By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
High School Confidential
Frank Kogan's cover article "Every High School Is a Time Bomb" [May 4], on the Littleton tragedy, should be required reading for anyone having anything to do with secondary education. Kogan was the first journalist I've read who correctly mapped the social world of high school that led Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris to commit those horrible murders. Unfortunately, similar tragedies are possible wherever a high school cranks out a kid or two stretched past the breaking point by the torture inherent in a system with cliques of preppies, geeks, jocks, skaters, and outcasts.
Re Frank Kogan's "Every High School Is a Time Bomb": One detail that hit home was the racist attitude of the killers.
I am a 19-year-old college student currently living in New York, but I was raised in a suburban community, much like Littleton, Colorado, where I was a social outcast. I wore black, listened to dark music, thought of myself as intellectually superior to everyone, hated jocks and everything associated with the high school system which seemed to hate me.
Being a short, weak "freak" made me an easy target for many groups, including a group of black students who singled me out because I couldn't defend myself. I was randomly screamed at and punched in stairwells. Other students in my situation suffered the same problem. As a result, many students grew more and more racist throughout high school, despite being the children of liberal, "enlightened" ex-hippies.
I am not comparing the taunting I received to the discrimination blacks encounter in America (and I won't attempt to state that I understand what those black students felt). However, I would say that this is an integral part of race relations that has been left off of the table.
It Takes a Family
Thank you, Karen Houppert for your excellent article ["Crisis in Family Court," April 20]. Not only have child-abuse deaths actually gone up since ACS commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta effectively abandoned efforts to keep families together (reversing a five-year decline), the "when-in-doubt-yank-'em-out" approach does tremendous harm to children.
At best, they will be deprived of loving parents whose only crime may be poverty, and also of siblings, friends, and teachers. At worst they'll be forced to sleep on chairs or the floor in a violence-plagued, makeshift "shelter," another legacy of a system overwhelmed with needless placements. Or they could wind up like four-year-old Caprice Reid, who in 1997 was beaten and starved to death in a New York foster home that was reopened by one private agency after another shut it down as substandard.
There are states that have resisted this approach. Michigan's Intensive Family Preservation Program has served more than 50,000 children, with a far better track record for safety than that of foster care in which the rate of abuse is much higher than is generally known. Alabama reframed its entire child welfare system to follow family-preservation principles. The result: foster care placements declined and an independent, court-appointed monitor found that children are safer now than before the changes.
Ms. Houppert describes the disagreement as one between "family preservationists" and "child protectionists." But as the track record of states and cities that have taken either approach makes clear, there is no real child protection without family preservation.
Dead to Rights
My thanks to Greg Tate for his dead-on description of the March Against Police Brutality ["Blood and Bridges," April 27]. Here in the hinterlands we don't get much news about such protests so I haunt the Net to get the 411. While the rest of the media has moved on to Kosovo, killer kids, and Pamela Anderson Lee's shrunken chest, the Voice has reminded me why America needs an energized alternative press. Plus, it's grand to see Greg Tate writing about current events.
Blood and Blues
I must commend the Voice for its coverage of the Diallo incident. Greg Tate's article "Blood and Bridges" really hit home.
At a time when some of the black media chose to ignore the issue, the Voice has taken a stand and covered it. As an African American and mother, I thank you.
I am especially interested in the attitudes the migrant workers and the women who follow the mining camps have about wearing condoms. With a 33 percent increase in the rate of infection, why is unprotected sex still commonplace? It appears the South African government is not taking this problem seriously.
Now that some cabbies have adopted cell phones as full-time companions, cabbie-passenger interaction is becoming a thing of the past [Grace Bastidas, "Fare Game: Cab Drivers Face a Cell Block," April 27]. One of the greatest pleasures of a New York cab ride was having a spirited conversation with the driver while maneuvering around the city.
When I'm at work I make a few personal calls, like everyone else, but I'm not responsible for getting someone safely through traffic. Let cab drivers keep their cell phones if they want, but when I step in and that cab starts moving, shut the damn thing off.
Frank Owen's and William Bastone's articles in your April 27 issue about the impending closure of Peter Gatien's club brought back a lot of memories ["The View From Gatien's Camp"; "NYPD's Tunnel Vision"]. I used to be one of the regulars in some of Gatien's clubs. He doesn't realize that times are much different than they used to be.
A lot of today's "club kids" don't know what Gatien's establishments were really like. They are a little too young to remember the drug-filled, sex-crazed, party-hungry clubs the way Limelight and Red Zone used to be.
