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Lost In Netflix Land

No-o-o-o-o-o!!! Say not so. Duncan, don’t leave! What am I gonna do? Who am I gonna use as a guide for my Netflix queue? Don’t do it!

David Walters
via email

True Lover’s Lament

Congratulations, Duncan, on writing the best column ever (“So Long,” Movie Review, November 11). While sad about your leaving, your review about the state of movies nowadays was right on. Your mention of Tower Records really brought back fond memories. Your type of comprehensive reviewing is lost now on a generation raised on quick sound bites and the internet, where a thumbs-up and how many explosions a movie contains is all that counts. Dialogue and plot be damned. Duncan, you will be missed by all true movie lovers. I think of you as Henry Fonda in My Darling Clementine, riding out of town leaving the school maiden who hopes you’ll return someday. We can only hope.

Dan Adams
via email

Don’t Go

You can’t let Duncan go!!! Let him write about any movie he wants, anything he wants — just let him write. Get someone else to review the box office hits. Yes, many of us may have taken him for granted, gotten miffed at his critics (silently believed they must be “off” in some way), should have sent encouragement, but we’ve been eternally faithful all of these 38 years. You know we too don’t always speak computer, go to the often mindless drivel that passes for movies, do yearn for the good old days…we’re here, too, Duncan! So we understand your frustration. We merely ask that you don’t abandon us completely.

Thank you for your excellence all these years.

Pat Picchi
via email

My Pal Duncan

The day that I’ve been dreading has finally come: Duncan Shepherd is retiring from his weekly Reader column. Six years after Jonathan Saville’s departure, which left and continues to leave a terrible void in the classical music review section, we now have to face the fact that another quality critic leaves our weekly routine. The Reader table of contents line of “Duncan Shepherd signs off” was a punch to my stomach — to see no line there was always a letdown because that meant no movie review this week, but this was something else entirely. I knew what I’d find on page 112.

I’ve read Mr. Shepherd for more than 30 years and learned much from him. Early on I occasionally found his writing obtuse and frustrating, but he taught me true critical thinking. Through his writing I’ve come to regard him as a confidant and friend. Having never met him or even seen his picture, it was almost as if he never aged and would be around for as long as I wanted. My brother and I would always want to know what “Shepherd gave this film,” what hidden symbols he saw in this film or that, or “how did he so miss the boat on that one?” He had a voice at the table for a post-film discussion, and he always challenged me to be creative. As with any friend, I often disagreed with him, but that’s what makes friendships interesting and valuable — a unique perspective: sometimes it’s more interesting not to agree. It is very sad to know this chapter in my life has closed. He was 90 percent of why I went out of my way to pick up a Reader each week (I hardly ever read his reviews online). I now have that much less reason to look forward to the fourth day of the week.

I quote a line from his review of David Mamet’s Spartan: he “trusts us to catch up and keep up; expects us to suck it up and tough it out.” Yes, Duncan, you did. And now you expect us to make it on our own, think for ourselves, leave you time for other pleasures. Well, you’ve earned it. Thank you for your contribution to the life of the mind. I wish you the best and hope to meet you someday for a movie and coffee after, my treat.

Jeffrey Genzlinger
via email

Semper Superior

Ladies and Gents,

If he would be so disposed, a public reception for a consummate professional, Duncan Shepherd, would be a fine event indeed.

Having been initially stationed here in 1980, it’s been a real privilege to read his consistently superior work. There wasn’t a time when it ever appeared less than first-rate and, needless to say, his best effort.

Charge 10 to 15 bucks, serve some nice beverages, hors d’oeuvres, throw in some classical music and some movie posters, and I’m sure the Coen brothers’ crowd would come out of the woodwork!

After the retiring types retire, have an ’80s party! Would be a blast. Thanks for considering this letter and giving Duncan an unobstructed path to provide us with such fine material.

Best regards.

Lt. Col. George Murray USMC (ret)
via email

To Blog, Perhaps To Share

Concerning Duncan Shepherd’s retirement, all good things come to pass. Please consider, after a period of time, of course, a website, a blog, perhaps, to share your reviews of the movies you do choose to see. If the paragraph is too little, or too much, your star system would suffice to guide the faithful. Thank you for your insight all these years.

