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Plastic surgery, and other reasons for plaudits

April 18, 2008 |  2:38 pm

Plastic_surgery2 An appraisal of the plastic surgery-stretched faces of notable stars; a man-made black hole that some fear could swallow Earth; the bond between Mormons and Muslims; and the death of a photographer who was, in his words, "a Cambodian holocaust survivor" were among the recent topics that have brought notable reaction.

How much botox is too much? Features writer Mary McNamara got more than 100 e-mails, all but two saying thanks to The Times for addressing the issue of, as Shannon Buonsanti in Azusa called it, "strangely morphed faces." (Two readers told Mary that they thought the April 13 article was too mean to Priscilla Presley, whose face, she wrote, "often takes on the dimensions of a Picasso painting.") [Shannon Buonsanti’s last name was misspelled earlier as “Buon.”]

Caroline Simpson Timmerberg in Düsseldorf, Germany -- who said that plastic surgery was "sort of like selling your face to the devil" -- said thanks "for being the one to at long last say something about the entertainment biz and the people in it who have gone off of the facial-alteration deep end. Not only was your article very well written, it was also very fair and not at all mean-spirited.  Plus, it is bound to raise extreme awareness now." Laurel Britton called the piece "wickedly well written," adding, "That Picasso remark was too good, it stated exactly what I've been thinking." And Shatto Light of Los Angeles suggested, "Your article can be a beginning of a crusade.  People should start looking at wrinkles and sagging skin as part of the process of being alive. If you are going to start a crusade on 'Stop Face Abuse,' please, count me in."

More reader reaction is after the jump....

  • Steve Tally of Purdue University was among three dozen readers who said they couldn't resist the April 13 story by science writer John Johnson about a machine that "will peer into a looking-glass world that could contain entrances to extra dimensions." As Tally put it: "You wrote the hell out of that article. Great explanations, terrific phrasing." Bill Markis of Eagle Rock appreciated the elegant writing too: "Well written (I could understand it), super interesting and awesome. I enjoyed your irony of 'That's a huge amount of unexplained matter in the form of galaxies, stars, planets and theoretical physicists.'"

Rick Freeman of Louisville, Ky., added: "I liked the analogies, e.g., 'if a quark is an inch then an atom is 1,000 miles.'" (He was inspired, too, to offer this question, "If a quark is an inch, how big is its fundamental 'string' of energy?  Assuming string theory is correct, which is a bit of a leap since there is absolutely no evidence to support it.")

  • The April 2 article noting the ties between Mormons and Muslims brought more than 60 e-mails, many from members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who called it informative (though a few others who wrote criticized the piece as a veiled attack on Mitt Romney). The story, by David Haldane, brought this, for example, from Mormon Charles W. Bennion of Las Vegas, who has housed exchange students who are Muslim: "Your article accurately describes the common link between Muslim and LDS people:  devotion to their religion, and a very similar set of values. I was most impressed with your thoughtful and well-researched article.  I believe such an article not only accurately places the LDS Church and Muslims in a positive light, but also encourages other religions to reach out to others, and encourages compassion."

One of the few contrary views came from David Montoya of Bakersfield: "The thing is, emphasis on family, the belief in chastity and virtue and prohibitions against alcohol are not hallmarks exclusive to Mormonism and Islamism.  They are tenets found in many religions.  In fact most religions of today.  It's all wonderful and fuzzy that Mormons and Muslims get along so fabulously.  But because they can both shun a cup of coffee and a good stiff drink, should the rest of the society now look at them perhaps more suspiciously?"

  • The March 31 obituary of Dith Pran, written by Elaine Woo, started with this:

One day during the rise of the Khmer Rouge regime in the mid-1970s, American journalist Sydney Schanberg asked his Cambodian assistant, Dith Pran, a gnawing question.

How would Dith respond to the American diplomat in Phnom Penh who had been publicly criticizing Cambodians for not rising up against the communist insurgents, who were killing innocent countrymen every day? Was it because, as the diplomat insinuated, Cambodians did not value human life as highly as Westerners did?

The question hung in the air for long minutes until Dith found the words to respond.

"It's not true. You have seen for yourself the suffering," he told Schanberg softly. "The only difference, maybe, is that with Cambodians the grief leaves the face quickly, but it goes inside and stays there for a long time."

Among the messages from readers impressed and touched by the obituary was this from Sydney Schanberg: "Superb obit. You really captured Pran's essence. It was the best obit of Pran I've seen. I know he would be -- perhaps is -- as pleased and grateful as I am. Fine work."

Louis Sirota of Greensboro, N.C., was among other readers who sent notes: "Your story touched my wife and me very deeply.  We have read many accounts of his life in various newspapers, but none had the total impact of your treatment.  You have truly reached into the humanity factor, that emotional something that brings tears and joy simultaneously to the reader."

PHOTOGRAPHER: Image Source / Corbis