Apology owed to the YMCA

I was disappointed in the article by Amanda Parry (“YMCA should take their advice for kids and shove it,” Oct. 8). I sympathize with the fact that she has handicapped children, but that does not justify insulting the YMCA, a very fine institution that has served the public very well for many years.

The principles the YMCA stands for — which Parry makes fun of — make a lot of sense to me and most people, like sharing what you have with others, smiling and being polite to other people.

I will tell you this. I used to go the L.A. Fitness gym in the Andorra Shopping Center. The facilities are great — no doubt about it — but every time you ask a trainer a question, they try to convince you to sign up for expensive private lessons. They are obviously under tremendous pressure to sell, sell, sell. They are on commission, and it is no wonder they have so much turnover. Almost every time you walk in that place, you see new employees, and a week later they are gone. They just stand for money.

On the other hand, the YMCA in Ambler has pleasant employees who do not leave after one week and do not pressure you to turn over your credit card so they can take additional money out once a month. And once you sign up at L.A. Fitness, it is impossible to stop them from taking the money out every month. The YMCA is just the opposite. So Amanda Parry went after the wrong target. She should apologize for what she said about the YMCA.

Eileen Stukes


Critiquing the restaurant critics

The interchange between Greg Welsh, Sam Gugino and Casey Fraley regarding Welsh’s recent critique of restaurant critics (“Chestnut Hill restaurateur strikes back at reviewers,” Sept. 10) is more than just interesting. It reveals much about how different people think in the simplest terms.

Welsh appears to have a justifiable concern that critics’ comments have a significant impact, which, depending upon the nature of the comments could have a positive or negative affect on what was being reviewed.

Gugino’s facile dismissal of this is, at best, ingenuous.

Fraley’s comments that “Laban’s views are opinions, not facts, and not necessarily more valid than the opinions of any other diner like you or me,” gets at the core of the issue.

Unfortunately, many critics forget that their opinions are just opinions. Their comment that the food would have tasted better had, for example, the chef used more cumin than less coriander is no more an opinion and has no place in a review. Similarly, when the music reviewer states that “the tempo of the second movement was seriously too slow and totally wrong” could be pure opinion and, as such, should have been omitted.

However, it could be that the composer specifically called for that movement to be played quickly. If that is indeed factual, the reviewer might wish to point out that the conductor did not follow the composer’s notation. Listeners would probably be interested in that.

Consider the famous “Air on a G string,” which is one of the movements from a Bach orchestral suite. It could be interesting to know that when Bach wrote the music, instruments had strings that could not be tightened as tightly as today’s strings. The actual pitch of what on the score was written as a G was probably what we now would think of as a G flat.

Good composers choose carefully the key in which to write a piece, because the sound of the music varies depending on the key. For example, G major is brilliant and G flat major much more mellow. Would the music sound more the way Bach wanted it to sound if it were played today in G flat? That is an interesting speculation growing from factual material. Good critics add factual information often not known to their readers.

It is a sad truth that critics can destroy a good artist’s career; many artists now considered great – such as the French impressionist painters – were savaged by critics who could not paint a good picture but felt free to comment on the quality of art they were too stupid to appreciate. If critics are so knowledgeable, why are they not cooking great dishes or conducting magnificently? The answer, of course, is they can’t.

What reviewers can do is to increase their reader’s understanding and appreciation by sticking to the facts and not arrogantly expressing their opinions as if they were facts.

George Spaeth

Chestnut Hill

Thanks to Local, lost cousin found

You may recall that a couple of years ago I sent you a story which you published in the Local about my trip to Ukraine with my husband, Sidney Zamochnick.

Lo and behold, a man in California read the story in the online edition of the Local and wrote to me by snail mail last week. His name is Michael Good, and he is a Zamochnick on his father’s side. He’s very interested in family history and belongs to Ancestry.com. He has been researching the Zamochnick name on his own, and when he typed in the name on the Internet, he came across my article.

You may recall in the article I wrote that Sidney’s father’s shtetl in Ukraine was gone. When we researched this after we got home, we learned the shtetl, Nova Konstantin, is still there, not far from Kiev. Michael wasn’t sure he was related to Sidney without the place name. But when I told Michael the name of the shtetl, Nova Konstantin, he knew they must be related since his Zamochnick family was also from Nova Konstantin. Sidney and Michael determined that they are cousins. Michael even has Sidney’s father, Sam, on the family tree he developed, but until he read my article the trail stopped with Sam.

Since he wrote to me, Michael and Sidney have been talking on the telephone. Michael is flying here at the end of this month to meet Sidney and his brother, and together they will go to the family grave. (I think it’s in Sharon Hill.)

Anyway, I wanted you to know about this wonderful outcome to the story. It meant a lot to me to be the catalyst of this family reunion. As an Irish person, it was relatively easy for me to track my ancestry in Ireland, and I have even found relatives still living in my grandparents’ villages. But given the sad history of Jews in Ukraine, the Tsar’s pogroms and World War II, when Ukrainian Jewish families find each other, it’s somehow miraculous.

So I thought I’d share this with you. I m also looking forward to meeting Michael as he has an interesting life in Los Altos. He’s an MIT graduate and works in the field of music and technology, so I’ll be interested to hear about that.

Barbara Zamochnick