Give AAA an F
At approxximately 8:15 a.m. last July 1, I had the misfortune to suffer a tire failure as I approached the southbound entrance to the Harbor Tunnel.
Within five minutes of the incident, a toll facilities officer stopped to ask if she could be of assistance. She then phoned AAA Maryland to request emergency road service (which I'm entitled to, under my "AAA Plus" coverage) and to relay a message informing my office that I would be arriving late.
As she drove off, she assured me that she would check back later to see if everything was OK. Approximately one hour later, the officer reappeared on the scene and again called AAA for assistance.
After waiting about 1 1/2 hours for AAA, I finally changed the tire myself.
Give the officer a grade of A, and to AAA Maryland, a grade of F!
Later, I phoned AAA to express my dissatisfaction. I was assured by the customer service representative that AAA would "compensate me for the value" of the service call.
I eventually received a check from AAA in the amount of $10. If this is what AAA pays for a road service call, it is easy to see why no one came to fix my flat tire.
Jerry F. Graham
Pedestrian Safety Must Be Improved
The death of six-year-old Samuel Wayne Hulett is a tragedy in which all parents share the grief of his family.
The death or serious injury of children in traffic should commit us to the prevention of pedestrian injuries. In the five-year period ending in 1989, 140 pedestrian fatalities occurred in Baltimore City alone -- 21 percent among children under age 15. (The same year, there were over 1,000 non-fatal pedestrian injuries in the city.)
Children are usually struck in densely populated urban areas. Low-income neighborhoods are at even greater risk.
Injuries usually occur in the afternoon while kids are at play. One-third involve children darting into traffic. The severity of the injury is often related to the speed of the vehicle, particularly on relatively quiet residential streets.
Parents can't blame themselves for these tragic deaths. Close supervision and teaching children about the dangers of the street are important but not sufficient to solve the problem.
We haven't done enough as a society to improve the environment for children.
In many European countries, particularly Holland, major strides have been made to create an urban environment where traffic is diverted from residential and shopping zones, pedestrians have priorities over cars in residential areas, traffic is slowed through environmental modification and child safety has a high priority.
In this country, traffic engineers seem to think that traffic must flow undisturbed, regardless of the risk to kids and the elderly.
We need the federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to make pedestrian safety for children more of a priority. State and local agencies need to be more involved. Community organizations must identify hazardous locations and work for safer streets.
Bernard Guyer, M.D.
The writer is chairman of the Department of Maternal and Child Health at the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health.
World's Children Need Aid
In your July 21 editorial, "Budget Firewalls under Attack," you say that the American people have long had a hate affair with foreign aid. I assert that increasing numbers of us find military aid distasteful, but are strongly in favor of supporting aid that improves the health, education, and nutrition of children everywhere. Every day, 40,000 children die worldwide largely of preventable causes.
In September 1990, 71 world leaders, including President Bush, held a historic World Summit for Children and promised to make resources available to meet very specific goals in such areas as maternal and infant mortality, nutrition, access to safe drinking water and universal access to basic education. To implement these promises, the World Summit for Children Implementation Act was introduced in April 1991. It spelled out the funding levels that are required to meet those promises by the target year 2000.
In June, the House of Representatives passed a foreign aid bill which got it half right. The bill cut military aid but misguidedly failed to provide sufficient funding to keep us on track in meeting the World Summit for Children goals.
Senators Barbara Mikulski and Paul Sarbanes of Maryland have a rare opportunity to stiffen the sagging spines of their House colleagues. The Senate Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee meets shortly to consider its version of the foreign aid bill. Senator Mikulski sits on that subcommittee, while Senator Sarbanes is the effective leader of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
I urge them to use their considerable influence to see that the Senate bill appropriates $335 million for child survival activities ($60 million over the House appropriation) and $175 million for Basic Education ($40 million over the House appropriation). These are the amounts needed to keep the U.S. on track in keeping its World Summit for Children promises.
Your editorial reflected the resignation that abounds these days. However, resignation will only yield us more of what we've got -- a world that simply does not work.
M. John O'Brien, M.D.
Frames of Paintings Enhance the jInterplay of Surface and Depth
I have followed with interest the exchange between Christopher Weeks, his supporters, and Arnold Lehman, director the Baltimore Museum of Art, about the framing and display of the Cone Collection at the Baltimore Museum of Art (Opinion * Commentary, July 1 and July 15). I trust there is room for one more voice in the debate.
