By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Although I loved "The 1998 Wacko Awards" [November 24], one landed flat. William Bastone's inclusion of Norman Rosenbaum, brother of Crown Heights murder victim Yankel Rosenbaum, was truly off the mark. If anyone deserves a Wacko in this regard, it's the New York Republicans, who used the Rosenbaum family's genuine grief as a campaign device.
After reading your politically bigoted Wacko Awards, I'm glad I don't live where you scumbags live. Most of America hates New Yorkers' guts, and reading your paper shows why. Go fuck yourselves!
Los Angeles, California
In citing reasons for the black brouhaha over Walker's work, Saltz writes, "The pain of racism is so big and Walker's world so ambiguous and so devoid of the good-old sinless black victim: the passive, sexless Christian Negro."
The good-old sexless Negro victim?
Ms. Jones calls the show "irresponsible," warning us that since it depicts a peaceful, "fairytale" South instead of the gross realities of slavery, young viewers can be expected to be deeply harmed or confused about it all.
Jones informs us her great-great-grandmother was a former slave and the idea of Granny alongside Desmond, the black character in Pfeiffer, "makes her teeth grind." Perhaps Ms. Jones would feel less stressed if her great-great-grandmother were standing alongside the Wayans brothers during one of their send-ups of slavery.
Teeth a-grinding, Ms. Jones explains that it really isn't that the show has offensive things in it about slavery, but that it leaves slavery out altogether-and that such a thing is not only racist, but proves that the show actually was about slavery, even if it wasn't.
Jones merely repeats the arguments that many in the black community have voiced. I know; I'm black, and I've been getting an earful of it. They tell me the show is racist. I watch it, laugh, and say to myself, what in the world is Jesse Jackson talking about?
Edmund Lee used the recent report on DNA findings that Thomas Jefferson had fathered at least one child with Sally Hemings as the basis for questions in his November 17 Mad on the Street column about dating. What occurred between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings was not dating. Hemings was his property. There's not a lot of choice there.
The use of women for sexual purposes during slavery wasn't rare. If Jefferson treated Hemings gently, it is to his credit. But for Lee to start a poll on interracial dating with a reference to this relationship insults the memory of women who were born into slavery.
It was with some dismay that I read Michael Feingold's review of the current production of Pericles at the Public ["Pick a Rescue," November 24]. On the subject of picaresque drama, the author reveals himself as a producer as well as a critic. The description of Jay Goede's mercifully restrained performance as having "the inner conviction of a shirt ad" left me with a wry grimace. How touching that the Voice Gold Standard for performing Shakespeare is conviction. Does that mean that we should clap our hands and hope Tinker Bell shows up every time we don't believe?
Michael Feingold replies: Well, no, but if we don't clap our hands and believe,Peter Pan sure is a big yawn to sit through.
For 25 years, Richard Goldstein has forced us to take a deeper look at graffiti with articles such as "New York (Old) School" [November 17], in which graffitist Case 2 explores the works of Jackson Pollock.
Goldstein is one of the most important supporters our controversial movement has ever had. Since subway and street graffiti first appeared in 1970, the city has engaged in a war against this "plague." Graffiti has been used by public officials as both scapegoat and smoke screen, with varying degrees of success. After 28 years and millions of dollars spent combating graffiti, the city has never attempted any dialogue with graffitists. Are we inaccessible? Hardly, if Case 2 spoke to the Voice. Maybe it's our "feeble minds," as a New York Times editorial once put it, that deters the city from communicating with us.
Graffitists are not dangerous criminals; they're disenfranchised kids and, more importantly, developing artists. Graffiti is a youth movement: art designed by young people for young people. If it doesn't speak to you, that's because it's not trying to.
Art critics look at Pollock, and not Case, because he and other such artists are part of a "reality" that is politically fabricated and media-fed. Those of us who are willing to see with our own eyes-not those of The New York Times-know there's a lot more to the picture.
In Karen Houppert's article "Road Rage" [November 17], Alvin Berk, chair of Community Board 14, suggested that only affluent Park Slope residents benefit from a car-free Prospect Park and that the working-class people in his district are too "busy earning a living and raising kids" to care.
