well, the next line is, "And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." It's the same idea used by preachers in every church in this country.

Poor Polman goes on to say how today's kids (children of baby boomers) would be instructed by "risk-averse parents" to pack all kinds of protection before leaving for Woodstock, including SPF 50 sunscreen (although it rained all three days).

He then blames the boomers for being risk-averse "because they realize they haven't changed the world. If anything, the world is more dangerous now," writes Polman.

It may be. But it's far more dangerous if nobody tries to change it.

Should have bought that ticket, Polman. Who knows what could have happened if you had been there?

Long live Woodstock. Long live hope.

Paul Kimpel, Clearwater

A history lesson in governing growth Aug. 9

Floridians have been hurt by our destructive governor

This story by Kris Hundley should be required reading for all Floridians.

Earlier this year, Gov. Charlie Crist sold out the state of Florida to developers who will be allowed to develop land and not provide the necessary ancillary things that are needed: roads, sidewalks, schools, proper drainage, access roads, parks, playgrounds for children. These and protecting the environment all "go down the drain" with the bill Crist signed.

Last year, Crist was able to convince 64 percent of the population that if they voted for Amendment 1 they would save money. He forgot to tell the people that all of the services they valued so much would be threatened: police protection, fire protection, public parks, libraries. He didn't say that state government offices could be closed, or that employees working for these state agencies could be laid off. Gov. Crist gave new meaning to the term "doing without." If there is one thing Floridians have learned under Crist, it is how to do without.

Now that Crist has done as much as possible, in less than one term, to destroy the economy of our state, he wants Floridians to elect him the to the U.S. Senate.

One positive thing about sending Crist to Washington: He wouldn't be able to hurt the state so much. It is time to "do without" Crist!

Margaret Hyde, Clearwater

Population drop stops our streak Aug. 11, story

Crist helps just himself

I find it very interesting that our governor, who wants to be our senator, has gutted our growth laws just in time for a decline in population in our state. With so many empty and foreclosed properties in the state, he thought that it was a good idea to make it easier for the building industry to run rampant by destroying our remaining wetlands in their quest to pave over the rest of the state.

Of course Gov. Crist had someone's interest in mind when he did this — his own. His Senate campaign chest shows that by giving away the wetlands he has reaped the generosity of those who benefit from his largesse.

Do we really need to have this man represent us in the U.S. Senate?

A better use of the builders' energies might have been to renovate some of the empty but usable homes for future use instead of draining the life out of Florida for profit before moving on to another once unspoiled place that they can pillage. Do we really want all of Florida to become a parking lot? It is slowly happening.

Jim Cocca, Homosassa

Health care protests

Only now they're upset

What kind of a country are we anyway?

They didn't yell as their money was funneled into endless war over the past decade. The cost or the killing did not rouse them.

They didn't yell as their money was handed over to a Wall Street banker turned government shill who begged on bended knee for the taxpayers' money. They did not yell when he handed it over to bankers who instead of helping Main Street pocketed their money instead.

But now they yell and scream and cuss and threaten as their fellow citizens ask only for the opportunity to stay healthy.

Do they have the right to protest? Of course they do. Do they have the right to protest the other things mentioned here? They do and they didn't.

What kind of a country are we anyway?

Carol Crown, Wellborn

Fear of government

If the United States is the best country in the world, and if it has the best form of government that the world has ever seen, then why are so many people terrified of letting our government run health care? That kind of says something about us as a nation and as a people, doesn't it?

Why do those who are most vocal in saying that America is the greatest nation that there is or ever was, also seem so afraid of the government they elected, so afraid of big government? It's almost as though they don't trust the people they elected? It's almost as though they might think that our way of government and our way of life isn't the best?

Voting, keeping ourselves informed about our government and what it does, and questioning it when it does something we don't understand, is what our form of government is all about. Being terrified of it, as some people seem to be, is, well, heartbreaking.

It looks as though we have a bigger problem to solve first!

