This week’s “Free for All” letters.


The Glenstone Museum in Potomac, Md. (Goran Kosanovic for The Washington Post)
Describing the Glenstone Museum

A thousand thanks for the gorgeous presentation of the Sept. 30 Arts & Style article “An oasis of art.” The two-plus-page spread combined narrative, photographs and layout to evoke the spirit of the Glenstone Museum. I can’t wait to go there.

Lynn Marble, Rockville

From “An oasis of art in the Sept. 30 Arts & Style section and the Sept. 30 Washington Post Magazine cover article “The collectors,” we learn a great deal about Glenstone Museum, its patrons and the artists whose work they collect, the architect of the new addition, the designers of the benches and even the identity of the tree movers. However, the identity of the artist behind what is arguably the largest work of art — the 230-acre campus — is nowhere to be found. This failure to recognize the landscape architect — in this case PWP Landscape Architecture, which has been involved with the museum since 2003 — is all too common. Often, it’s because architecture-centric media — which focus on and fetishize “the building” — do the reporting. But in the case of the Arts & Style article, one of the two authors is The Post’s gardening writer Adrian Higgins. (To his credit, Philip Kennicott’s Sept. 22 front-page Critic’s Notebook, “At Glenstone, fresh space as artful as its collection,” recognized PWP.) It would seem that Glenstone’s landscape architecture is as integral to the museum visitor’s experience as the buildings that house the artwork. The Arts & Style article said the landscape’s “natural design belies the extensive earthwork and planting of the site to soften the presence of new buildings that total almost a quarter-million square feet of space.” That tough job of making nature look natural comes from carefully shaping and sculpting the land and a deft understanding of visual and spatial relationships — that’s part of the art of landscape architecture.

Fortunately, this was corrected with Mr. Higgins’s Oct. 3 Critic’s Notebook, “At the expanded Glenstone, the landscaping is as mindful as the art collection” [Style], a lengthy feature on the landscape architecture and its landscape architect.

Charles A. Birnbaum, Washington

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Focus on the substance, not the style

The Oct. 2 Reliable Source included “Allison Williams says incarcerated students deserve Pell Grants, too,” an item about the actress speaking on a panel concerning helping previously incarcerated women gain educational opportunities.

Williams was described as “donning a black bell sleeve dress” and having her hair in a braided updo. I was surprised to read that she took to the stage donning such a dress, as usually people are already dressed when they are walking onto a stage.

More important: Why did her outfit and hair need to be mentioned? Former secretary of education John B. King Jr., who introduced her, was not described in terms of his haircut or suit.

On a recent day, I sighed aloud when reading in Seung Min Kim’s Debrief column that professor Christine Blasey Ford spoke in a “girlish voice” while testifying before a Senate panel [“Contradictory stories, sharply contrasting witnesses,” news, Sept. 28]. Yet then-Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh’s voice was not described in a manner that made him appear childlike.

Let’s have The Post think carefully about choosing words that don’t focus on a woman’s appearance or voice and instead focus on her actions and the actual words she chooses to use. That’s one step in the right direction so that the fact that women hold up half the sky can be honored instead of women being marginalized.

Theresa Early, Fairfax

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U.S. Military Academy graduates toss their caps in the air in May in West Point, N.Y. (Julie Jacobson/AP)
Post-graduation, they're no longer cadets

The photograph on the Oct. 3 Wednesday Opinion page showed U.S. Army officers (not U.S. Military Academy cadets, as stated in the caption). Cadets become officers upon graduating.

Jan Wessling, Olney

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An unexpectedly incisive commentary

Sometimes the most incisive commentaries come from unsuspected sources. The winners (“losers”) in The Post’s Style Invitational “Badder up: Week 1295 winners” paired something unfortunate with something that is really unfortunate [Arts & Style, Sept. 30]. Duncan Stevens of Vienna submitted, as a sign that the country is in trouble: “An unstable, race-baiting moron is the president.” As a sign that the country is really in trouble: “Half the country says, ‘So?’ ”

Stevens’s entry was only an honorable mention. It was topped by others that were funny without the wrenching aftershock. What if there were a country that really found itself in this situation? What could it do? Perhaps it would find a leader who could assure the country that “I alone can fix it.”

Jesse Etelson, Rockville

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A display of Trump beverages at the Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., in 2016. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
Break out the bubbly?

In Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker’s Oct. 3 White House Debrief, “ ‘He doesn’t like drinkers’: Why President Trump stays away from alcohol,” the caption under the bottles of Trump-branded “champagne” included an incorrect description. Bubbly wine made outside of the Champagne region in France can be called anything but champagne. California makes sparkling wine; Italy has Prosecco; Spain has cava.

Trump Winery doesn’t make champagne; it makes sparkling wine.

Steven Berson, Washington

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Is that what Flake really meant?

The Oct. 2 news article “In N.H., Flake calls for unity, thorough FBI probe” quoted Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) as saying of the FBI investigation into then-Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh, who Christine Blasey Ford accused of sexually assaulted her in high school, “We’re wanting to make sure that is a fulsome investigation — that it’s not limited as some worry that it might be.”

Labeling something as “fulsome” is characterizing it as “offensively flattering or insincere.” Not, I think, what was intended; but “limited” is certainly what the FBI was required to deliver.

