By Pete Kotz
By Michael Musto
By Michael Musto
By Capt. James Van Thach told to Jonathan Wei
By Kera Bolonik
By Michael Musto
By Nick Pinto
By Steve Weinstein
Perhaps the editors of next year's list of the VLS's 25 favorite books could avoid revealing significant events in the story lines of the books selected ["Hit List," December 8].
I was more than halfway done with Barbara Kingsolver's wonderful Poisonwood Bible, and one of the key elements of dramatic tension was not knowing which of the four Price daughters would die in the Congo.
You bastards! You killed Ruth May.
Rockaway, New Jersey
Hooray for Linda Stasi's questioning of why the media ridicules women's appearances but not men's ["Scandalous Beauty: Crooks With Looks," December 8]. How is it that former senator Al D'Amato gets away with calling Manhattan congressman Jerry Nadler "Jerry Waddler" when D'Amato himself is no Baldwin brother (with the possible exception of the fat one)? "Poor, beautiful, dead Diana" was one woman who was loved by the media. As Stasi points out, look where it got her.
I was neither responsible for, nor involved, directly or indirectly, in the November 1997 Local 375 election, including the receipt, counting, or securing of ballots, or, indeed, any election involving District Council 37 or any of its affiliates.
I did not change the locks on the door of Roy Commer, president of Local 375, at the direction of Stanley Hill, executive director of DC 37, but rather did so at the direction of the Local 375 Executive Board.
I am not cooperating with the district attorney and, indeed, have not even been requested to appear for an interview or before a grand jury.
In addition, I am not the DC 37 chief of operations but rather am the District Council 37 real estate manager.
Ralph N. Pepe
District Council 37
Robert Fitch's article about DC 37 was highly offensive to the Indian membership of Local 375. Fitch took the lowest road possible when he misused a member's quote to assert that as the highest-ranking Indian officers of our union, we are mere puppets of our union's Labor & Political Activities chair, Mike Gimbel.
The quote that we find so offensive stated: "[Sreedhar] Gowda and [Uma] Kutwal are just his puppets." This quote, in our opinion, is a racist attack on the Indian membership of our union. Indians make up the largest nationality in our union. We are probably the highest-ranking Indians in a major union in this country. Despite the fact that Indians in this union are the largest nationality, it was not until we were elected this past March that this union has had a single Indian officer.
There is a nationwide, right-wing attack against all immigrants. Fitch's racist and repugnant characterization of our union's leadership only serves to feed this right-wing attack. The majority of our union members are immigrants from all over the world. This union has fought for the rights of immigrants and has fought against racism in this country.
We demand an apology from The Village Voice and from Robert Fitch for the racist characterization of our union leadership.
First and Second Vice Presidents
Civil Service Technical
Guild, Local 375
Robert Fitch replies: Local 375's letter is smeared with Mike Gimbel's clumsy ideological fingerprints. Having failed in his coup attempt against the reform president twice elected by the members, Gimbel understandably wants to change the subject. In fact, it was "Brother Mike Gimbel," executive committee minutes show, who moved to charge theVoice with "racism shown toward the Indian membership." Bob Parkin, who accused Gimbel of manipulating Kutwal and Gowda, denies he was misquoted. He insists no one even asked him if his quote was mishandled. More broadly, no one who read "DC 37 Crashes" would think that its point was to attack Indian immigrants.
As a journalist who has been involved with hip-hop culture (as opposed to the "rap industry") for nearly two decades, I was disgusted to learn about the alleged abuse that Jesse Washington and Danyel Smith, the editors in chief of Blaze and Vibe, endured at the hands of rappers D-Dot and Foxy Brown. However, I was equally incensed that Peter Noel ["Revenge of the Mad Rappers," December 1] insisted upon characterizing this behavior as germane to "hip-hop culture" or the "hip-hop community."
I was at the rap industry party in Los Angeles mentioned in Noel's article, at which Dee Barnes was brutally beaten by Dr. Dre the incident took place only a few feet away from me. Little did I know that that night would be the beginning of a trend. While the actions of these so-called artists may be ever-more typical among "playaz" in the rap industry, they have nothing to do with the true culture and community of hip-hop.
The true hip-hoppers I see in the house at every Rock Steady Crew anniversary jam and B-Boy Pro-Am represent for the love of their culture, not greed for greenbacks. Recently, at Blaze magazine's B-boy competition in Miami, top rival dancers got down and dirty in the dance-floor circle, but finished each battle round with a handshake and a brotherly hug. That is typical behavior in the hip-hop community.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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."
San Francisco, California
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.
