By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Cynthia Cotts, in Press Clips last week, implied that my criticism of Carol Felsenthal's Citizen Newhouse, in the November 30 New York Observer, was a calculated effort to obtain employment with Condé Nast as an "associate editor at Details, or contract writer for Vogue." That's pure nonsense. My review contained sharp criticism of S.I. Newhouse in general and Details in particular, and I argued that Felsenthal's trashy celebrity biography was vastly inferior to Thomas Maier's superb Newhouse.
In the same week that powerful sectors of the press joined forces with Tom DeLay, it's odd that the Voice's new media critic devoted more than half of her column to a defense of a fourth-rate book. With the mob at Clinton's door, Cotts's predecessors Alexander Cockburn, Geoffrey Stokes, Doug Ireland, and James Ledbetter would have used every inch of the Press Clips column to assail the puritans who inhabit all the newspapers and TV networks. Likewise, one suspects that they would have excoriated the press lords whose deference to the Republican Party and the Christian Right is more apparent with each passing day. This is a dubious beginning for the Voice's new media critic.
Cynthia Cotts disparagingly referred to Seven Stories Press as "lowly" in last week's Press Clips. Why "lowly"? Because they are based in lower Manhattan, not in a posh midtown tower? In addition to publishing my book, they have just unveiled Trips, the hippest guide to psychedelic drugs ever released a volume that just may be smokable like those banana skins of yore. Perhaps they are higher than you think.
Re Michael Atkinson's "Psycho-a-Go-Go" [December 22]: The antiPsycho remake review is already a cliché. Doesn't anyone sense a nudge and a wink when Gus Van Sant, America's most successful gay director, casts openly gay actress Anne Heche in a role where she is brutally murdered by the epitome of this year's revival of '50s hetero-machismo chic, Vince Vaughn?
How wonderfully queer it is to see these players remaking a film from a time when homosexuality equaled mental disorder, when queer meant psycho. A killer in drag was a Cold War nightmare. Why can't anyone see Van Sant's lovely "retread" as delicious irony?
Yoko Oh No
Sutton's cartoon was an attack on one of our city's greatest counterculture heroines. I thought The Village Voice respected Yoko as one of the original pioneers of the funky New York art scene. Didn't Kyle Gann praise her as "The Inventor of Downtown" in 1992?
As for the Lennon anthology: it is not the throwaway material Sutton implies. And Yoko's merchandising of the Lennon estate has been minimal.
Re Judith Coburn's "Up Against the Wall," [December 8]: I applaud Hocus Focus's noble expeditions to undermine and expose the true colors of Apple's ad campaign that uses cultural icons as "hucksters" for its products. I'm glad someone is fighting the good fight.
Apple's use of the images of John Lennon and the Dalai Lama may be clever and alluring, but it is mere exploitation to increase profits.
Bruce In A Box
Evelyn McDonnell writes in her review of Bruce Springsteen's new box set, Tracks, that "By setting one of his most scathingly critical lyrics to a ridiculously punchy chorus, the only popular artist who actively contradicted Reagan's sunny-morning-in-America routine became part and parcel of it. With 'Born in the U.S.A.,' Springsteen became a symbol of megastardom, of '80s success excess, the rock concert turned Super Bowl" ["The Ghost of Bruce Springsteen," December 15].
The fantastic collision of rage, confusion, and vitality present in "Born in the U.S.A." could not have been expressed in a sad, weepy ballad. It is precisely the musical arrangement that brings the lyrics to life.
It is sadly true that the jubilant sound of "Born in the U.S.A." enabled George Bush and the Republicans to pervert it into a campaign theme. However, Springsteen went out of his way to counteract this misappropriation of his music by releasing the single "War," which was unambiguously anti- "sunny-morning-in-America."
Furthermore, Springsteen has scrupulously avoided the pitfalls of '80s-style superstardom. While fellow '80s alumni such as Michael Jackson and U2 have made fools of themselves chasing larger audiences, Springsteen has shunned stadium crowds. The themes of his most recent albums disillusioned romance, personal probing along with his discovery of a new disenfranchised class of Americans, are hardly crowd-pleasing topics.
In Toni Schlesinger's Money column [December 15], she quotes her subject, Emily Prawda: "I go up to counters and say my skin is dry, do you have anything I can take with me and sample and then I'll come back and buy the bigger size? Then I'll walk down to Saks and Lord & Taylor and do the same thing."
People like Ms. Prawda are the reason some store personnel have bad attitudes. Hey, Emily! Why don't you put "a cheap chair, for your cheap ass" on your Christmas list. It was advertised in the Voice, about 10 pages after Schlesinger's column. Better yet, buy it for yourself. You'll feel like the Queen of England!