First, I would like to comment on the purpose and function of the picture frame. The traditional box frame, like a window frame, makes it seem as if we are looking into a three-dimensional space, as indeed, at least for a few inches, we are. This real recession into space enhances the impression that we are looking into a real space, the pretended one that the artist has created on the picture surface.
Over the ages, artists have used different means to fool the eye into accepting this illusion of depth. Some use the one- or two-point perspective systems worked out in the Renaissance (think of train tracks receding into the distance), some use an impressionistic blurring of distant objects, some model with juxtaposed areas of contrasting color. Still, however well any artist works his illusionistic magic, neither he nor his audience can ever fully ignore the existence of the picture plane: Both are aware that any painting is really a pattern of colors laid onto a flat canvas surface.
Every artist from the Renaissance to at least the middle of this century has explored and exploited the inherent tension and interplay between two and three dimensions, between surface pattern and pretended space. Artists of the early twentieth century were particularly sensitive to this tension, as they consciously pushed the limits of traditional spatial representation and invented new ways of indicating spatial depth without perspective. Framing their pictures thus becomes a delicate issue, since the frame is a critical reminder and enhancer of the interplay between surface and depth: It draws us into the picture space, extends that space into our own, and demarcates the division between the two.
The carving and gilding of the traditional frame, the one we associate with the old masters, further enhances this interplay. Even a simple molded frame increases a painting's illusion of depth, but a sculptured frame in addition enhances and changes the quality of the light that strikes it. Light scattered from the irregularities of a sculptured and gilded frame reflects outward to the viewer and inward to the painting: Like stage lighting, it separates the outside world from that of the special, illusionary world of the picture, focuses the viewer's attention on it and points up the complexities of its rhythmic planes and patterns.
We might carry the stage analogy a bit further and compare the traditional frame with the ornate plaster interiors of Baroque churches or 19th-century concert halls. As the frame scatters light, so the sculptured walls and ceilings scatter musical sound and produce, by some unexplained wizardry, the vibrant and mellow acoustics beloved of musicians and hearers alike. Acoustical engineers, with all the complicated widgetry of the twentieth century at their bidding, have never been able to reproduce quite the same harmony of space and sound created by the garlands and putti of their unscientific forebears. The sound produced in a late 20th-century concert hall is different, harder and more technically pure and brilliant, as is demanded by and appropriate to late 20th-century music. It can, however, prove a harsh or unsympathetic frame for the lusher tonalities of classical or romantic music.
So too it is when we put an early Matisse into a late 20th-century flat strip frame: The painting is still the painting, but we relate to it in a different way. When we see Matisse's early paintings set in the BMA's small vignettes of the Cones' apartments, in their gold frames and surrounded by contemporaneous wallpapers, carpets, and cushions, we see how drastically the artist transformed his own milieu. For Matisse's colors are the lavender-blues, blue-greens, green-yellows and rosy mauves beloved of the Edwardians, transmuted by the mind of a genius into a radical new vision. Their Edwardian setting brings home their very modernity, and, by setting them clearly within a historical context, makes them more accessible to the person whom this writer perceives to be the average viewer.
By contrast, the BMA's decision to display nearly all the exhibited Cone paintings in strip frames against surgical-suite white walls has removed the painters of the early part of the century from their own context and placed them in one more congenial to late 20th-century abstract painters and their work. To be sure, the early works are important precursors. But a painting is more than an illustration to a lecture on the development of the concept of abstraction. A flat L-frame tends to flatten the carefully contrived spatial configurations of the Post-Impressionists, the Fauves and the Cubists, and the stark white walls make their subtly nuanced and broken colors look muddied, impure, even downright grimy. This is especially true -- and especially unfortunate -- in the case of the early Matisses. Where, as Brenda Richardson asserts, "Matisse wanted us to look at paintings, not at frames," we at the BMA find ourselves looking at neither, but rather with dismay at the walls.
This is not to say that white walls and strip frames have no place in the museum. Many painters in recent years have deliberately broken down the traditional concept of the picture space so that their paintings become a seamless element of their larger environment. On such a painting, a frame is obtrusive, and a gold box frame absurd. A frame must complement a painting, not obliterate it.
And here is the historical rub, where this critic takes fundamental issue with Mr. Lehman's understanding of the museum's "complex responsibility to the artist and the painting." The current display of the Cone paintings limits both their historical integrity and their accessibility. The BMA's decision to display the early modern paintings uniformly with the late ones intellectualizes them into an exercise in the development of abstract painting in our century and makes them look like reproductions, slides on the screen of an Art 100 lecture hall. But the Cone paintings are more than points of origin in a continuum that culminates in the painting of our own day. To remove them from their own points of origin, their roots in older art and their context in their own time, is to misrepresent them, to rob them of half their richness and complexity, a loss that diminishes us all.
