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 reading Grace Bastidas's article "Savings and Groans" [April 20], I asked myself, "Has it come to this?" A left-wing workhorse like The Village Voice printing financial advice to invest in companies that have "withstood the test of time, like Coca-Cola, DuPont, and Exxon." Welcome to the very, very late '90s.
C.Carr and comic Lisa Kron, the subject of her article "Shoah Business" April 20], seem to hold Art Spiegelman's illustrated novel Maus in high esteem. The book has merit, but is by no means universally acclaimed. While movingly telling the story of the author's father's survival of the Holocaust, Spiegelman's "humble masterpiece" contains crude racist imagery in its depiction of Polish characters, who are portrayed as (mostly hateful) pigs. Spiegelman's lack of sensitivity to Polish suffering and to the decades-long psychological abuse of Polish Americans in the form of racist jokes detracts from an otherwise poignant piece of literature.
Word to the Unwired
As a recent college graduate, the first thing I learned was that if you're not wired, you miss the latest developments. The older guys in the office laugh at kids who constantly check pagers and flash cell phones, but these crucial pieces of hardware are key components to climbing the corporate ladder of the future.
A piece of advice to my elders: get connected or get out of the way.
Birds of a Feather
After reading Peter Noel's "Father of the Movement" [April 6], I'll take Al Sharpton, hair and all, over zero tolerance any day. His handling of the die-nigger-die shooting of Amadou Diallo is a testament to the memory of Thurgood Marshall. Sometimes it seems like Giuliani and Safir would like to reinstate Jim Crow.
Man Needs a Plan
I've been following Peter Noel's articles on black leaders and black organizations for a little over five years now, and I have to say that I respect his work. However, I question his fascination with Minister Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, and Khallid Muhammad, organizer of the Million Youth March.
Though the Nation of Islam has a respectable following, it no longer has the same powerful attraction that it did prior to the Million Man March in 1995. The black community respects the Muslims, because they have a genuine concern for black people. Nevertheless, they are an organization whose ultimate responsibility is to look after its membership.
The Nation of Islam and Minister Farrakhan dropped the ball when the time came to formulate a progressive national agenda for black people after the Million Man March. Though I respect Minister Farrakhan's powerful speeches, he's a preacherno more, no less. Both Farrakhan and Khallid avoid strategic, concrete solutions and repeat generalized statements (i.e., blacks need to own businesses). I am all for moral cleansing and spiritual awakening, but what are the plans?
Wayne Barrett's Citystate column headlined "Mayor Pander" [April 20] left me feeling that Barrett would prefer it if Staten Island just paid its taxes and got nothing in return. Mayor Giuliani isn't pandering to Staten Island. He is givingto a borough that has long been ignored.
Despite our having "free ferry rides," this wonderful means of transportation runs only once an hour at certain times. The only other choice is an express bus that costs twice as much as trains connecting the other four boroughs. It runs on a limited schedule, and not at all overnight or on Sundays.
If Rudy Giuliani is giving Staten Island a baseball team, it might be so people from all boroughs can come to the games and not worry about being in a high crime area such as the South Bronx. We welcome other New York denizens to our home borough to enjoy the games. Just make sure to set aside a few extra hours for the trip out here, especially on Sundays.
Crisis in the Country
Compliments TO Karen Houppert for her excellent article "Crisis in Family Court" [April 20]. As an assistant public defender in West Virginia, I see many of the same problems here that Houppert described in the Manhattan system.
There are few other proceedings that have more potential for political abuse and grandstanding than child-custody hearings. Parents are usually at a disadvantage, and underqualified social workers are often called upon to give testimony in areas in which they have no expertise. In West Virginia, if a client is indigent, he or she must avail themselves of free counseling services, which often are provided by counselors who work hand in hand with the state. There is no confidential relationship between counselors and parents.
Clearly, reforms are needed to provide a just and fair system in which the needs of children and parents are met. A good place to start would be educating judges that sometimes it is in the best interests of parents and children to provide reasonable reunification services before terminating parental rights.
Beckley, West Virginia
Deirdre Hussey's article "No Exit" [April 20], about college tuition, enraged me. The Office of Financial Aid at my alma mater is equivalent to a "Building of Doom," where dreams are destroyed and futures extinguished.
Society dictates that to have a bright "future," it is necessary to attend a good college, but scant attention is given to how students are to pay for it. The schools and government make money from student loans while kids struggle to make ends meet because of their education-incurred debt. Every time a school raises tuition, students must borrow more. Financial aid counselors soothe worried students by telling them they don't have to pay it back until after graduation, which seems great...until they graduate jobless.
