By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
After 18 years of relentlessly and courageously chronicling the malfeasances of Al D'Amato, you leave us with William Bastone's entertaining but rather shallow snapshot ["Sealed With a Kiss," November 17] and Wayne Barrett's bland scorecard ["Autopsy on Alfonse," November 17]? I was hoping for something with more juice or meat. At the very least, a nasty front-page cartoon.
Richard Goldstein means well in connecting the work of Jackson Pollock to graffiti writer Case 2, but his article "New York (Old) School" [November 17] came off as an art critic version of the Fresh Air Fund.
All Case 2 and "JP" (his street alias) have in common is a love for action. Allow me to make the case that Case 2 is his own man: JP loved drips, Case 2 avoids them; Case's paintings destroyed, while JP destroyed painting; finally, while JP burned out, Case is a leader, a teacher, a living reminder that surviving is the greatest art of all.
Goldstein ends the piece by asking when a critic will take up Case's cause. Case doesn't need a champion, he is one.
Goldstein has been trying to elevate graffiti to art status for years. This undermines its strength as a means of communication. Graffiti is not art, it's a medium, like TV, and Case is the black Dan Rather. Respect Case and acknowledge that he is part of a school that invented an indigenous American visual expression. It's not a next step, it is a whole other path. JP may be king of his line, but Case is the man on the 2s and 5s.
Richard Goldstein replies: If graffiti is a medium, like television (or, say, totem poles), why couldn't its content be art? Must that designation be so tightly bound to traditions of class and canon that it can never apply to an outlaw form? Is the "whole other path" people like Case have taken so different from the trail Pollock blazed? Or are both men part of a larger American tradition, in which artists regularly expand not just the aesthetics of culture but its very boundaries?
You would think that Austin Bunn's curiosities might have led him in some more enlightening directions than chat rooms and porn sites over the course of the four days he spent online ["Marooned!" November 17].
There is a wealth of useful information on the Internet, including the Voice's very own www.villagevoice.com. Starting there surely would have led him in a direction that catered to the thinking man.
Bunn chose the lowest the Internet has to offer, wasting valuable time so that he could write a piece of trash that furthers the Net's bad rap.
Los Angeles, California
Re Karen Houppert's "Road Rage" [November 17]: As a cyclist who knows the dangers and benefits of riding in New York City, I find it ironic that a mayor who champions quality-of-life issues so ardently has failed to embrace a car-free Prospect Park. Especially in light of a plan that would give back precious public space without adversely affecting the surrounding communities.
Cars shouldn't be allowed in heavily used public spaces like Prospect Park and Central Park, and even, I'd argue, areas like Times Square and Herald Square, which are nightmares for pedestrians. This city has become slave to the automobile. It's high time we provided areas of sanctuary where cyclists, runners, walkers, and tourists can enjoy themselves without getting stressed over being struck by the thousands of marauding, reckless drivers that run amok on our streets (and parks!) every day.
It's a shame that 17,000 postcards and letters to the Brooklyn borough president asking for a car-free Prospect Park have gone unnoticed. It's inaction on issues like this that resulted in a former pro wrestler getting elected governor of Minnesota. Perhaps we'll be next.
Clarence Eckerson Jr.
Stalling All Cars
Karen Houppert's article "Road Rage" showed the unwillingness of "the powers that be" to address the concerns of park users.
Transportation Alternatives is running a similar campaign to ban cars from Central Park. This summer, volunteers for the Car-Free Central Park campaign collected thousands of signatures from park users who want to enjoy the beauty of Central Park free from cars and their exhaust, horns, and accidents. Let's hope the mayor, the Department of Transportation, and the Parks Department will start to listen.
Karen Houppert's account of Community Board 14's opposition to barring cars from Prospect Park reveals reportorial bias and inaccuracy.
Never did I suggest that serious bikers are obnoxious (I told Ms. Houppert that I myself bike in the park regularly), nor did I invoke increased traffic on Flatbush Avenue as a major problem. As I emphasized, the community board's primary concern is the New York City Department of Transportation's projection that up to 400 to 500 cars per hour would be shifted onto Parkside Avenue and other neighborhood residential streets if the drives were further closed.
As for Transportation Alternative's assertion that 50 percent of park drivers swerve into the recreational lane, Ms. Houppert owes it to her readers to question how this could be physically possible, when approximately half the cars in the park travel in the outer vehicle lane, and don't even go near the recreational corridor, which is all the way inside.
The Voice plays an important role in keeping government honest. But its impact depends on the objectivity and critical skills of its reporters. Don't relax your standards.
Alvin M. Berk
Lisa Jones ["Slave TV," November 10] takes UPN to task for dismissing, without justification, criticisms that its Civil War-era sitcom The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer is deeply offensive. Regarding the network's defense that, in terms of historical irreverence, Pfeiffer is no different from Hogan's Heroes Jones says the latter program "hardly qualifies," but offers no explanation for this opinion.