No one ever complained when Studio 54 was doing it!
Ginette N. Marté
One comment on the articles about Peter Gatien's club, Tunnel: I go there every Saturday night. I have been to many other clubs in New York, and I have found its security to be the tightest.
Since the night Jimmy Lyons overdosed, the Tunnel won't let anyone in who doesn't have a state ID. The cops should give Gatien a break. He's just providing a place for people to dance and meet. He's not providing drugs.
Cornwall, New York
As a Richmonder, I tried to set aside all the usual slights that northern (and especially New York City) writers often make against the South in general; however, I'm finding it difficult to support the notion that this was a hate crime. Unlike the murder of Matthew Shepard in Wyoming, there is no definitive evidence that anyone killed Northington because he was gay.
Sarah Chinn, a local activist and teacher, was quoted by Trebay as saying "How can you discuss his murder and not say it's about him being gay? He was gay. He was murdered." Using her logic, you could just as easily state that Northington was murdered because he was male, by someone who hated men; or because he was white, by someone who hated white people. This was a terrible, depraved crime but Trebay's persistent implications that our provincial, washed-up southern town atmosphere had anything to do with it are just not supported by the facts of the case as we know them.
Much as I appreciated reading David Sprague's reasoned viewpoint about Matador Records ["Dropping the Bull," April 20], I take issue with his claim that some of our recently signed bands have failed to "pick up the slack" after our recent break with Capitol Records.
Of the two bands that Sprague mentioned, Boards of Canada is not signed to Matador they are licensed to us by Warp/Skam Records of Sheffield, England. And as for the Arsonists, it would be impossible for them make any noticeable contribution toward Matador's bottom line since the label has yet to commercially release any of their recordings. That said, independently released titles by artists such as Cat Power, Belle and Sebastian, and Cornelius (names no doubt familiar to Mr. Sprague, as they were prominently featured in the March 2 Pazz & Jop poll) helped to make 1998 our best year ever.
With our return to independence, we have even higher expectations for this year and beyond.
J. Hoberman's review of Tony Bui's movie Three Seasons was accurate ["Back Stories," May 4]. When I first saw Bui's name, I was happy to see a fellow Vietnamese immigrant involved in something independent and creative. But after seeing clips of the film on the Sundance Channel, I wondered which Vietnam Bui was filming from. My mother was there just a few months ago and found it to be poor, polluted, and materialistic, with the spirit of the people reduced to survival mode nothing like the Vietnam portrayed in Three Seasons.
After nearly 25 years of Communist rule, the only thing the Vietnamese government has to feed its people is tourist money American dollars. Tony Bui, with his Three Seasons, will be the poster child for tourism in Vietnam. What a missed opportunity to educate the American public and make a meaningful film about our country.
Spurt of Inspiration
Guy Trebay, in his April 27 article "Seduction Theory" asked ". . . what is the singular of erotica?"
As everyone knows, it's eroticum.
Gonnerman Wins Deadline Award
Staff writer Jennifer Gonnerman has won the Deadline Club's Best Reporting Award for a Non-Daily Newspaper for "The Terrorist Campaign Against Abortion," which appeared in the November 3, 1998, Voice.The Deadline Club Awards are sponsored by the New York City Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
The first CUNY Theatre Festival will be held from Wednesday, May 5, through Saturday, May 8. Performances will be at City College, 138th Street and Convent Avenue, Manhattan. The festival is free and all events are open to the public. For further information, call 718-289-5765.
CorrectionsSome copies of last week's issue were missing the second page of Gary Giddins's article, "The Long-Playing Duke." The complete article can be found online at http://www.villagevoice.com/ arts/9917/giddins.shtml. In last week's film review of Le Petomane, it was incorrectly stated that its story of Joseph Pujol, the "fin de siecle fartiste," was a fabrication. Pujol did in fact exist. The first paragraph of a letter to the editor by Jack Ponomarev in the April 27 issue was inadvertently misworded. It should have read: "James Ridgeway's April 6 Mondo Washington column was extremely biased. The opening lines referred to the 'slaughter' of 'Kosovo villagers' by the Serbs, although casualties over the year prior to the NATO air strikes include both Kosovar and Serbian victims (2000 by most estimates)."
Letters should be brief, and phone numbers must be included. All letters are subject to editing for clarity, legal, and space considerations. Send mail to: Letters to the Editor, The Village Voice, 36 Cooper Square, New York, NY 10003. Or fax to 212-475-8944 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. E-mail letters must include phone numbers.