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Opinion Readers critique The Post: This cartoon needed 1,000 words to explain it

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Every week, The Post runs a collection of letters of readers’ grievances — pointing out grammatical mistakes, missing coverage and inconsistencies. These letters tell us what we did wrong and, occasionally, offer praise. Here, we present this week’s Free for All letters.

This picture needed 1,000 words

Jeff Danziger’s May 4 Drawing Board cartoon was positively obscure. It depicted Russian dissident Alexei Navalny in a bed with an overhead sign reading, “Jughashvili Memorial Hospital. No man, no problem.” How many readers recognized “Jughashvili” as Joseph Stalin’s real last name? How many know that “Stalin,” derived from the word for “steel,” was merely the autocrat’s nom de guerre? As to the chilling quote, Stalin did indeed say, “Death is the solution to all problems. No man, no problem.” In a similar vein, Stalin is thought to have said, “A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.”

Perhaps Danziger’s cartoons should include footnotes or clearer references. For instance, the sign on the headboard could read “Stalin Memorial Hospital.” Everyone would get that.

Barbara R. Miller, Laytonsville

No one reads that far down

What happened to junior varsity cheerleader Brandi Levy that got her case to the Supreme Court? Levy was suspended by her coaches from the cheerleading squad for a year for posting an angry Snapchat to her friends. But the April 26 front-page article “Cheerleader’s fleeting message makes a mark” left readers in suspense until 18 paragraphs into the story before it described the grounds for her lawsuit. We were provided with extensive background on the precedents and other history long before we found out what happened. 

Good grief! The fifth W of Who, What, When, Where and Why describing a case that got to the Supreme Court should not have to wait so long before joining the team carrying this story.

Eric E. Sterling, Chevy Chase

Raising 'Kane'

Regarding the April 30 Style article “ ‘Rosebud’? Nah, a bear has the last word.”:

The recent discovery of a review that panned the classic film “Citizen Kane” by a pseudonymous reviewer from the Chicago Tribune deserves further probing for a possible motive. Yes, “Citizen Kane” was a cinematic roman à clef for newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst, but according to writer-director Orson Welles and others, it was a synthesis of many prominent men, among them two members of the influential Chicago McCormick family: Harold, chairman of the board of the International Harvester Co., and Robert R., publisher of the Chicago Tribune.

Welles claimed that the famous scene in which Kane forces his second wife, a terrible singer, to sing the prima role in an opera he promoted was based on Harold McCormick’s effort to stage an opera featuring his second wife, Polish opera star Ganna Walska, renowned for being a lousy singer.

Perhaps Tribune film critic “Mae Tinee” was attempting to curry favor with her publisher, Robert McCormick.

Otts Laupus, Elkridge

Much more than 'Moonstruck'

The excellent May 2 obituary for actress Olympia Dukakis, “Won Oscar for breakout ‘Moonstruck,’ ” detailed her formidable amount of television, film and stage work but said she “toiled in obscurity onstage for decades before her Oscar-winning breakthrough” in “Moonstruck.” “Obscurity” seems an odd word to describe the work of a stage actress whose credits included performances in works by Bertolt Brecht, Vaclav Havel, Eugene O’Neill and Henrik Ibsen, and who worked under directors such as Joseph Papp and Mike Nichols while being a “regular” at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts. Enviable accomplishments for any professional actress.

Carol Bennett, Silver Spring 

Don't know much about history

I appreciated Philip Kennicott’s May 2 Style review of the revamping of Pershing Park into a World War I memorial, “D.C. gets a fitting memorial to a war we’ve largely forgotten,” but I must disagree with him regarding the preference to read a book rather than visit a memorial. Any opportunity for people to learn about history is good, particularly as Pershing Park is near hotels that host tourists.

Another note about the location: On one side of Pershing Park is Ron Brown Way. The grandmother of the late commerce secretary, Ruth Welborne Osborne Davis (1899-1952), was one of the first Black women to serve in the U.S. Navy (as a Yeoman-F in the Navy’s muster roll section during World War I). Both she and her grandson are buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Elizabeth Foxwell, Alexandria

Philip Kennicott glossed over the massive deconstruction of a masterpiece of urban design, Pershing Park, built in 1981, to pave the way for the new military parade ground we now have, designated as the National World War I Memorial.

Though he properly credited the “noted landscape architect Paul Friedberg” as the designer of the “existing park,” now effectively obliterated, Kennicott insinuated that the park had become passé because it was a “secluded spot in the heart of the monumental core,” the earthen berms visually protecting the park “broke a core rule of contemporary urban park design” and “the street furniture — lamps and benches — felt dated.”

