I sincerely feel a disservice has been done to Zirk Ubu and to the loyal followers of the Reader, both by Thomas Lux and by the editorial staff of the Reader. This article is a turn-off in all respects; however, in the hands of a capable writer, I’m certain it would not only be a captivating read but also a crowd-generator for the Zirk Ubu troupe. If I can expect more cover stories or major contributions from this condescending buffoon in the Reader, or if the editors plan to “phone it in” again, then I will no longer be a reader of your magazine.

Wendy Cryingwolf
via email

A Couch In Riga

I read Rosa Jurjevics’s article (“The Whole World Sleeps on My Couch,” Cover Story, May 7) and noted her interest in Latvia and couchsurfing. I was in Riga in November and met some couchsurfing hosts there who showed us around the city. The hosts were great, and Riga was nice but expensive and sort of sterile. Doubt I would go back.

Kenneth Peterson
via email

Deep Fresh Air

After reading another negative letter about the cover story “Searching for San Diego’s Sea Turtles…and a Job,” your April 30 cover story by author Nasreen Atassi, I felt that I must take a moment of my time and respond in her defense. I absolutely loved her story and felt it was a breath of fresh air. The theme of this story is much more than job markets and sea turtles. It goes much deeper. If you read between the lines, you will see that it is a story of our world and its sorry condition. Great job, Nasreen! Keep up the fantastic work. You have a unique view and style that is greatly appreciated by those of us who can see beyond the obvious.

via email

Too Much Reaction!!!

For the record, I live in Normal Heights, not Talmadge, where the Reader erroneously placed me (Letters, May 6). My letter knocking Nasreen Atassi for her April 30 essay about looking for a job while doing purported research on sea turtles in San Diego has gotten more reaction than the letter was worth. In online comments it ranged from Lisa Leitter’s very measured and witty defense of Nasreen to a moronic post from NotQuiteADiva who uses exclamation points like a ten-year-old!!! In hard copy, I got a nice seconding from Gail Powell and, just this week, an anonymous “must be jealous” dismissal from Krishnamurti in La Jolla.

I was angry not because I was supposedly all befuddled over her “misty vapors” comparison of her own situation with that of the turtles but because she seemed to betray a disdain for anyone who actually stayed with or had a job — in an article half about a job search. Secure in the warm effluent of her parental home, Ms. Atassi is free to float through it all and blow off any job she deems beneath her, but anyone who actually sticks it out is a tool and a loser? Exactly.

If the Web comment from one of her sources is genuine, then the framing mystery about why the sea turtles hang around San Diego (“They just are”) isn’t even a mystery. In the article, ecologist Jeffrey Seminoff allegedly says the attraction of the warm power-plant waters is a rumor, but in his online comment after the article he states that Nasreen “botched the information that I provided” and that the turtles “ABSOLUTELY key in on the warm water effluent.” You gotta wonder exactly who was “rushed” in their exchange. But I guess if she had realized there was no mystery after all, the tenuous connection between herself and the sea turtles disappeared altogether.

Regarding narcissism and any who accuse me of throwing the term around to be highfalutin, please take a look at answers.com/topic/ narcissism. Three of those definitions are applicable to the term as I used it, and I admitted to the condition myself. No other word with less syllables fit — sorry, NotQuiteADiva!!!

I stand behind everything I wrote, without requiring Name Withheld in La Jolla’s gutless anonymity. I just am.

P.S.: Why print anything a writer won’t back up with his/her own name? What possible danger was avoided?

Neil Allen
Normal Heights

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NotQuiteADiva June 7, 2009 @ 6:21 p.m.

Well, you got one thing right – you definitely are a narcissist! It’s all about you!! Clearly!!!!

(Whoa! Is that too many exclamation points for you to handle? Sorry!!! Oops!!!!)

What you fail to comprehend is that some of us like to encourage young writers rather than try to break their spirits. In the face of a culture that has turned disrespect of aspiring artist into some sort of perverse sport, I feel a little pat on the back now an again is the least I can do. Sadly, there are legions of your ilk that seem to gain great satisfaction from hulling hurtful bile at aspiring young artist. Why this is I do not know, nor do I care. Never the less, I will continue to stand in the face of the haters and offer encouragement to young artist the best I can.

