Letters: Dec. 22, 1997

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Your item on the U-2 spy plane [NOTEBOOK, Nov. 24] stated that the plane's most famous moment was when "Francis Gary Powers' U-2 was shot down by the Soviet Union" on May 1, 1960. New information suggests that the plane was not actually shot down. In October 1996, Igor Mentyukov, a Soviet pilot, told the Russian newspaper Trud that he was sent over the Urals in an unarmed Su-9 and ordered to ram Powers' U-2. According to Mentyukov, the American plane "got into the slipstream of my Su-9...it started to flip him over; his wings broke off." Moreover, because of confusion, antiaircraft missiles fired at the U-2 were mistakenly aimed at Mentyukov's fighter. At least one of these missiles destroyed another Soviet airplane. Mentyukov asserted that Soviet generals concealed these facts to avoid challenging Nikita Khrushchev's faith in the efficacy of Soviet air defenses. Had the Soviet antiaircraft missiles actually hit Powers' U-2, Mentyukov said, Powers would have been killed. STEPHEN I. SCHWARTZ, Director U.S. Nuclear Weapons Cost Study Project Brookings Institution Washington

PAINTINGS AS A KIND OF FAST FOOD

As a member of the "cultural elite," I want to weigh in on the inherent quality of the art of Stephen Keene, who can finish "as many as 400 paintings" in one week [AMERICAN SCENE, Dec. 1]. I have a Ph.D. in art history, have taught at the university level, published in scholarly journals, and selected works for museum collections. When my daughter gave me a Keene painting, I happily hung it in my home based on aesthetic judgment, not sentiment. Keene uses his extraordinary palette to push the painting toward the edge of abstraction. The result is "real art" that shares the walls quite comfortably with works by such 20th century artists as Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and James Rosenquist. STEPHEN E. OSTROW Chevy Chase, Md.

Keene represents the growing trend of more for less within the so-called art world. He produces a McDonald's-like painting. If anything is to blame, it is the socioeducational climate that has produced purchasers with shallow minds who revel in lazy looking. When owners tire of Keene's work, they will throw it away like a Styrofoam cup. AL BECK Monroe City, Mo.

Mass production in the visual arts is not a new idea. Hasn't anyone heard of Andy Warhol? Applause for Keene for challenging the definition of art and making it as accessible as fast food. RENEE C. FIRNER St. Paul, Minn.

DON'T CALL IT VOLUNTEERING

I am amazed that schools are forcing students to do volunteer work in their community [EDUCATION, Dec. 1]. Mandatory volunteerism is not volunteering. If our schools are going to require community service, maybe they should require new uniforms; may I suggest blue overalls? After new uniforms, perhaps we should replace our blackboards with telescreens. Long live Big Brother! What is our society becoming? RON BANCROFT Bay Point, Calif.

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RICHARD HEENE, father of Colorado's "balloon boy", on the family's homemade flying hot-air balloon that the nation mistakenly thought was carrying the 6-year-old boy for hours Thursday; the boy was instead found at home hiding in the garage
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Quotes of the Day »

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RICHARD HEENE, father of Colorado's "balloon boy", on the family's homemade flying hot-air balloon that the nation mistakenly thought was carrying the 6-year-old boy for hours Thursday; the boy was instead found at home hiding in the garage

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