The last wave: I can't even tell you how much I loved the article on surfing Padre Island during heavy weather ("Ride 'em, Surferboy," August 24). It made me feel young again. I met lots of Texas surfers when I lived on the Texas coast in 1962-'63 and began my personal odyssey to learn to surf. I was there because my stepfather was working on a pipeline (he was a welder) that started in Kingsville.

I was hooked on the Beach Boys and the whole California scene, and like today's Texas surfers, I tried to imitate the Californians every way I could.

One of my biggest disappointments was that we had to move on to Illinois for another job in the fall of 1963. I probably wouldn't have gone out myself anyway, but I received from several of my friends pictures of them surfing the huge pre-storm waves of Hurricane Carla. That hurricane brought much sadness and destruction, but it made life sweet for a few days for a few of my friends.

Randy Johnston
Via e-mail

No remorse, no shame: My question is how is it perceived that this program takes a "byte" out of crime ("Software and Hard Time," July 6)? Inmates should have to do services to repay what they have taken away from the families of the people they hurt. Teaching them a trade is good. It helps them pass the time they have to spend.

But this article was sent to me by the daughter of this man. He murdered my sister, their mother. He will probably be released before his time is up. Sherrie is dead forever. Let's stop telling what a good job the prisons are doing with murderers, and let's tell the truth about how they got there and how we are going to keep them there the full length of their sentence. Prison was never meant to be a cakewalk. It is supposed to make them suffer some of what they made us feel. It is supposed to make them see the wrong they did, and hopefully cause them to show some remorse. Alan [Paden] has never even apologized to any of us. No remorse, no shame. So stop glorifying this murderer. He does not deserve it.

Benton, Arkansas

Nuke 'em: Well, as far as the Gray family in Trinidad and the Texas state authorities go ("Bunker Mentality," August 24), everyone trying to avoid "a nightmarish reminder of the Branch Davidian disaster" and all--I'd hate to see the children injured, but in general, I say bring on the nightmare. Show the preachy hillbillies what reality is. About 15-20 people in the middle of nowhere know exactly how God wants things to be, versus, oh, the entire planet? Nuke 'em.

Mike McGee

Just plain wrong: Hey, I'm as big a Vincent D'Onofrio ("The Bit Player," August 24) fan as anyone, but describing Bruce Willis as "complacent, smug, lazy" seems, well, just plain wrong. The guy is a hard-working actor who makes consistently interesting choices. From the start, he has alternated great character parts (In Country, Mortal Thoughts, Nobody's Fool, Pulp Fiction) with more traditional action/adventure fare.

In the latter, his track record has not always been perfect, but I'd certainly take a few Die Hards over anything produced by Stallone, Arnie, or the other macho '80s superstars.

After his work in The Sixth Sense, I thought maybe old Bruce would finally get some respect, but no luck. Most reviewers seemed to miss the fact that without a good performance from Willis, the entire movie doesn't work. Haley Joel Osment was great, but I think Willis deserves plenty of credit too. Offscreen may be a different story, but onscreen, the guy doesn't mind letting other performers shine (unlike many of the '80s action heroes previously mentioned).

"Complacent, smug, lazy"--three words that don't describe a guy who reworked his image with a successful Disney kid's movie and continues working with the best and the brightest Hollywood has to offer (see the upcoming Unbreakable from M. Night Shyamalan). Sorry that Willis hasn't continued cranking out Die Hard-style stuff for you critics, but maybe that's why he's still a superstar as Arnie, Sly, and the others fade away.

John Plunkett
Los Angeles

Their minds are so corrupt: This is in response to Joe Pappalardo's article about Arrow Plastics' CEO being a tax protester ("Taxing Situation," August 10). First of all, Joe is the perfect example of a reporter writing that he does not have the complete knowledge even to write about income taxes. The IRS can't even define income. What income-producing activity is the person working trying to make a decent living involved in? The income tax that the United States code is set up for is alcohol and tobacco products.