Are any of you with me?


David Dodd June 7, 2009 @ 6:45 p.m.


Credit Neil with leaving his real name, at the very least. Nasreen got a lot of support (although some of us had a little fun at her expense), but criticism is part of the writing process. I'm not sure if you've ever braved the waters, but I can tell you first hand that rejections (and harsh criticisms) are part of it. I wish Nasreen the best of luck, but the Neil's of the reading world are every bit a part of what makes a writer good, or often better, in the long run. Neil can rip my stuff anytime, I'm just sort of encouraged that he doesn't hide behind an anonymous hedge.


NotQuiteADiva June 7, 2009 @ 7:23 p.m.


You are 100% correct.

Yes, I have braved the waters, which I think is the reason why I tend to rise to the defense of artists rather than criticize them. Criticism is important, with out a doubt, but I think when a writer is first starting out, support is even more important!

Yet for the haters of the world this is never a consideration. For them it is just an opportunity to hurt, to lash out and thereby somehow empower themselves. I don’t understand this and I hope I never do…


zodzelig June 8, 2009 @ 2:32 p.m.

NQAD Angry! Why so angry? My letters had to pass through an editor to see print, which means that someone thought enough of my writing to publish them—just like Nasreen’s article. Aint no thing, maybe, but on the web-comments page, anyone with an account can vomit out their bilge, string up a bunch of clichés, tacky insults and bad grammar and get it uploaded. (See?!?) Jesus, take another look at your first comment above and see if it couldn’t benefit from some judicious editing. Write something coherent (and decent) to the Letters Editor and get it in print, if you want to get your point across to more than me and refriedgringo. (“Are any of you with me?” crickets) I’m thinking last week might be as long as the Reader is willing to draw this out, but if you switch to decaf for the space of a letter and write with your heart and head instead of your bowels and anus, they might go one more week. Trash me as payback for Nasreen, if it’ll make you feel any better. I’m over it, myself, so have the last word. But your writing would have to do it, not the heat of your expression, or your desire to save already-paid writers from any criticism. Nasreen Atassi lost no sleep or money from my letters, and (in print at least) any negative comments anyone made were balanced out by positive comments. No one got hurt, as far as I can tell, and Nasreen will continue to write no matter what anyone thinks of her, like any good writer. She’s not an aspiring artist—she was published: she IS an artist.


NotQuiteADiva June 8, 2009 @ 3:01 p.m.


You are right. Why did I waste even a moment on this? The perils of being drunk and bored on the internet…


David Dodd June 8, 2009 @ 3:10 p.m.

Mr. Allen,

I think it's a defense mechanism. I certainly understand NQAD coming to Nasreen's defense, I've been writing for a while now and I'm pretty quick to come to the defense of a new writer. I can tell that Nasreen is new, her paragraph structure needs tightening and she overuses certain words. But I think that if she keeps it up and listens to certain criticisms, and painfully edits what she writes, she could be good. Really good.

Nasreen is very descriptive, a couple of passages were exceptional that way, and her use of a turtle as a vehicle to carry her personal story was clever, even if she didn't accurately convey certain details from the interview with the marine biologist. And there are some certain aspects of her life that are quite fascinating. I can't imagine the Syrian/American cultural difference, it's probably very profound.

Regarding the employment, the first thing that comes to mind is Charles Bukowski. I am a huge fan of the late and great Bukowski, who toiled in a post office for years until he finally realized the dream of his true calling, writing. As for me, I've worked my tail off all of my life in jobs that I mostly hated. Bukowski made it bearable, he hated the mind-numbing work he was forced into just to eke out a living. Nasreen is not alone, Mr. Allen.

Writers need to be criticized, and I'm very glad that you're willing to do it. But sometimes they need to be defended, too, and I'm glad that NQAD is here to do that as well.

  • Dave

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