Kris E. Gonynor, Port Richey

Hookah divers go at own risk | Aug. 12, story

Train for equipment failure

It is a shame that a recreational diver was lost while fishing for lobster. I am a retired lieutenant commander, a diving officer with 20 years' experience in the Navy. We are trained in all underwater devices including hookah. Our basic training is 10 weeks long, six days a week up to 15 hours a day. After that we have to do a year of on-job training and then a full year back at the fleet diving unit. This all takes two years before we are fully qualified and operationally ready Navy divers.

During our training we are taught: "Your equipment will fail." It is up to you to use your intellect, physical fitness and training to save your life. They are right, your equipment will fail. I have had it happen to me numerous times. I survived the bends three times and an air embolism in my lungs over the years. We are taught that the sea is a hazardous environment that is not normally a place for people to access. But now we see tourists, civilians and sport enthusiasts diving with scuba, hookah and even mixed gas.

Without proper training, which includes numerous hours under water with a qualified dive partner and team, injury and death are very likely. Only with the proper training can you recognize the signs of trouble before it happens and have the ability to save yourself. Remember, your gear will fail. Sadly this is probably what happened to the young lady who was just enjoying a sport that can be safe. If there is any good to come out of this it will hopefully be that training and education will be pushed to the forefront and thus cut the injuries or death drastically.

Frank Lewis Gallagher, New Port Richey

Older drivers are worse | Aug. 6, letter

Hazards of aging

I am a 62-year-old senior citizen and a qualified, competent driver, so far. I fully realize that the privilege to drive is the last vestige of independence for the elderly. Taking that privilege away restricts our mobility and affects our quality of life.

However, there comes a time when we must realize that we need to take ourselves off the road when we no longer have the confidence to drive over 25 miles an hour, can no longer react quickly or competently enough to avoid traffic situations which endanger the lives of others, have acquired peripheral vision that comes on so slowly we don't notice and our memories start to fail to the point we become confused while driving.

My 82-year-old neighbor, who is suffering loss of memory, gets confused while driving, forgets how to arrive at a destination she has traveled to many times prior, forgets how to turn her radio on. She is in complete "denial" and has just been issued a six-year driver's license renewal! She even took a road test which, because of its short duration, really proved nothing about her total ability to drive. Six years! If she's this bad now, how much worse will she become over the next six years?

I believe once one reaches 72, he or she needs to be tested every two years. During the road test older drivers should be closely observed as to reaction time, looking both ways when entering traffic and checking the rear/side view mirrors before changing lanes, ability to keep pace with traffic, etc.

If the state of Florida and the lobbyists for "elder rights" are too blind to see that granting a six-year license to an impaired person of any age is a ludicrous practice and puts all of our lives in danger, then we must take that responsibility ourselves and take ourselves off the road before we kill someone. Just because we may not have that many years of life left to us doesn't mean we should stop caring about others who do.

June Young, St. Petersburg

Something greener than grass | Aug. 9, story

Lunacy of the lawn

Kudos to Jessica Vander Velde for her insightful commentary on the deficits of our green lawns — "We spread chemicals on them … mow, edge and trim … then blow the debris around with machines that spew more pollution than a passenger car." Then we dump millions of gallons of precious water on them.

One good example is the vast lawn fronting the main public library in St. Petersburg, which adds nothing to the service provided by the library. It may use reclaimed water, but that can be in short supply sometimes too. And frequently the lawn is manicured by an employee who rides off leaving grass clippings all over the sidewalk and even inside the adjoining bus shelter until another employee eventually arrives with one of those polluting leaf blowers. This is one instance in which St. Petersburg can be a little too "green."

John Royse, St. Petersburg

Cat escape? Don't panic | Aug. 11, BayLink story

Check for a chip

In regard to your article about how to find and retrieve a lost cat, I'd like to remind people who find a lost cat (or dog) to please have it checked for an identification chip. All veterinary hospitals will scan a pet for a chip at no cost, and they will try to contact the owner.

I recently obtained a stray tuxedo cat from a co-worker who had it for five weeks. My vet found that it had a chip and contacted the owner. The owner was ever so thankful that someone called because he had assumed the cat was dead. So for the sake of the owner, please check your stray cat or dog for a chip as soon as possible.

Larry Molter, Tampa

Woodstock remains a culture-defining moment 08/14/09 [Last modified: Friday, August 14, 2009 4:30am]
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