To my mind, Hogan's Heroes is just as offensive as Pfeiffer. A comedy set in World War II Germany that never mentions the Final Solution and a Civil War comedy that trivializes slavery are guilty of roughly the same heinous crime.
A photograph that appeared with testimonials from participants in the Matthew Shepard march ["Eyewitness News," November 3] depicts a young man being arrested by three policemen.
The man is Ulrich Rolfing, a 40-year-old artist from Hamburg, Germany, who was visiting New York for the first time. He was here for two weeks as my houseguest. On the day of the demonstration, he was at the Guggenheim Museum and at closing time he headed down Fifth Avenue. When he reached the plaza and saw the crowd, he had no idea what was happening. He doesn't speak English fluently, but tried to find out what was going on.
Immediately, without warning, Ulrich was accosted and painfully handcuffed behind his back. He tried to explain that he was only a tourist and not an activist in the demonstration, but was told, "Tell it to the judge."
Ulrich was taken to jail and kept without food or water overnight in a crowded cell. His identification did not exonerate him. He was taken to court, and his lawyer did not allow him to speak on his own behalf. He was put on probation and threatened with deportation.
Ulrich was released some 26 hours later and arrived at my home somewhat shaken and exhausted: an innocent man who now had a police record.
Ulrich has since returned to Hamburg with quite a tale of our police state. He was quoted in an October 21 New York Timespiece regarding marchers' anger about their treatment. I wrote a letter to Mayor Giuliani asking for an official pardon and apology. I think Ulrich Rolfing should be given a return trip, with keys to the city.
'Ochet Can You See
Re Jason Vest's article "Human Rights 'Miracle'" [November 3]: It's hypocritical of Spain to demand Pinochet's extradition on human rights charges while mending fences with Fidel Castro at the Ibero-American summit in Portugal.
A lot more than 4000 people have been imprisoned, tortured, executed, or simply "disappeared" during Castro's reign. And at least Pinochet stepped down after submitting to a plebiscite, one in which he still received 44 percent of the popular vote. Can you imagine Castro submitting to any such democratic exercise?
If Spain really believed in human rights, it would have moved to have had Castro arrested and tried. That it's chasing after Pinochet is simply a demonstration of the hypocrisy of the left and the brutal lengths it will go to in order to punish its enemies. Pinochet's arrest while seeking medical help in London is illegal, and a gross violation of human rights.
Nat Hentoff writes in "Duke Ellington's Legacy" [November 10] that "most younger Americans remain culturally disadvantaged in their ignorance of Edward Kennedy Ellington." He recalls phoning a mail-order house, looking for some Ellington records, and speaking to someone who had never heard of the Duke.
Many people think I'm rather old-fashioned. I was raised on swing and big-band jazz, and still listen to it constantly; I belong to a ladies' sewing circle, potluck dinners and all; I wear long skirts, punctuate my sentences correctly, vote in every election on the straight party ticket, and think that goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes are rather silly. I eschew television in favor of board games (except when the Yankees are in the Series), and never wear white after Labor Day unless I'm on the tennis court.
If this makes me old-fashioned, then I'm proud to be one of the most old-fashioned 20-year-olds in New York.
I doubt I'm the most old-fashioned, however, because being old-fashioned is coming back. Right now, I'm listening to my treasured Squirrel Nut Zippers CD, a proudly unrepentant 1990s swing band who sing, "Let the jazz band make some noise!" Today, you can't turn around without bumping into a Gershwin retrospective, a JVC Jazz Festival Commemorative MetroCard, or a Dinah Washington musical.
So don't class all of us twenty- somethings with the few, sad people who work in the record industry and never listen to anything that's not in the Top 40.
It Don't Mean A Thing
Regarding Nat Hentoff's column "Duke Ellington's Legacy":
How can one individual be so self-absorbed and pretentious in his writing while attempting to tackle the explanation of 100 years of music and culture and civil rights at the same time? It was unpalatable and vague. The only consistent theme was that Hentoff knows who Duke Ellington is; if you don't, then you're culturally disadvantaged.
Why is Ellington more important than the hundreds of other civil rights activists no one is familiar with! He's a force, absolutely, but to elevate him to the level of hero? I think you need to take a few more risks to attain that level of adulation.
Nat Hentoff replies: I never said Duke was a civil rights activist. I said Duke was important because his music chronicled the history of the black experience in America. Mr. Cohen might well listen to some more of Ellington's music and discover part of the essence of that historyover 300 years.
MICHAEL FEINGOLD must be so starved for substance that he is seeing multicolored zebras for horses. Understandably, his posterior is turning a little cottony sitting in those Broadway seats, but his review of Elevator Repair Service's production of Total Fictional Lie was like the boy who made rock soup ["Zombie Aerobics," November 3].