I am the boyfriend Emily Prawda talks about in Toni Schlesinger's December 15 Money column. Obviously there is more to Emily than the way she comes across in Schlesinger's column. She is a sweet, caring person with more method to her madness than it might seem. There is little debt on her "25 credit cards."
As for Emily's "unwritten rule" that I always pay when we go out to dinner because I'm "very generous": I'd rather be known as a salty step-father than a sugar daddy. It would be a more accurate description of my spending habits.
I founded Police Observers & Watchers Effecting Reform (POWER) in August 1995 after 28-year-old Aaron Williams was viciously beaten, pepper-gassed, had his face covered with a plastic mask, and was left battered and bloodied in the back of a San Francisco Police Department paddy wagon, where he died.
Cowardice on the part of district attorneys is one thing that prevents police officers from being held responsible for their actions. D.A.'s off-the-record reasons for not pressing charges against cops who commit criminal acts are disturbing. Many fear that prosecuting cops means they won't get cooperation from them in unrelated criminal court cases requiring police testimony. They worry about not being endorsed by powerful police associations and, even, as one D.A. told me, fear for personal safety.
Police officers are not being deterred from committing such crimes. D.A.s have the power to deter police brutality by punishing rogue cops. People should vote out of office D.A.s who are not acting in the interests of the citizenry.
San Francisco, California
Great story by Peter Noel on "The Killing of Kenneth Banks" [December 15]. The violent siege mentality of the NYPD continues.
Hopefully, people will pay attention to Reverend Al Sharpton when he urges us to avoid equating drugs and the black community. Sometimes it seems that little progress has been made since the 1857 Dred Scott case, when Supreme Court Justice Roger Brooke Taney said that blacks have no right that whites are bound to respect.
Peter Noel's article about violence in hip-hop ["Revenge of the Mad Rappers," December 1] reinforced many of my thoughts on this issue. I am a 28-year-old who has grown up listening to hip-hop.
Today at clubs, there is an ominous element. God help you if you are one of the few females in a mostly male crowd. There is a restlessness and intolerance present. Young men and women are becoming belligerent, hostile, and violent in the most benign situations.
The striped bass "illegally harvested... from the Hudson," as reported by William Bastone, in "Scales of Justice" [December 15] most likely swam in from the Atlantic Ocean, where they could be legally fished.
While walking the Hudson, I have met many fishermen who have willingly chanced the "health risks" of eating delicious striped bass and reported no side effects. The ban on eating Hudson bass has been great for the bass, who sing:
Swift, striped bass swarming at sea,
Let us praise PCB:
The non-conductor dumped by rich GE,
Which causes fishermen to let us be.
In the Hudson our numbers increase
As we propagate without surcease;
We grow fat in the Bight and New York bays;
Sleek fellow stripers, these are happy days.
As long as cautious humans fear to eat
Our tender, rich, and juicy meat
We swim free to grow and thrive
Gorging on smaller fish; we stay alive!
So stripers, let us bless the PCB,
Which saves the skins of fish like you and me.
Long may trace-chemical stuff be found<
To keep us swimming, and not broiled or ground;
Long let controversy cloud our fate
And keep us off Sloppy Louis's blue plate.
The National Academy of Science will one day study the Hudson fish/DDT question, and hopefully will issue an objective report. Until then, let the PCB controversy, and the striped bass, thrive.
Green Eagle Institute Manhattan
CorrectionAn article in the August 11 issue, written by Jeff Harwood, chronicled Albert Belle's gambling activities, including the conviction of Michael Kling and Nicholas Zambataro for their roles in taking $300,000 from Belle in various illegal wagers. Based upon information from both local and federal law enforcement officials, the story also reported that Zambataro's cooperation with the government had led to the conviction of four other bookmakers, including James Colavecchio, who was convicted in May 1998 for operating a gambling operation and filing a false income tax return in 1995.
At the request of Zambataro's attorneys, Assistant United States Attorney James V. Moroney has recently written to refute the assertion that Zambataro provided information to the government regarding James Colavecchio. In a letter dated November 30, 1998, Moroney explains that, as the assistant U.S. attorney assigned to the Zambataro case, he would have known whether Zambataro provided such information to any federal law enforcement agents or prosecutors and that, to his knowledge, no such information was provided. Moroney also states that he confirmed with other prosecutors and with law enforcement agents and a defense attorney who were involved in the Colavecchio case that Zambataro was not involved in that case.A credit line for the photograph that appeared with Peter Noel's article "We're Saving Our Own Lives," in last week's issue, was accidentally omitted. The picture was taken by Michael Schmelling.
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