David Castro
via voice mail

Hater And His Horse

Duncan Shepherd is always helpful. Any movie he despises is always good, something worth viewing. He and the high horse he rides on must be very proud of their self-righteous arrogance. Has this fool ever had a career in film besides his desk-job criticisms? Here’s to you, Dunkie, enjoy your life as a perpetual hater.

James Cooney
via email

What Would Duncan Do?

Duncan Shepherd gave San Diegans 38 years of intelligent movie reviews. Being intelligent is compatible with being irritating, unperspicuous, dogmatic, and pedantic, and Duncan Shepherd’s reviews at times were all of these, sometimes, amazingly, in the same review. Nonetheless, when I came home from watching a movie, I wanted to see what Shepherd thought of it, and if the Reader had fetched a price, I would gladly have paid it to see his review. His weekly writing had the unpredictability of intelligence. There were patterns, but every review contained some surprising, quirky observation and, more often than not, one that went to the heart of the matter (or at least, was headed that way). I’m grateful to him for sustaining a wondrous, long open-ended conversation with his readers, and I’m immensely sad that his service is at an end. How about starting a movie blog, Mr. Shepherd?

Dick Arneson
La Jolla


At breakfast on Friday, I was distressed to read that I was in fact to be reading Duncan Shepherd’s last movie column. While I know it is inevitable that he would sooner or later retire, I have to say that you ought to try to talk him out of it, for your sake as much as anyone else’s: the rest of the Reader — the political muckraking, the human-interest pieces, the restaurant reviews, etc. — are all very well and good, but it is only Shepherd’s column that has made me make certain to pick up a copy each week.

I know the initial impression he tends to make is that he is the Mr. Crankshaft of cinema, but that’s because he holds films to the highest of standards. Many people who criticize him go to movies with the attitude of “How can I kill two hours?” Shepherd’s main criterion seems to be, “If you knew you had a month left to live, would this film be worth your time?” It’s not surprising that the answer is usually no. Shepherd demands of films that they be sincere, that they are genuinely human and humane. You can learn a lot about movies from reading his columns, regardless of whether he was writing about instantly forgettable junk or a masterpiece.

It never bothered me that he didn’t think much (at all) of my two all-time favorite films or that I have zero interest in French cinema or that I’m mystified by his enthusiasm for Tombstone. His reviews operate on a very different level from those of other reviewers. Reviews from other reviewers seem to me more or less interchangeable, but you’d never mistake one of Shepherd’s columns for someone else’s. His are an art in themselves.

I write in present tense, not only to avoid sounding like an obituary but in hopes that he won’t completely retire. I have been meaning to write in and suggest that a book be made of his best columns: your website only has the brief blurbs of his old reviews, and I for one would like to see the actual essays.

Parke Troutman
via email

Slangy Lingo, No Verbs

Notwithstanding the fact — obvious to all but the most casual of Reader readers — that Duncan Shepherd’s impending (and much deserved, after 38 years of suffering — his as well as perhaps ours) retirement will provoke yelps of jubilation on the parts of many — those who do not agree with the self-evident principle that 90 percent of anything (film, music, art, literature) is bad and therefore deserving of the “black spot” (his ubiquitous awardance of which I have always personally been very pleased with)…

A different view. My gripe is that after a lifetime of writing, Duncan Shepherd never could write English. The lack of a main verb his most obvious flaw. Random use of “hip,” slangy lingo pretty much totally incongruous with the largely passive, stilted mode. Much more annoying, lists, separated only with commas, all other punctuation (save for the frequent intrusions, bracketings, and hyphenations, of references accessible not even to film buffs, only film obsessives, non sequiturs — or whatever the plural is) being eschewed, running on, possessing the quality of computer translations from German, the reader’s attention (even one who can stomach Proust) wandering, splitting, finally to plunge into a grammatical mélange the likes of which reading past without entertaining the idea the man has no idea what he’s talking about, is scarcely possible.

Still, nobody’s perfect. All the best, Duncan!

Justin Roberts
via email

Hope For The Future

I was sorry to read of Duncan Shepherd’s retirement. Though I didn’t agree with everything he liked and didn’t like, I always enjoyed reading his columns. I hope in the future the column will maintain the level of writing Mr. Shepherd established and upheld.

Paul Slayton
via email

Essays? Perhaps Books?

