As for Noel's suggestion that some disgruntled journalists are called "playa hataz" by the playaz: As someone who contributes to Vibe and to Blaze, I don't care in the least what these myopic, prefabricated, pimp-daddy rappers think of me. As long as people in hip-hop history who really count, like Kool Herc and Afrika Bambaataa, keep giving me the same love and respect that I pay them in my writing and in my life, then I know I'm doing right.

Cristina Veran

Rough Stuff

The recent violence against hip-hop journalists is repugnant— but if those writers sank to the level that Peter Noel does in his article "Revenge of the Mad Rappers," I suspect that they'd be beat down by their editors.

Noel offers a hodgepodge of quotations and stale rumors with no clue to their cultural context. His quote of hip-hop photojournalist Ernie Paniccioli's "time line" of events, which insinuates that Snoop Doggy Dogg set up Biggie Smalls, is particularly foolish and irresponsible.

I have appreciated Noel's work in the past, but he should stick to politics because hip-hop is obviously not his game.

Jay Smooth

Bridal Blues

Rebecca Segall's article on arranged marriages ["Strangers at the Wedding," December 15] forced me to ask questions about my own life. I am a 23-year-old single mother of one child, and reading Ms. Segall's piece made me wish that my parents had chosen someone for me! Maybe I wouldn't have lived through the hardships that I've been through. Although most of us want to make the major decisions in our lives, often an outsider can be more objective.

Ivon Fernandez


Hats off to Michael Musto [December 8] for having the courage to admit that maybe Jerry Springer has some redeeming qualities. When I went to see his new movie, Ringmaster, all my hip, chic New York friends who always wear black laughed at me. I have a strong suspicion that an entire closet culture of Springer devotees exists in more highly evolved circles.

I recently lived in L.A. for a few years, and TV became a large part of my life, as I didn't work very much. There, I discovered the spectacle of Springer. His show is on at the much more watchable time of 11 p.m. on the West Coast. If you think you've had a rough day, tune in to Springer and you'll instantly feel better about your life.

After years of therapy and support-group programs, I finally realized that Jerry Springer's show has the most sound approach for handling tense interpersonal issues. With the holidays upon us, who needs a therapist to mediate family disputes? When the going gets rough, pick up a chair and break it over a loved one's head, à la Springer! 'Tis the season to be heinous!

Pamela Whalen

Firing Back

Edmund Lee's Mad on the Street column asking people if they believe in stricter gun control laws ["Top Guns," December 15] shows that either New York suffers from dangerously monopolistic opinion or Lee made little effort to find some people who do not support gun control.

Let me provide some balance on behalf of America's more than 70 million gun owners. Criminals have guns. Giuliani's notoriously brutal police have guns. It's the law-abiding citizens of New York who are hurt by gun control, including the new Brady Law. States like Florida, which permit their citizens to carry concealed weapons, substantially lowered their violent crime rates even as crime in the rest of the nation increased.

Mark Kawar

Brady Hunch

It's nice that everyone Edmund Lee interviewed in his Decemnber 15 Mad on the Street column wants gun control. But the people with guns who need to be controlled are the criminals— and I don't imagine they're going to register their guns.

As for the Brady Law and background checks for people who are trying to buy a gun: great. But if someone really wants a gun, they're going to find a way to get it.

Sal Bottone

'Speed' Trap

Amy Taubin's brief review savaging The Cruise ["Look Who's Talking," October 27] entirely missed the film's beauty— the free-flowing erudition of its subject: monologuist and New York City guide, Timothy "Speed" Levitch.

Levitch is a one-man repository of a fast-vanishing culture. What a pleasure it is to see him recontextualize touchstones of '50s Jewish American literary culture, like Isaac Babel, when addressing bus drivers as "the red cavalry," or exclaiming, in reference to Saul Bellow, that he "seized the day."

As for Taubin's suggestion that Levitch "seems to fancy himself a mix of Abbie Hoffman and [Lenny] Bruce," I'd say his perspective on existence is closer to Walt Whitman and the Baal Shem Tov.

Alan Kaufman
San Francisco, California

Class Conflicts

Re Nat Hentoff's column "Homophobia: All in the Family?" [December 8]: Ironically, systematically teaching respect and diversity in public schools will only serve to further polarize them. Many middle-income parents who choose public schools over private schools believe that too much emphasis is placed on resolving social issues. If this continues, public schools will lose many concerned families to private education. Thus, rather than creating an "atmosphere that will enable kids to speak freely about their prejudices and fears," teaching diversity could lessen diversity.

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