Letters: 'Django Unchained', Rereading Classics

NPR's Neal Conan reads from listener comments on previous show topics, including reaction to the movie Django Unchained, Florida's python problem and rereading high school classics.

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NEAL CONAN, HOST:

We missed our Letters segment yesterday, so it's Wednesday and time to read from your comments. Last week, Quentin Tarantino's new film "Django Unchained" drew criticism for its intense violence, historical inaccuracy and use of racial epithets. After seeing the film, listeners wrote in and told us about their assessment.

Abany(ph) wrote: I saw this movie in a mixed-race movie theater and was nervous about the use of the N-word and how it would make me feel. I'm African-American. During the movie, I found that the use of the word did not disturb me. And even more surprisingly, I found that after the movie when the mixed-race watchers were in the lobby and engaged in deep discussion using the word and not censoring themselves with the N-word, it also did not bother me. I don't know what it is about the movie that took away the sting of the word for me, but it tells me Tarantino was doing something right.

And Kofi Moyal(ph) wrote: Saw it. Loved it. Interesting that no caller saw redemption in a strong black man giving his all to save his wife. A love story, after all.

After hearing about Florida's efforts to reduce its python populations through bounties, we heard from Dave in Florida, who runs a veteran's kayaking program in the Everglades. He wrote: Our guides, volunteers and veterans have encountered these snakes so much while kayaking and hiking that we had to relocate. We hate to see the destruction of any animal but the situation here is now so completely out of control. We're glad to see the FWC finally asking for public help through competitions or otherwise. Thank you for drawing attention to our serious problem here in Florida.

We also revisited high school reading assignments with author Kevin Smokler who spent a year rereading books from his teenage years. Kelly(ph) in Oklahoma City has been teaching her junior-year students about "The Great Gatsby" and said they didn't quite grasp the profound truths Fitzgerald reveals about human relationships. In fact, every time I taught the novel, she wrote, I preface the book with a plea that my students - if they didn't remember the grammar, the writing rules or anything else we read in class - read the book again as they entered their 30s.

It was in teaching the novel and in being in my late 20s, just like Nick, that I realized our lives are dotted with Toms and Daisys and Jordans and Gatsbys and that only as we get older and leave our younger and more vulnerable years, as Nick says, that we learn which people are worth our investment and sympathy.

And finally, a correction. We talked about the new academic achievement goals in Florida and Virginia, goals based in part on race. Those performance goals set acceptable passing rates for groups of students in aggregate, not for individuals. And we apologize for the error.

If you have a correction, comment or question for us, the best way to reach us is by email. The address: talk@npr.org. Please, let us know where you're writing from and give us some help on how to pronounce your name. If you're on Twitter, you could follow us there, @totn.

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