Joggers, bicyclists, and folks with babies in strollers come to Prospect Park from all over New York City. Transportation Alternatives has collected over 3200 signatures endorsing a car-free park, at least 400 of which come from the area that is served by Community Board 14. I have talked with people of every age, race, and economic status who are fed up with the dangers posed by reckless drivers in the park.
There are over 6400 miles of traffic lanes for people to drive on in this city. All proponents of banning cars from the park ask is that 3.5 miles, which were designed for recreational use in a central location in Brooklyn, be used for that purpose.
Carma & Dogma
It was ironic that a photo of me and my dog running in Prospect Park appeared with Karen Houppert's article about advocates who want cars banned from the park on winter weekdays.
My dog was with me for protection. Without cars, the park is desolate on winter afternoons. There are no moms with toddlers and nary a soul running. The steady stream of traffic is a deterrent to muggings and crimes that could otherwise be committed unwitnessed on the road.
I'd forgotten that the no-traffic summer hours had ended and was actually relieved that I could now run unencumbered by my pet.
I enjoyed Austin Bunn's article on the pros and cons of spending time on the Internet ["Strung Out Online," November 17]. I found it amusing that I read it on the Web, and can't wait to tell my friends Lucky and Hargrim that they've been immortalized in the Voice, playing multi-user dungeon with Bunn in the Underworld.
Having surfed the Net for over two years, I'm amazed at how much Bunn uncovered in his four-day binge. Maybe that's why I still remember the names of my children and bathe regularly.
Reporting on the findings of two studies, Trebay writes that "most artists surveyed were highly educated, had health insurance, and retirement plans." This makes sense, since the mean age in the studies was 41. If you're still producing work at that age, it's necessary to be pragmatic (though Trebay makes no mention of how much these artists pay for the plans or what type of insurance they have).
Having read one study, I'm amazed at the disparity between level of education and income. As Trebay notes, Joan Jeffri, one of the authors of the study, asserts that "American artists are overwhelmingly and squarely in the middle class." The average income reported was less than $30,000 a year. Maybe starving isn't the right word, but struggling seems pretty accurate.
In addition, the photo of artist Michael Joseph, happily hanging upside down with the TV on in the background, did not seem representative of the content of the article. The artists talked more about the hard times they endure to get their work done and survive than what Trebay calls their "Ozzie and Harriet" lifestyles.
The cover photo for Austin Bunn's article in your November 17 issue was appalling. A man hanging implies something far more serious than simply losing oneself to the seductions of cyberspace. I cannot believe the Voice used such poor judgment.
Sarah De Bienville
David Marc Fischer's article on Idiot's Delight Digest ["A Confederacy of Idiots," November 17] really captured the spirit of our little online community of fans of free-form radio host Vin Scelsa's Idiot's Delight program. As one of the long-distance Idiots, I appreciate this musically multifarious salon. The Idiot's Delight Digest regulars, and even some of the lurkers, are by and large a knowledgeable, concerned bunch of music obsessives I'm proud to call my virtual friends.
Horseheads, New York
Voice Writers Win Awards
Three Voice writers have won awards.
Sharon Lerner has received the Ray Bruner Science Writing Award for articles on abortion, female genital mutilation, and public hospitals.
Linda Stasi is the winner of the 1998 Newswomen's Club of New York Front Page Award for Humor for her column titled "Celebrityspeak."
Lynn Yaeger has received the 1998 Newswomen's Club of New York Front Page Award for Criticism for her article "Royal Flush."
CorrectionsA letter from Alvin Berk in last week's issue mistakenly did not identify him as the chair of Community Board 14 in Brooklyn. Hugh Garvey's article on the Asian American Writers' Workshop ["Notes From Underground," November 17] cited the wrong Workshop anthology as having won an American Book Award. It was Contours of the Heart. David Kihara, David Shaftel, and Nicole White did not receive research credit for "The 1998 Wacko Awards" in last week's issue.
Goldstein On Gay Agenda Panel
Village Voice executive editor Richard Goldstein will take part in a panel discussion exploring differerences in the political and social agendas of gays and lesbians. The event will be held on Monday, November 30, at 7 p.m. at the New School. For information, call 212-229-5353.