The keys to understanding and respecting each other are active participation by people choosing to live and be educated in diverse communities not morally based legislation or socially based schools curricula.
In a letter in your December 8 issue ["Green Goliaths"], Harry Bubbins accused community garden advocacy organizations of being untrue to the cause of saving community gardens.
Bubbins asserted that advocates appear "all of a sudden" at com-munity board meetings and then cease to have contact with gardeners. Perhaps our presence would have been clearer to him had he attended several prior community meetings. The outreach that we do with gardeners to community boards is a very real, ongoing process.
Community gardens are like a beautiful patchwork quilt stitched across the city, each with its own design and necessity, keeping communities warm and safe. They are as diverse as the neighborhoods that tend to them, and we must acknowledge their various cultural landscapes. Each of these gardens has its own truth.
As advocates, we must respect these landscapes. The battle to keep community gardens is a worthy one, and to win it will take a lot more than self-congratulatory gossip and reactionary diatribe.
The Am Way
DeVos, not his father as Cagan's piece stated cofounded Amway in 1959.
As an Amway distributor, I can tell you that Amway does not tell people that "they can strike it rich by reselling the items and recruiting new distributors." We are prohibited from promoting Amway as an early retirement plan or any other such big payday. Also, Cagan's language implies that an Amway distributor gets a commission for sponsoring someone. Distributors receive no such reward for sponsoring people.
Cagan quotes from Mother Jones about Amway's 750,000-person U.S. sales force, referring to "[T]his ever-growing network... heavily influenced by the company's dual themes of Christian morality and free enterprise." I have been an Amway distributor for over three years and Amway Corporation has had no influence on my Christianity. And I have also never been told to "vote conservative no matter what," as one distributor quoted in the article said we are told to do.
James La Regina
Mount Tabor, New Jersey
Editor's Note: Amway's cofounder was misidentified due to an editing error.
Re Karen Houppert's article on the police raid at the Hells Angels' clubhouse on 3rd Street ["City on Trial," December 1]: It cracks me up that after 30 years, the NYPD is still trying in vain to close down the Angels. There is plenty of other shit the city could address instead of bothering the Angels. They are an East Village fixture. Leave them alone.
New York City
Re Karl-Eric Reif's "The Death of Hockey" [December 8]: The reason hockey has failed in America is that it is a Canadian sport.
Most Americans don't understand sports from other countries, such as English football and cricket. The same is true for hockey. Americans want hockey to be about fighting and scoring goals, not the flip pass, backchecking, and class-act athletes. There is no showboating- tellin'- everyone- what-ya-just-did- dancing- in-the- end-zone bullshit in hockey, which makes it unappealing to American mass sports fans.
Hockey will always be the red-headed stepchild in American sports, probably because it is a sport that 90 percent of the population did not have access to at a peewee or high school level.
Barry Walters's review of Teletubbies: The Album was mad dope [December 15]. It's not too often that you peep at a review of a kiddie cut and it makes you want to go out and snatch it up.
Walters says he checked it out because he was "hearing so much about the connection between Teletubbies and drugs." Now that I'm thinkin' about it, somebody had to be trippin' off something to create a Teletubby.
West Orange, New Jersey
Thank you, Peter Noel, for your article about black-power advocate Kwame Ture ["Soul on Ice," November 24]. It is sad that many young people areunaware of Ture's accomplishments fighting against racial injustice. I had no idea who Ture was until I went to college through the aid of a program that helps students of color.
At college, I learned that an education makes a person of color a threat. Kwame Ture was a threat because he didn't keep his mouth shut about the evils of U.S. imperialism. We must learn about our history and the great individuals such as Kwame Ture who contribute to it, or we will never become conscious of the things we must fight to change.
Voice Of Soul
Since 1985, I have been patiently waiting for the true power of her voice and being to be unleashed simultaneously on an unsuspecting public. Much like Jennifer Holliday, Houston has an instrument requiring those who work in concert with her to treat her and her voice as one unit. Deviating from this approach has resulted in several mediocre CDs for which Houston cannot be held soley responsible. The new one hints at being the release we're all waiting for.
W. E. Londea
Andrew Hsiao's Press Clips column about the homeless was excellent ["The Disappeared," December 8]. I applaud Hsiao not only for exploring this issue, but also for shining a light on the disappearance of press coverage.
San Francisco, California
I loved Toni Schlesinger's Money column about Emily Prawda [December 15]. In fact, I love everything about Emily. She's my daughter.
Linda Kempner Cantor
Nutcracker at Winter Garden
On the Wing
An urban park ranger will lead a bird-watching tour through Central Park on Sunday, December 20. Participants will meet at 9 a.m. at 100th Street and Central Park West.
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