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Letter: Marching to Our Own Drummer

A Happy Ending in Grantham

To the Editor:

In the small town of Grantham, where I grew up, I always felt police officers were there to serve and protect — not to bully, be threatening or to show their power over others. Recently, I witnessed one officer in town exhibit the latter attributes. I haven’t interacted with other Grantham officers, but am hopeful this is not the norm.

For the last eight years, I have organized a craft fair at Town Hall. Vendors arrive at 7 a.m., and the fair runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Shoppers come from near and far and support the local economy. As is customary after the numerous activities I’ve been involved with at the hall, people back their cars to the entrance to quickly load their vehicles and depart. This year, I was alerted that an officer was giving a vendor a ticket for doing just that. A cruiser was parked behind my vendor’s car, and she was informed that she was being recorded. I asked the officer if a ticket was necessary; the parking lot was deserted and the event was over. He said, “Look at the sign” and pointed to the door, which was open wide, hiding the 8.5-by-11-inch paper. The sign explained fines could be given for parking there without a placard. The first offense: $50 to $100.

My vendor was in tears and was told to wait inside. After about 10 to 15 minutes, the officer came in to deliver a $310 ticket! He didn’t offer compassion or explanation; he just walked out and drove away. I truly feel that a verbal warning would have sufficed. Officers give warnings for speeding and other infractions. Why is this different?

After feeling helpless and venting about what had happened to friends on Facebook, many felt anger and compassion and wanted to help pay the fine. Donations are rolling in! The generosity of people (in this economy and right before the holidays) is heartwarming! The spirit is truly alive in this season of giving. If anything, I hope you take away the good from this story, as it most certainly outweighs the bad.

Kristy Heath

Springfield, N.H.

Facebook CEO’s Hypocrisy

To the Editor:

You published a Bloomberg News article in your Nov. 26 edition about Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg headlined, “Facebook’s Zuckerberg: U.S. ‘Really Blew It’ on Surveillance.” This is surely a grossly hypocritical statement. Facebook “mines” its users’ personal data to its own advantage. Facebook’s short-lived Beacon Program, which it launched in 2007, somehow managed to share users’ confidential information without their permission. This resulted in a successful class action suit against the company, and eventually the Supreme Court ruling in the Marek v. Lane case about how the money paid by Facebook was distributed.

Most of your readers are too young to recognize the word “Stasi,” the East German secret police, but certain aspects of the way that Big Data companies such as Facebook operate today are reminiscent of that agency.

Don Watson

White River Junction

Going to Miss ‘Sports Buzz’

To the Editor:

It was with great sadness that I and other longtime listeners learned of the pending cancellation of the Sports Buzz on two of our Upper Valley radio stations and its statewide network. Hosts Rich Parker and Woody Woodard, both former pro athletes, have brought insightful, opinionated, locally oriented and occasionally offbeat fare to what often seems a banal radio band, especially when it comes to sports talk. The show offered that, plus innumerable contributions to charitable causes, both on and off the air, and the consistently amusing “joke of the week.”

I and others would be interested to know what form of programming could possibly surpass this two-hour weekly broadcast, which has helped me through innumerable Saturday-morning chores, runs and drive time. I certainly hope the Sports Buzz can be resurrected somehow, somewhere.

Dick Nelson

Lebanon

Thanksgiving Spirit Was Missing

To the Editor:

I’m a long-time reader of the Valley News. For the most part, I enjoy the paper. I start my day with the paper and a hot cup of coffee. I ignore the occasional misspellings and mislabeled photos. Even editors can miss things.

With the Thanksgiving paper, I expected, of course, plenty of Black Friday advertising. But I also expected lots of pictures of people helping others, in the true spirit of Thanksgiving. We must have hundreds of organizations in the Upper Valley that help others during the holidays. I myself have helped deliver and serve meals. The Valley News should print some of this positive news, in part to thank these holiday volunteers and to keep them volunteering. What would we do without them?

Let’s do away with the AP filler photos, such as the “Holiday Help” photo on page 2 of the Thanksgiving Valley News, depicting volunteers delivering gift bags in Benton Harbor, Mich., and get some pictures of local folks doing their wonderful thing.

Oh, and recipes from local cooks would be more welcome than recipes from California.

John Larrabee

Grantham

Marching to Our Own Drummer

To the Editor:

I am a Columbia University undergraduate and a member of its marching band. I am writing in response to Valley News staff writer Tris Wyke’s Nov. 25 blog post, “The Worst Part of Ivy League Football Games,” which described Ivy League scramble bands as groups of people running around aimlessly while a student spokesperson yells idiotic, inside jokes over the intercom.

“Traditional” marching bands impose themselves on the audience. They play their songs, they march in line, and we, the viewers, sit and watch. They play the part that they are “supposed” to play. Being in a scramble band is a bit like being a street artist. Some will ignore what you do; others will be annoyed or frustrated by it. Some, on the other hand, recognize the fact that you’re injecting a spark of the exceptional into the mundane. A scramble band offers liberty to its audience. Ignore us, insult us, love us — do what you will with what we give you. When I run out on the field with my light-saber and plastic Ninja sword in hand, it isn’t merely to keep the beat; it’s to challenge your expectations of what a band “should” be. Scoff at the idiocy you might think you see, but whether you like it or not, you’re reacting to us.

Here’s a perfect example: For the Cornell half-time show, the Columbia University Marching Band performed John Cage’s masterpiece 4’33, which consists of four minutes and 33 seconds of silence. About a minute into the performance Cornell’s audience started to boo and throw insults at the band. “Bands are supposed to play music!” one man yelled. To that I reply, “Are they? Look at us now.” By performing in absolute silence, the band invited the audience into the show.

Are we naïve, drunken college kids mocking the system? Are we dancing poets playing the pied piper’s flute to anyone who will listen? Am I serious when I lay the philosophical foundations of a scramble band in a letter like this? Whatever we do, we work at it. You can at least appreciate that.

Caleb Alan Oldham

Chelsea