Duncan Shepherd, you have decided to quit writing your column. This is sad news for me. You have always been my favorite columnist at the Reader. My enjoyment of your column has never been based on personally agreeing with your opinions about individual movies. I find that Leonard Maltin better reflects my cinematic tastes but definitely not my tastes in literature about the cinema.

Your column was refreshing, singular, challenging, erudite, at times maddening, and at all times entertaining and thought provoking. Indeed, I have often derived more enjoyment from reading your column than I have from seeing some of the films you gave three stars to. I hope you continue to publish new essays, maybe even some books. I hope you enjoy your new freedom to indulge in your love for cinema.

Now that you have more free time, I recommend that some of your time would be well spent revisiting the films of Howard Hawks, George Stevens, and Vincente Minnelli. As is the case with Frank Capra and Alfred Hitchcock, the entertainment value of their films multiplies with increased familiarity. This cannot be said for 99 percent of narrative cinema. You may discover that you have often underrated Howard Hawks, George Stevens, and Vincente Minnelli. Someday you may even realize that Bringing Up Baby merits no less than five stars.

Best wishes for continued prosperity, and whatever you do, don’t stop writing.

John Pertle

Lots Of Proof

Had I read Mr. Deegan’s article “Einstein, That Clown” (“City Lights,” November 11) a year ago, I would have been shocked both at Mr. Iaquinta’s ignorance and his willingness to broadcast it. After all, while (special and or general) relativity may be tough concepts to grasp for a layperson like Mr. Iaquinta, you would expect that the fact that the GPS system in his car would not be functioning properly if not for the corrections made to account for relativity would be at least partly convincing to him. Maybe the now-numerous experiments showing light curving around the sun during eclipses would have sealed it for him. Or maybe the wobble of the planet Mercury as it hits its perihelion, a phenomenon that is predicted by and unexplainable without general relativity, might sway him. Maybe the fact that the basis for atomic weapons and nuclear power are contained within that one beautiful equation that tells us the amount of energy held within matter: E=MC2. Or how about the most damning evidence of all: the fact that for the better part of a century, physicists of much greater education and intelligence than Mr. Iaquinta have been investigating and testing relativity all around the world and there hasn’t been a single published paper that contradicts relativity.

The truth is, if Mr. Iaquinta had stumbled across a better theory, then he wouldn’t have any fear of having his paper torn apart by the “intelligentsia” (i.e., people who actually know what they’re talking about). If he had a workable theory that fit the world we live in better than relativity and was experimentally verifiable, the “intelligentsia” would back him as steadfastly as they currently back Einstein. It’s that simple. But Mr. Iaquinta either consciously knows that his theory wouldn’t make it past the peer review of a respected journal or he’s just that extra kind of crazy that makes him think that every department of physics in every institute of higher learning in the world as well as every major science journal and periodical and scientific association have all gotten together to agree to denounce his theory, even if it is experimentally provable.

As I said in the beginning, I would have been shocked by this extra “bus-stop” level of craziness in a seemingly sane business owner had I read it a year ago, before I began reading about the growing trend among certain conservatives to deny pretty much all science. It turns out that not only is science the enemy for the far right when it comes to human origins and the climatic fate of the planet, it somehow also offends them when it addresses the relation of time and space or the equivalence of mass and energy. For whatever reason, the fringes of the right have decided that relativity is their new evolution, and I recommend to anyone wishing to get an even bigger laugh than they got when reading Iaquinta’s quote “God also provided man with the ‘light’ compass to navigate the heavens” to check out Conservapedia’s entry on relativity, which, on top of stumbling through arguments almost as weak as Mr. Iaquinta’s, condemns its teaching by “liberal universities.”

The bottom line is this, Mr. Iaquinta, if you have some groundbreaking new theory that’s going to change the perception of the universe, then publish in a peer-reviewed journal and the scientific community will praise you, the universe in general will be better understood, and the advances in science and technology that would accompany it will undoubtedly change the world. Otherwise, stick to the barbecue with a side of crazy.

Robert Bolger
via email

Bad GPS Science

I think Iaquinta is substantially correct in refuting Einstein (“Einstein, That Clown,” “City Lights,” November 11), but he is missing some important information about light, which I have pleasure in including below, but first some correction about GPS as you mention SDSU physics professor Calvin Johnson about the correction to GPS. I think engineers made GPS work by trial and error in spite of wrong science. The GPS works not because of science but in spite of wrong science advocated in Einstein’s SRT [special relativity theory]. Accordingly, GPS practice is opposite of what Einstein’s SRT required. SRT is not completely wrong, but Einstein got a couple of things backwards. Instead of mass increase it should be mass reduction, and instead of time dilation, it’s time contraction such that a traveling twin ages more and faster.