As Hussey notes, while Clinton's stance on education is strong, his administration is proposing to sell off student loans to private banks, which won't make it any easier for kids to pay off their debt. I work full-time and still have difficulty making my monthly payments. I'm not running from my loans, but when someone's hounding me for money I don't have, what do they expect me to do? I graduated with a degree in film and Englishnot magic.
Nat Hentoff's column "Exposing the Voucher Spin" [April 20] was excellent. His arguments laid bare Mayor Giuliani's attempts to circumvent the long-validated Establishment Clause, which precludes government preference for any religion. Thanks for the right-on coverage.
Re J.A. Lobbia's April 20 Towers & Tenements column, about the demolition of Spanish Camp on Staten Island: I was born and raised in Brooklyn, but the most important part of my childhood was spent in Spanish Camp. My family lost our bungalow there several years ago when litigation over the land began, and I rarely returned after that. When I was a kid, a large part of Staten Island was untouched forest. These days you'd be lucky to find much more than a block's worth of natural forest. Spanish Camp is going the way of the rest of the islandbecoming a wasteland of overdevelopment.
Michael Feingold got one thing right in his review of The Iceman Cometh["Dearth of a Salesman," April 20]: getting tourists into an O'Neill play is laudable, considering most of the crap on Broadway. Aside from that, however, I do wonder about a couple of his points. Feingold criticizes the play for drifting between trenchant realism and inconsequential alcoholic meanderings, but isn't that part of O'Neill's point? O'Neill wanted these drunks to slide back and forth from illusion to reality as their alcohol levels increased and decreased.
Additionally, I wonder why Feingold puts so much blame on the director? Is it possible that these actors are just not up to sustaining the intensity of O'Neill's work? If the racing speech or pregnant pauses were added in by the director to create some sort of effect, I wish Feingold would have made that clear. Then his criticism might be justifiable.
Michael Feingold replies: O'Neill wrote a lucid play about blurry people; to blur his sense is to commit imitative fallacy, like an actor who plays a bore by being boring. If the director hasn't chosen which speeches to play fast and which to slow down, someone else is directing the show; and if the ones taken at top speed are those the audience most needs to hear, he's the wrong director for it.
Denise Kiernan obviously knows soccer, as evidenced by her outstanding article "The Chemical Brothers" [April 6]. With the dearth of decent soccer coverage in the U.S., it's quite refreshing and exciting to read about the world's greatest game from a female sportswriter. The arrival of the '99 Women's World Cup competition is a stellar opportunity for women writers and athletes to spice up the boring, backwater world of traditional sports journalism.
Los Angeles, California
Joanna Cagan's article, "Who Got Game?" [April 20], discussing the contract conflicts of women's basketball, was enjoyable. How sad that these talented women have to compete so bitterly for benefits and salaries that are readily available in the NBA. I hope to see more coverage of women's hoops in the Voice.
San Francisco, California
Re Joanna Cagan's "Who Got Game?": the WNBA players seem not to be able to see beyond their purses. Their interest is in their immediate survival rather than the long-term effect on women's pro basketball. Pro sports will never survive based on anything other than the "best player should play" outlook. The position taken by the WNBA, and the player limitations that they succeeded in obtaining as part of their contract, will only hurt the game in the long run.
Los Angeles, California
I enjoy reading the adult ads in the Voice. However, it angers me when people refer to dominatrices as "sadists." A dominatrix only inflicts pain upon willing customers. A true sadist inflicts pain on unwilling victims. Sadism and masochism are not two sides of the same coin, as is commonly believed.
In the masochist's world, clients have a need to be punished, and pay a dominatrix to cater to their whims. It's a win-win situation in which both parties are satisfied. In the sadist's world, pain is inflicted on those who seek to avoid being hurt. The sadist selects victims according to their vulnerability, unlike the dominatrix, whose paying customers are usually socially prominent and/or occupationally powerful men.
Thus, I believe the relationship between dominatrix and client should be termed D&M (for domination and masochism) instead of S&M.
Cranford, New Jersey
Forum on Family Court
"Surviving Family Court," a seminar to familiarize parents, foster-care youth, and caretakers with self-advocacy and courtroom presentation skills, will be held on Saturday, May 8, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Nadeen Lawe Lounge, Medgar Evers College, 1650 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn. For further information, call 718-953-4390.
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