For the sake of expediency, a prime location without a major building occupying the site was identified and designated by Congress, complete with an existing statue of World War I Gen. John J. Pershing that could be recycled — despite opposition by landscape architects, the Cultural Landscape Foundation and others. 

But Pershing Park “had fallen into disrepair,” added Kennicott. Of course it had! When the site was condemned for the WWI Memorial in 2014, maintenance funds were zeroed out as the park’s days were numbered. Kennicott could have presented a more honest historical account.

Steven J. Anlian, Washington

The writer is past president of the American Society of Landscape Architects, Potomac Chapter.

Oscars unworthy

I agreed overall with Ann Hornaday’s April 27 Style review of the 2021 Oscars, “Oscars ceremony can’t find its Midas touch amid pandemic.” However, I think she missed noting other problematic issues with the program that were, for me, the most annoying and had nothing to do with the pandemic. 

I cannot find any reviewer who has commented on the aggravating audio background noise. It sounded like the dim hum of a crowded nightclub. Also the inexplicable decisions to not play film clips of most of the nominees, to omit the performances of nominated songs from the main telecast, to race through the heartbreaking “In Memoriam” segment with an upbeat song, and to announce the best picture award before the best actress/best actor awards resulted in a stilted, boring broadcast that did nothing to advance the cause of bringing post-pandemic movie fans back into theaters. I have been an avid moviegoer who looks forward to the Oscars telecast every year and, pre-pandemic, I held viewing parties in my home. I am reconsidering that tradition!

Veronica ClarkeEllicott City

Apostrophe appreciation abounds

I read the April 29 obituary for John Richards, “Newspaperman was possessed by an elemental urge to protect the apostrophe” [Metro], with a mixture of interest, amusement and regret — regret that I missed an opportunity to serve the Apostrophe Protection Society as a (probably underqualified but willing) volunteer. Although I’m (I am) not, strictly speaking, a writer, my profession involves a great deal of writing, and I have long endeavored to use correct grammar and punctuation. 

My own most-loathed misuse of the apostrophe is the possessive form of “it,” as in, “Look at that bird. It’s feathers are yellow.” I’ve (I have) lost count of how many times I’ve (ditto) seen this egregious error, often in professional publications. I’ll (I will) think of Richards the next time I see one. It’s (it is), I think, a fitting way to honor his memory.

Roger Fradenburgh, Harvard, Mass.

Kent Island came first

Two recent Retropolis columns — “Md. dig unearths rare, nearly 380-year-old coin” [May 3] and “A 90-year search unearths lost fort” [March 22] — on important discoveries in St. Mary’s City refer to its founding in 1634 as marking “the first permanent English settlement in Maryland.”

The first permanent English settlement in what is today Maryland occurred when Englishman William Claiborne sailed up the Chesapeake Bay from Jamestown and settled Kent Island in 1631. It was the third permanent English settlement in North America, following Jamestown (1607) and Plymouth (1620 Maryland did not exist in 1631, and Kent Island was then considered part of Virginia.

The Maryland Charter of 1632 was granted to Cecilius Calvert by King Charles I to establish the Maryland Colony, and it included Kent Island. This provision was immediately disputed by Virginia and certainly by Claiborne and his fellow Kent Island settlers. The first naval battle on the Chesapeake was fought over the issue in 1635. The Maryland Colony forces seized Kent Island in 1637 as a rightful part of their domain while Claiborne was back in England to dispute the jurisdiction claim. He lost, and Kent Island was verified as being part of Maryland.

Kent Island, established in 1631, was the first permanent English settlement in what is today Maryland. St. Mary’s City was the first permanent English settlement established in the new colony of Maryland and — surely the Calverts of yore would agree — the second-oldest settlement in today’s Maryland. Thanks for focusing on early Maryland (and perhaps Virginia) history.

John L. Conley, Chester, Md.

The writer is a member of the board of directors of the Kent Island Heritage Society.

Does what it says on the tin

I enjoyed the wry sense of humor exhibited by the juxtaposition of a headline and photograph in the May 2 Sports section. The headline, “The Caps fall flat, straight out of first,” which was on the continuation of the section-front article “Flat Caps let rivals push them out of first,” was placed to the left of a large photo of Capitals goalie Ilya Samsonov sprawled flat in front of the net.