My convention is contraction as positive and dilation as subtractive with minus sign. Relativistic time contraction of 45.66 microseconds per day of 24 hours along the circumference of the earth and gravitational time dilation of 7.26 microseconds/day radially as required by Galileo’s pendulum formula. Accordingly, GPS engineers slow down GPS clocks by 45.66–7.26 = 38.4 microseconds per day to synch with ground-based clocks. This is proof positive as circumference 45.66 = 7.26 X 2π.

Now here is the missing information about light I promised.

  1. Light has no need to travel in the absence of a medium, and sound cannot travel without a medium and
  2. Light travels as wave and interacts as photons (virtual particles).
  3. Sound speed increases with density. Light speed decreases with density even to zero for opaque media.
  4. Light waves are invisible (much like steam until it condenses in the atmosphere). In other words, in order to see a light beam, there must be some atmosphere, preferably with some impurities.
  5. Gravity originates from motion, even if we are unable to detect the motion in the absence of a medium that is relative to its surroundings.
  6. Galilean and special relativity both follow the same premises:

a) A ball dropped in a moving train appears to an observer in the moving train as going vertically straight down, but to an observer on the platform it appears to move diagonally forward (actually, it’s more like the arc of a parabola).

b) A bullet fired from the roof/ceiling of a train also has the same fate but requires supersensitive observers.

c) A laser beam fired from roof or ceiling also has the same fate but requires hyper-imaginary observer. In other words, Galilean and Einsteinian relativist agree that appears to an observer in the moving train as going vertically straight down, but to an observer on the platform it appears to move diagonally forward. Einstein’s mistaken logic here is that photons as particles behave like bullets and balls.

However, our pal disagrees because light travels as waves and only interacts as photons. The visible laser beam is manifestation of the light wave wherever it encounters air molecules or impurities in the atmosphere as photons, so these photons are not photons all the time from ceiling to the floor but only intermittently as a function of train speed, density of air and impurities, whether there is any draft due to windows open/shut or air-conditioning, etc., or if the observers are talking or merely passive observers (almost dead).

Pal Asija
via email

Fits In In Faroes

I loved the piece written by Tora Lutzen for the “Where Are You From?” column (November 11). I don’t know how old she is, but she really nailed some issues we have in San Diego and our Southern California culture right on the head! Her take on everything being translated into Spanish is right on. She points out, and rightly so, we’ve made it so easy for Spanish-speaking-only (and other non-English-speaking) people, they have no incentive to learn English. I work at a place where we have to use a language phone line if someone doesn’t speak English. Due to the nature of my work, counseling, you definitely lose something in the translation, and it makes it very difficult. Also, the flakiness she picked up on in our dating world. Last-minute plans, people not following up with plans. I think I’ll move to the Faroe Islands. Since I’m from Europe originally but have lived in the U.S. for 29 years, I’ll probably fit right in!

Name Withheld
via email


Why don’t you follow up on a story like this and get to the facts (“Stringers,” November 4; “Florida Man Shot Outside Rosarito Beach Bakery”), rather than bashing Rosarito once again. The guy had a criminal record, drugs in the car, and was up to no good. Also, my understanding is that the D.A. tried to contact your paper to clarify this and that you ignored him. I am really disappointed in your publication.

Max Katz
via email

36 Flavors

Congratulations on an excellent selection of different churches to choose from in your advertising that accompanies “Sheep and Goats.” You seem to have most religions represented, allowing people to find something that works for them. Interesting to see ads for Judaism, Krishna, Muslim Sufi, and Buddhism, none of which actively recruit new members. I once said (as John Schlitz) that religion is like ice cream and would be boring if there were only one flavor. You guys get the Baskin-Robbins award for presenting a smorgasbord of religious flavors. I currently downplay the role of religion in my “Homeless Prayer” because let us remember that religious belief is a means to an end and not the goal itself. “Knowing God yourself is more important than any church or religion” (Martin Luther).

John Kitchin
via email

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