Phantom Planet

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Although I completely disagree with him, I'm pleased that Devin O'Leary fessed up to one thing in his “Phantom” review: Of all the critics who have slaughtered the film, he at least had the honesty to admit he thinks the musical is “crap.” It is obvious in their writing that all the critics who write overwhelmingly unfavorable reviews have a prejudice against Andrew Lloyd Webber, Joel Schumacher, or both, but at least O'Leary had the guts to admit it. I appreciate his honesty. I'm one of the millions of people who have seen the show and the movie and find them both sublime (sorry, Devin, guess there's just no accounting for taste). I could spend this letter rebutting most of the points he makes, but I'd rather reiterate an excellent one that he does make: though he may think it's crap, he admits, “you'll probably find plenty to enjoy.” I hope some of you reading will see the movie and form your own opinions about it, regardless what the snarky critic (him) or the indignant, overzealous “phan” (me) say.

Monkey Business

In the '50s and '60s, as part of the United States space program, hundreds of infant chimpanzees were taken from their mothers in Africa. These chimpanzees and their descendants were housed at Holloman Air Force Base here in New Mexico. In the '80s, many more chimpanzees were bred from this captive population to become test subjects for biomedical experiments. The now bankrupt Coulston Foundation (TCF) in Alamogordo purchased approximately 500 of these chimpanzees and used them in toxicology tests for the development of insecticides and cosmetics. This acquisition made TCF the largest captive chimpanzee colony in the world.

In 2002, TCF went bankrupt under intense pressure from animal advocates and after continued violations of federal laws including numerous negligent deaths, many of which are too gruesome to describe. Toward the end, TCF resorted to selling chimpanzee babies to make payroll. Many of these babies ended up at the Rio Grande Zoo in Albuquerque and others were sold to the entertainment industry. In 2002, Dr. Carole Noon, acquired the remaining 266 chimpanzees and sought to transform the biomedical facility in Alamogordo, N.M., into a sanctuary, thus saving the chimpanzees from their nightmarish existence. She hopes to eventually relocate the chimpanzees to a permanent sanctuary in Florida where they will be able to live out the rest of their lives in peace. The 200-acre sanctuary in Florida consists of three islands with climbing structures, and will be designed for the chimpanzees' physical and psychological well-being. None of this would be possible without Dr. Noon's hard work, many volunteers and, of course, the people who donate money to make this dream a reality.

Chimpanzees can live over 50 years in captivity and housing hundreds of chimpanzees is not cheap. A few chimpanzees have made the move to Florida, but there are many more to go. The rest of the chimpanzees are waiting their turn patiently in Alamogordo. Many volunteers meet the chimpanzees' daily needs, but there is still much work to be done. Their needs include: blankets, magazines with pictures, nuts in shells, raisins, unsweetened cereal, popcorn, toys and dried fruit. They go through large quantities of this stuff daily, so please be generous. I am not part of any organization, but I am raising awareness locally and I am collecting magazines from my work-place and soliciting donations from my friends. I have visited the sanctuary and have seen first-hand the needs of these chimpanzees. For more information, please visit the website

Bush's New Gardener

As a Latino, I am completely disgusted at the rise of the career of Alberto Gonzales. The time line as best as I can tell is this:

1) Work for a corrupt energy company, Enron, and get appointed governor’s chief counsel.

2) Provide governor with incompetent legal counsel, especially for enabling the execution of many criminals, some of whom were probably innocent, and get promoted to chief White House counsel.

3) Provide the President legal cover to torture and detain indefinitely, prisoners of war and get appointed attorney general.

Gonzales has risen to prominence, not by his legal and rational abilities, but by his ability to take care of George W. Bush’s garden of deceit. Gonzales’ legal opinions when not incompetent, have been in direct opposition to federal and international law. The lesson to our Latino children with this nomination is, “Do what the wealthy white folks tell you, and you can be something, someday.”

We'll See You Downtown!

It’s been a sad year for Albuquerque downtown musicians and bands. Our resolution for 2005, as struggling musicians, is to revitalize the Downtown scene.

When I came here in 1998, downtown Albuquerque was the only place you needed to be, on any given night, to see and hear everything you could ever want in music. There were always dozens of people walking from venue to venue to see a huge variety of artists, from rock n’ roll to reggae, from jazz to pop, from soul to funk. People were willing to pay cover charges and dance/mosh/sing along/party all night long.

That scene has been depressed lately, to say the least. The bands feel it and the venues feel it. What has happened to Albuquerque? Before moving here in 1998, I had always heard that this city was the musical capital of New Mexico. I knew of bands coming here from Phoenix and Denver just to be heard by loyal music fans in Albuquerque. Now, any band is hard-pressed to bring a crowd of 50 into any Downtown venue.

I don’t know who to blame. The economy? The lack of advertisement? Busy lives and no time for a night life? Music is important in so many ways, it’s a shame to think that people can’t make time to enjoy what so many talented artists have to share.

This is a large city. I urge its citizens to come support the Downtown scene. We’ve been locked up in an effort to revitalize Downtown. Supporting local music in the many venues there can only help that effort.

Letters should be sent with the writer's name, address and daytime phone number via e-mail to They can also be faxed to (505) 256-9651. Letters may be edited for length and clarity, and may be published in any medium; we regret that owing to the volume of correspondence we cannot reply to every letter.

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