So, Mr. Pappalardo, do yourself a favor and do some heavy research before you write about something that you think you know something about, and don't blast a CEO that has done the research. Please don't take the word of people that work for the IRS, because they will lead you down the wrong path and their minds are so corrupt. Everyone owes it to themselves to check out the truth and quit listening to and reading a bunch of lies.

Daniel Burba
Orlando, Florida

Getting back to basics: I compliment you on the detail, accuracy, and observations in "Pain & Ink" (August 10) regarding the current state and likely future of the comic book industry. Sadly, the two biggest publishers, Marvel and DC, just don't get it. Instead of developing audiences and diverse markets, they continue to embrace the same ol' sameness. As a major collector who was and remains concerned about the industry, I wrote Marvel and DC back in 1983 about the impact of their business mediocrity on the future of the industry. I want to believe the industry will re-invent itself. Vertical integration hasn't helped much. Ultimately, as observed in your article, I believe the survival of the industry is at risk, because the creative process no longer generates any appeal. Getting back to basics--producing and marketing innovative and diverse stories and art--will best serve the industry. In the meantime, business as usual means killing off or re-telling the origin of Superman again and again and again and...well, you know what happens next. Been there, done that.

Trip Reynolds

People really dig comics: What an incredibly fun day I had yesterday! I was in my store, Keith's Comics, at Mockingbird and Greenville, and it was Wednesday, new comic day. Our customers were having a great time looking through the new releases and bantering with us. I love my business, my staff, and the coolest, most diverse clientele in the world.

In my opinion, this is why stores like mine will always survive. We are a destination. A common thread. A hang-out. A connection. We all love stories and storytelling. As a result, we have a shared mythology. I love it.

I'm energized every day about comics and comics merchandise, because I see how much people really dig this stuff. Your tag line--"Creatively, comic books are healthier than they've ever been. So why is everyone rushing to bury the industry?"--is right on! There is no prevailing doom and gloom out here. Was there a shake-up? Yes. Is there a decline in comic sales to retailers? Yes. Everyone always assumes these two things together are bad. It isn't necessarily so.

Speaking from personal experience, my comic purchases are down about 20 percent. The comics companies sold a heck of a lot of comics to me in the frenzy of the early '90s but, oddly enough, I sell as many comics to customers now as I did then. Look, comic retailing as a nationwide industry is very young. Most retailers during the bloom (early '90s) were inexperienced and undercapitalized. For most, it was their first time running a business, much less owning one. For others, I know of seasoned veterans who threw out their business plans and budgets believing the bloom would never come to an end. We retailers made bad decisions in ordering that contributed heavily to the thinking that comics were selling these huge numbers. Practically every retailer I know had tons of comics unsold and in their back rooms. Few businesses could survive the cash-flow crunch our ordering problems and the non-returnable system (described in the article) created--and many did not.

My point: Today's surviving comic retailers are healthy, the industry is putting out great product, and customers are responding.

The shops left today--myself, Titan, Lone Star, Stage and Screen, Awesome, and a few others--are good at what we do. We have targeted our audience and serve them well. I won't apologize for comics. There is nothing to apologize for. I won't wring my hands in despair. The truth is...most traditional retailers would kill to have my consistent return business. And I won't try to deride an industry because it doesn't meet some haughty definition of comic-book storytelling. The only people I perceive as crying about the current state of comics are those who feel their project is being held back by some unseen evil inherent in the system. Comics are what they are and not what some whiners want them to be.

Quit bitchin' about what could be and enjoy what is!

Keith Colvin

Don't call me lucky: So what, a few people return their children to the dreaded DISD ("Public Defenders," August 3)! The reason for the success of their children is parental involvement. And I do not mean showing up at the school board meetings to raise hell.

The public school system--where one must pay for another--is doomed to fail. The parents of the DISD "returnees" are winning the battle but losing the war. Not only do they now pay their tax money to support their child, but they must support people that do not pull their own weight. To add insult to injury, they pay extra to make sure the job is getting done correctly.

"People who live in the right neighborhood," as letter writer Shellie Driscoll (Letters, August 17) phrased her insult, are not "fortunate." Fortunate indicates luck--as if hard work or skill never could be the reason.

Jeffery Chern
Via e-mail

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