Kirsten H. Gardner,
Chevy Chase

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Not what she meant, either

The Oct. 1 front-page article “Battle over Kavanaugh turns to scope of probe” quoted White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders as saying, “Nobody could deny that her testimony wasn’t compelling, that it wasn’t impactful.” She needs the lesson in double negatives that I had in eighth grade. If she wanted to use the negative verb “deny,” she should have said, “Nobody could deny that her testimony was compelling, that it was impactful.” Or using another verb, she could have said, “Nobody could say that her testimony wasn’t compelling, that it wasn’t impactful.”

Mary Jo Sutton, Gainesville

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Johnson was, in fact, a great leader

Writing about Sen. Tim Kaine’s (D-Va.) Sept. 23 Book World review of “Leadership in Turbulent Times” by Doris Kearns Goodwin, “In times of crisis, four presidents became great leaders,” Scott Wallace implied in his Oct. 6 Free for All letter, “Vietnam destroyed LBJ’s legacy,” that perhaps Goodwin included President Lyndon B. Johnson among Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt because she briefly worked in the Johnson White House.

I believe Goodwin justifiably included Johnson among those great leaders because of Johnson’s accomplishments, including creating the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, legislation creating Medicare and Medicaid, the Fair Housing Act, the Clean Air Act, legislation requiring truth in packaging, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Higher Education Act, the Gun Control Act and other Great Society legislation, too many to list here.

Perhaps a fairer description of Johnson’s presidency could be found in “The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson ” by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert A. Caro.

Hossein Ildari, Henrico

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'Affair' isn't a fair description

Heller McAlpin, in “Author again shares her family’s stories,” a generally positive Oct. 7 Book World review of Kathryn Harrison’s new memoir, “On Sunset,” characterized Harrison’s earlier memoir, “The Kiss,” as being “about the affair she had . . . with her long-estranged father.” I must assert that “affair” does not remotely describe what happened to Harrison.

When “The Kiss” came out, The Post’s Jonathan Yardley wrote, in a blistering review under the headline “Daddy’s Girl Cashes In,” that he found the memoir to be “slimy, repellent, meretricious, [and] cynical.” He particularly objected to the book’s commercial success and seemed to hate the author even more than the book. Nowhere in the review did he criticize Harrison’s minister father, long estranged from the family, who groomed, enticed, manipulated and finally seduced his own daughter.

I read that book, and the only mystery it left me with is how the poor young woman kept her sanity after such an experience. Yardley’s review was in 1997. Will victim-blaming ever end? Especially after the past month in Washington, I wonder.

Irene Smith Landsman, Garrett Park

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A tree under a starry sky in Shenandoah National Park in 2014. (Craig Hudson for The Washington Post)
Sadly, likely not an American chestnut

I’m disappointed when newspaper captions identify “a tree” or “a bird.” Can’t we be told the common name of the living thing — sugar maple or America robin? So I give The Post credit for its caption of the “chestnut tree . . . in Shenandoah National Park” in the photograph accompanying Elizabeth Bruenig’s Oct. 5 Friday Opinion column, “The relief of autumn.”

If only it could be true that a large chestnut survived in our area. The American chestnut tree was wiped out by a bark fungus starting about 100 years ago, not only in the area of Shenandoah National Park but also across the east, more than 3 billion trees in total. Occasionally, one can see chestnut shoots sprouting from long-dead trunks, but these, too, succumb to the blight before they reach tree size.

It is possible that the photograph captures a chestnut oak, which is indeed very common in the Shenandoahs.

Will Daniels, Luray

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Drink, drank, drunk

I was reading the Sept. 30 newspaper when I saw it: the photo caption of the article “Klobuchar’s big Kavanaugh moment exposed possible 2020 shortcoming” [news]. The caption referred to an exchange between Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and then-Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh “about whether he had ever drank to the point of blacking out.” Not only is the news very depressing these days, but it also is reported ungrammatically.

Sharon Hills, Springfield

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The link between flooding and climate change

The Sept. 30 Metro article “A relief from rain, but not its effects” was a thorough report of flooding expected in the region. However, the article failed to address a link between said flooding and climate change. Under climate-change scenarios, record-breaking rainfall and high waters will become all too common. When we discuss increasingly extreme weather events, climate change is often left out of the conversation. We mustn’t have an aversion to the subject of climate change. Let’s hope that mitigation measures are taken at the city level and that day-to-day weather scenarios do not surpass our threshold to withstand them.

Jessica LaMay, Washington

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Positive words

Regarding the Sept. 29 Free for All letters “Choice words”:

With due respect to my fellow solvers and their cross words about Evan Birnholz and his puzzles, I find his puzzles edgy, innovative and more challenging and engaging than, dare I say, those in that paper in New York.

It is about time there was a little shake-up in the world of crosswords. If one doesn’t care for his puzzles, I suggest one turn to the Los Angeles Times snoozer right there in The Post and the countless others that are more traditional puzzles.

I say keep them coming. Sharpen my mind, not just my pencil.

Jan Miller, Richmond

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Why are they still 'refugees'?

The Oct. 1 news article “After setbacks, Palestinians see a few bright spots” used “refugees” regarding Palestinians. Three generations continue to be named as refugees. How many more generations will continue to do so? Survivors of the Armenian genocide by the Turks starting in 1915 ended up in countries such as France, the United States and others. In those nations, Armenians built successful lives, fully integrating and assimilating into their lands of refuge, shedding the appellation of “refugees.”

Jews who were expelled from Arab nations with no more than a suitcase followed the same pattern as the Armenians. Palestinians, by contrast, remain “refugees” as pawns of Arab nations that make political use of the appellation.

Brenda Levenson, Alexandria