Alice Markham, Reston

A better way to put 'skin' in the name

Regarding the May 1 Free for All letters about renaming the Washington Football Team, “A team by any other name”:

The devotion to the magical mammalian mascot movement for the team is emblematic of the encrusted thinking that has annually pinned Washington Football Team owner Daniel Snyder’s team deep in its own history, a shadow of its former glory. In adopting yet another bland, league-friendly critter, the team would miss the potential opportunity to connect with growth-embracing and enthusiastic “younger fans” and the exploding e-sports market.

Perhaps some would not know what a “skin” is in the e-sports context, and it would be news to them that Fortnite, not the NFL, is the hottest game on the planet. E-sports are key to the allocation of future sports revenue, and its flexibility the reason that the team should adopt the name “X-Skins,” with a logo of a classy graphic X bound by bands of burgundy and gold.

For the uninitiated, in role-playing games such as Fortnite, a skin is a customization choice for a player’s in-game avatar or equipment that changes its appearance, abilities or weaponry. Imagine the commercial possibilities in promotional tie-ins within gamers’ acquisition of a base starter such as Chase Young, customizing his starting attributes by adding an extra pair of arms, ultimately fielding a Madden-esque team assembled entirely by future generations of fans who pay millions to take part in that new culture.   

To those who say starting with an X would be too far outside the mainstream, I would present the XFL, Xfinity, X-Men, X-rays, Expos, Exxon and, especially, FedEx Field. How are football plays drawn up? X’s and O’s. And the way the team plays with the new moniker would necessarily be “X-rated.”

X marks the spot, fans. Wombats, indeed!

Thomas Aldridge, Alexandria

Don't even mention granola

Regarding Petula Dvorak’s April 30 Metro column, “In Takoma Park, a lesson in American democracy”:

As a longtime Takoma Park resident, I groan every time I see an article or column that uses the stereotypical vocabulary to describe us: “nuclear-weapons-free-zone,” “do-gooders,” “sandal-friendly.” This is not a fair description of my town, where the 17,700 residents are 46 percent White non-Hispanic, 33 percent Black non-Hispanic, 12 percent Hispanic and 5 percent Asian, with a median household income of $84,591 and a poverty rate of 9 percent.

The Takoma Park-Silver Spring Food Co-op Board, employees and customers reflect our diverse community across ages and ethnicities. The store supports local vendors and hosts community activities. It offers a 5 percent discount to seniors every day; the bulk foods are cheap, as are many other items. All the co-op wants is to coexist with whatever development takes place on the parking lot. 

Fred Pinkney, Takoma Park

Time to push 'fat' forward

I was glad to see the headline of the May 2 Arts & Style article “Flipping the script on ‘fat’ in comedy”:

Years ago, when I did my fieldwork in fat culture for my master’s in folklore at the University of North Carolina, people were terrified of the word “fat.” When I insisted that they recognize fatness and the culture I was documenting and actually say the word, people could not do it.  When I published my book, “Fat Like Us,” I had to fight with editors, publishers and producers just to get the word “fat” in the title. When I was on “60 Minutes” and was interviewed by Morley Safer, his producers informed me that I could say “fat,” but Safer wouldn’t. 

“Fat” is a scary and powerful word. I like the sound of it, the way it feels in my mouth. We claim it, and we take back the power.  

Jean Renfro Anspaugh, Fairfax

Too rude to Broad

Though it is hard to disagree with Sebastian Smee’s description of the late Eli Broad as a somewhat arrogant, opinionated art collector and, more important, philanthropist, I take issue with his characterizing Broad’s “penchant for self-branding” as being comparable to that displayed by former president Donald Trump [“Eli Broad’s stunning generosity had a catch,” Style, May 3]. Even more outrageous was Smee’s claim that Broad’s stamp on Los Angeles is akin to Trump’s on New York. To suggest that the Los Angeles County Museum of Art or the Museum of Contemporary Art or the Broad Art Center at UCLA is akin to Trump Tower, various other Trump buildings (none of which are museums!) or even the Wollman Skating Rink, all of which are intended to be profit-making projects, is specious indeed.

Diana Wahl, Arlington

Read more:

Readers critique The Post: An embarrassing decision to give this Civil War reenactment prominent coverage

Readers critique The Post: As this photo shows us, less isn’t always best

Readers critique The Post: This seemingly silly pose has a storied past

Readers critique The Post: This photo was fitting for this moment in baseball

Readers critique The Post: We are all starved for comic relief. That’s no excuse for insensitivity.

Readers critique The Post: Leave Catholicism out of it

Readers critique The Post: A fist-bump like no one’s ever seen before

Readers critique The Post: This photo choice was irresponsible

Readers critique The Post: What’s going on in this photo?

Readers critique The Post: Copying Big Mama’s style wasn’t Elvis’s only offense

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