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Letters to the Editor

Okay—This Is It. We Mean It.

Before you pull the plug on the WUOT discussion, please allow one letter that AGREES with John Mayer. Perhaps you can consider mine the NEXT-to-last letter, printed out of sequence.

I reread Mayer's letter—I saved it with the thought of sending it in lieu of cash in the envelope that comes with WUOT's solicitations—and nowhere does he say, as Randall Brown claims, that classical is the ONLY real music. It is surely easy to refute arguments the other side never made. I also find absurd Brown's contention that the only REALLY good music is that which lends itself readily to air guitar.

In fact the phrase "classical music," as it is usually used, refers not just to the music of the classical period (1750 to early 19th century), but rather to ALL substantive music of the Western hemisphere from medieval through 12-tone to minimalism. Of necessity, lovers of classical music are eclectic in their tastes; most of us accept Duke Ellington's dictum: "If it SOUNDS good, it IS good." Though we have a special affection for the reliable warhorses with which we grew up, we are willing to give bold new forms a listen. Doubtless, as Brown suggests, there was much "tripe" written in every musical era. Sturgeon's law has it that 95 percent of everything is crud. The advantage of classical music is that most of the worst has been weeded out by the passage of time; that's where the "classical" part comes in.

Brown says he is one of "many" listeners who change stations when confronted with the "same old favorite piece." Disregarding the matter of which survey revealed him to be among "many listeners," one of the sad facts about the music of past centuries is that no more is being written. That finite aspect means that, since local programmers can't always keep up with national shows' playlists, some pieces might be heard twice in the same week. Seldom, though, will it be performed by the same orchestra, and a different conductor's interpretation can make an orchestration seem like a whole different composition, a concept I assume Brown is able to appreciate in jazz. And to complain about the pauses between movements as "dead air' is plain asinine. Those silences are supposed to be there, Randall; they're part of the music. They give us a moment to reflect on the emotions stirred by the previous movement and to cleanse the aural palette for the movement to come, and allow a few seconds of anticipation. It seems your sensibilities are better suited to television; there is no dead air on The Jerry Springer Show. And if you truly believe your soul is enriched by Car Talk, you're badly in need of a spiritual overhaul.

Mayer, in fact, makes no complaint about the various types of music on WUOT but only criticizes the excessive amount of talk. Gail Anderson says that she and her friends can scarcely carry on a conversation without concepts derived from NPR programming. I have no desire to condemn her circle to mute coffee klatches, but surely news and commentary are available elsewhere, notably on PBS where one can see video clips, maps, and charts to further illuminate the day's reports. Television is the ideal place for news; FM radio is an ideal medium for music. I don't wish to see talk banned completely from WUOT—in fact I would like to see Norris Dryer's intelligent call-in show return to a weekly schedule—but six and a half hours daily is too much.

Anderson finds Car Talk "vastly amusing." Plainly some people are more easily amused than others. Probably WUOT could expand its listener base even further by carrying Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh. WUOT was not established 50 years ago to provide a little something for everybody. Remember the fable of the old man and his grandson who, by trying to please everyone, drown their donkey? The original mission of WUOT was to provide a venue where good music, music not available elsewhere on the air, could be heard by those who loved it or might come to, without the financial necessity of reaching the widest possible demographic. As music courses continue to be eliminated from our schools as frippery, a classical music station becomes increasingly important.

But, if WUOT director Regina Dean continues to air expensive NPR programs she will have to continue to diversify her listenership to support them, seeking an ever wider demographic and creating a bland, cafeteria-style station. Apparently she feels the music audience is becoming expendable. Lovers of classical music, in turn, fear WUOT is becoming increasingly expendable.

Terry Cramer

Special Bonus Letter!

Gosh darn it, we do love getting mail from our readers but we just can't print it all. Sometimes the missives are unsigned, run too long, don't relate to any of the issues we usually cover, or verge on the loopy. Rather than let these bits of personal expression go unread, we will now start posting them here. Enjoy!

A Server Speaks Out

Although I know this subject has been addressed many times over the years, I feel from my experience that it needs to be broached again. To what am I referring? I am speaking of tipping etiquette at restaurants.

One important fact I would like to share with readers is that in most dining establishments in the state of Tennessee, servers are NOT paid minimum wage. In most places, we are paid $2.13 an hour, before taxes. I do not think that the average person realizes this. This simple fact means that we rely on our TIPS to make a living, not our hourly wages. Current tipping etiquette calls for at LEAST a 15 percent tip if service was adequate. If service was excellent, tip more. If you came with a large party that really kept the server running, tip more. It is extremely RUDE and UNCOUTH to leave little or no tip when your server performed perfectly well.

For example, I work for a national restaurant chain that specializes in an upscale eating environment. On a recent night, I served a party of eight people. Their bill came to approximately $100. Although I honestly felt that I gave very good service, the man who paid the whole bill left me $3. That tip was less than 3 percent of the total bill. I felt frustrated that I had spent almost two hours serving for less than $8 (including my hourly wage), but company policy dictates that we cannot ask customers why we have been tipped so poorly.

This is not the first or last time this will happen to my fellow servers or me, but in writing this letter, I am hoping to spread the idea that poor tipping is low-class and cheap. Also, please keep in mind that kitchen mistakes and a long initial wait on weekends are NOT the server's fault. Please do not punish us for things that are beyond our control.

I tip well at restaurants, because I know how it feels to be treated badly. If I do not have enough money to leave an adequate tip, I eat fast food instead. Many servers in Knoxville, as well as other places, are college students who are strapped for cash. We cannot afford to go on earning less than 10 percent in tips night after night. Please keep this information in mind next time you dine out...and when in doubt, just double the tax!

Katherine Riddle
via e-mail