Mary E. Podles
The writer is a retired curator of Renaissance and Baroque art at the Walters Art Gallery. We are writing this correspondence in support of Larry W. Tolliver as acting superintendent of the Maryland State Police.
To date, there have been several articles written on Gov. William Donald Schaefer's choice of Colonel Tolliver as acting superintendent. Some of the articles were very positive and some were not.
Since Colonel Tolliver's selection as acting superintendent on May 19, just two short months ago, he has performed his job in a most effective and efficient manner.
Colonel Tolliver has met his duties with vigor and vitality. He has listened to command staff and other agency members' concerns and, at times, utilized their input.
Colonel Tolliver is a hard worker, frequently working 12 hours or more daily. He is a very dedicated and caring individual.
Colonel Tolliver has restored the off-duty use of the patrol vehicles, set about redefining the goals and mission of the State Police and has organized the command staff. These are positive signs and we expect more good things to come under his leadership.
We support the appointment of Colonel Tolliver as the permanent superintendent of the Maryland State Police. His sound planning techniques and coordination skills have always been an asset to his managerial abilities.
We feel he is a responsible individual who is committed to addressing the needs of both the agency and the citizens of this fine state.
Colonel Tolliver is well liked and respected. Given the time and opportunity, he will prevail at directing and focusing the Maryland State Police in the direction of the premier agency it once was.
James E. Harris Sr.
The writers are, respectively, president of the Coalition of Black Maryland State Troopers Inc., president of the State Trooper F.O.P. Lodge 69, and president of the Maryland Troopers
Legislators Should Not Micro-Manage
I read William Pfaff's Opinion * Commentary article on July 20 preaching for a new president in hopes that Congress would then become productive. Mr. Pfaff and I have a whole different set of standards.
By all my standards, the legislators at all levels of government should be replaced. I have been convinced that, based on the results of the last 12 years, the members of Congress, the members of the Assembly in Annapolis and the members of the county councils in the metro area need to be replaced. They have failed miserably and have thwarted progress.
We have all the media guns and verbal guns aimed in the wrong direction. Our legislators have not only been failing to make policy decisions, but they have been trying to micro-manage the implementation of all programs at all levels of government.
Has anyone been listening to the complaints of all the executives at all levels of government that they have very little control because most everything is made an entitlement program?
We need a change in the way Congress is financed. Every state should pick up the total cost of its delegation, staff and expenses. All salary increases and pensions should be approved by the voters of the individual states.
The state legislature, at the next special or regular session, should roll back the last salary increase it approved for themselves and eliminate the pension. All future increases should be approved by their bosses, the voters.
The Howard County Council should roll back the salary increase it gave itself right after the start of the slide in the economy, by an in-house resolution. No council salary increase should be effective unless the voters have approved the increase.
James M. Holway
Women and the Ballot
It is no coincidence that revelations of sexual misconduct in the armed forces occur at the same time a mostly male Supreme Court has decided to narrow a woman's right to an abortion. It is symptomatic of the sexism which continues to plague us, even in the allegedly enlightened last decade of the 20th century.
In the eyes of the court, women are intellectual and moral inferiors who must be restrained from rash action. In the eyes of the court, women are incapable of considering the pros and cons of an abortion.
The ruling of the court, insofar as it recommends state control of abortion regulations, smacks of blatant sexual discrimination. The fundamental rights of men do not vary from state to state. Why should women's?
This dichotomy between word and deed is not exclusive to the court.
The male hierarchy of this country considers women second-class citizens, as evidenced most obviously by our men in uniform. Sexual misconduct in the military has been condoned with snickering, sideward glances by the top brass in all the branches, but none so glaringly as the Navy.
Women are deemed inferior objects without even the most basic rights of control over their physical bodies. Society [in the form of the court] tells us we cannot terminate a pregnancy without consulting an outside authority. Society [in the form of the military] tells us we cannot keep men, even our colleagues in national service, from violating our minds and bodies.
Although unequal in many aspects of modern life, women have the opportunity to level the playing field by exercising their right to vote this November. When the curtain is drawn, the ballot cares not the gender of the hand which marks it, but only that it is marked.
S. A. Kalinich