Maybe it's cool to see something new, refreshing to take a cab to the lower depths to see what the young kids are doing, but Feingold took the liberty of crediting Elevator Repair Service with such social relevance that one would think a revolution was in the works. Don't get me wrong, I liked the show. The innovative nature of its experimentation was admirable. But let's call a spade a spade. The more critics try to intellectually read into creativity and superimpose relevance, the more theater groups will believe that a lack of commitment to ideas is something to be rewarded.
Michael Feingold replies: Gee, I'm awfully sorry I interpreted; it's an old habit I've been meaning to break. But I didn't accuse Elevator Repair Service of having any conscious intentions, honest. I just thought they left that space blank for me to write in. Maybe I'd respond less actively if theVoice paid me enough to take cabs.
Ziggy To Dust
Re J. Hoberman's review of Velvet Goldmine ["Drama Queens," November 10]: Perhaps the fundamental failure of the film aside from it being a snore stems from the script's undigested flambé of fact and fantasy. Almost every line, incident, and character was slavishly appropriated from the David Bowie bio. Only the names and hair colors have been changed to protect the producers.
Director Todd Haynes does "take glam's extravagantly queer theatricality at its word," creating a vision of glam as a benchmark of gay liberation a valid angle, albeit a highly exclusive one. After Bowie's personal history is pillaged, verisimilitude is jettisoned in favor of wish-fulfillment fantasy. Ersatzicon Slade gets disappeared by agency of the genuine Bowie bogey of onstage assassination.
Haynes rewrites history, silencing his idol before he renounces glitter and recants his bisexuality as a mere publicity stunt. Better to kill him before he falls and disappoints the faithful. Bowie didn't do anything indispensable after '73 anyway, right?
Jennifer Gonnerman's article about Emily Lyons, the nurse who was nearly killed by a bomb planted outside a reproductive health clinic in Alabama ["A Survivor's Story," November 10], proves that antiabortion terrorists will stop at nothing to end the right to choose.
The radical right has used the legal system to eradicate the right to choose abortion and undermine individual liberties protected by the U.S. Constitution. The Center for Reproductive Law and Policy tracked 12 such organizations in a new report, "Tipping the Scales: The Christian Right's Legal Crusade Against Choice," which describes how a dangerous breed of radical-right lawyers are working to codify rigid religious views based on a fundamentalist Christian agenda.
Their growth has exploded since Roev. Wadewas decided in 1973, as they push malpractice suits against doctors, defend abortion clinic protesters, and initiate legislative restrictions against abortion in Congress and statehouses across the country. These activities are fueled by money raised through their unlimited access to Christian television and radio networks.
Although leaders of Christian Right legal groups are not the ones setting fires, shooting guns, or building bombs, a measure of their success is that abortion services are unavailable in 84 percent of counties in the United States. They share responsibility for creating a climate where acts of violence against women and their doctors are extolled as justifiable. As Emily Lyons's story makes clear, the costs to life and liberty of such ideological warfare are too high.
Janet Benshoof, President
Center for Reproductive Law and Policy
Sharon Lerner's "Blight to Life" [November 3] addressed a trend related to the prochoice/antiabortion debate's polarization into a confrontation of extremist radicals:
Rosary-toting demonstrators have given way to arsonists, snipers, and the Nuremberg Files. There is no room for middle ground, no room for gray in an issue that is only interpreted as black and white. I would define myself as prochoice even though I would never have an abortion. Because of this, my voice is often lost in the exchange of epithets such as "baby killer," and "fascist Christians."
Johnny on the Spot
In Sarah Smith's article about what the Knicks are doing during the lockout ["The Breaks of the Game," November 17], John Starks says of the upcoming season: "It will be the old John Starks, going aggressively to the basket." Smith asks, "Was there ever any other John Starks?"
Yup: The one who has settled for bad threes ever since the line was moved in; the less explosive one the year after the knee surgery; and the John Starks with less muscle definition since the fat '91 contract.
Training hard to avoid injuries and a recovery of focus and desire might bring back "the old John Starks."
White Plains, New York
Re Paul Forrester's "Call of the Kyle" [November 17]: Kyle Brady is a key to the success of the Jets, but it is Vinny Testaverde's coolness and strength in the pocket that has made Brady successful and made the Jets a contender.
Hopefully, Tuna will fix up the running game, otherwise they'll be too predictable in a pinch. Up to this point they have been surprising, as Forrester points out, which is a big edge for a team with limited means.
Douglas Wolk must've been paid off by the A&R reps or managers of the artists he mentions as being the highlights of the CMJ Music Marathon in his "Built To Spill Over" piece in The Sound of the City [November 17].
I saw icu, whom Wolk calls "the biggest splash" at CMJ: they sounded like mathrock meets the big-hair bands of the '80s. How could anyone call this "thrilling"? There was no mention of acts such as Johnny Society or Furslide, the highlight of last year's CMJ, now on tour with Lenny Kravitz. And what about Helios? To this music fan, those three bands were the highlight.
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