By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Re Norah Vincent's article "B Is for Bistro" [August 17]: Although I understand the feelings of hostility that gentrification brings about, I was disturbed by the romanticization of the days when Alphabet City was little more than a hellhole. I live at 2nd Street and Avenue B, and I am certainly not a "frat boy" nor do I have that much money. However, I am not a pale, pretentious, heroin-chic wannabe either. It does little good to gloss over the past. Junkies are not cool, and I think it's irresponsible to lament the previous identity of abuse and poverty which actually hinders the delivery of the message that poorer residents are being phased out of their own neighborhood.
Re Norah Vincent's "B Is for Bistro": I moved to 12th Street at Avenue B a year ago. I would not be able to afford an apartment in my building today. And yet, while the gentrification in just a year has been substantial, some things are missing that are needed to make a neighborhood a great place to live. While we have nice restaurants and trendy clubs, we don't have good groceries or dry cleaners (to name a couple of basics). The sidewalks remain badly ripped up, and I fear the new bars have only contributed to the mass of bodily fluids one sees on the streets in the morning. Gentrification has yet to benefit the average resident in quality-of-life ways, like clean streets and fresh vegetables.
To C.Carr's list of dates regarding the demise of the East Village ["Boho Boohoo," August 17], I'd add 1982. That was the year a host of fly- by-night storefront galleries opened in the neighborhood, displacing old ethnic shops that had long characterized it. When many of the galleries then closed mostly within a couple of rent cycles they were replaced by cafes and bars. The East Village went from being a neighborhood where poor artists coexisted with welfare families, barely assimilated immigrant groups, and, yes, drug dealers to a Bohemian Theme Park. Rents sextupled. Suddenly there were crowds of tourists. But of course it didn't die; it just evolved. I've since moved, and I don't miss stepping over junkies sprawled on my stoop. But that $125 a month rent . . .
C.Carr ["Boho Boohoo"] is correct that MTV, and media attention in general, commodify and degrade an avant-garde community's sense of specialness (or forward-looking, uncontaminated attitude). However, I live in the Lower East Side, and this hasn't happened in my corner of Manhattan. Nothing has died. The spirit is there for those who live and walk in its streets hunting down friends and gritty bars for pleasures that cannot be experienced in the rest of the city. Loisaida is alive and well with thousands of working Latinos pumping la nueva FM clásicos y nuevos down avenues C and D. Paint-speckled artists cruise Avenue A, Clinton, and Houston looking for coffee, booze, supplies. John Zorn regularly curates or performs in the most avant-garde jazz scene in the city. Cheap beers can be sucked down at a plurality of the bars in the area.
We have no Starbucks, only one Blockbuster, and very few chain restaurants. Carr can take her misunderstandings of Manhattan's East Village elsewhere. Perhaps MTV is interested in a meta-cartoon about their cartoons.
Lower East Side
I am writing in regard to Frank Owen's article about the possible closing of the Tunnel nightclub, even after allegations of rape there were proven false ["The Devil To Pay?" August 10]. This is an outrage to anyone who believes in the integrity of the law. It has become more than a personal vendetta. This is about taking away everyone's freedom.
Let's face it, drug use is prevalent in all social classes and in all neighborhoods. Is underage sex in public places a new idea contrived by Peter Gatien to turn us into sex maniacs who can come to his bordello bathroom for casual romps? Or has underage sex in public places been going on since the dawn of time?
I'm not wild about Gatien, but he shouldn't lose his club because of false accusations. He's an easy target for Giuliani to scapegoat. He isn't responsible for the degeneration of New York youth culture. He didn't show me or anyone else how to use drugs or have sex. Society did. What I watch on TV did. My own natural interest in experimentation did.
Wendy E. Boles
In Sharon Lerner's Body Politics column ["Tooth To Tell: Hamptonites Gather Baby Teeth To Fight Radiation," August 3], she describes what appears to be a very promising bit of research.
While any studies involving environmental radiation are important, we must not forget that contamination of this type usually affects poor communities at a higher rate than upscale communities. What we see in cases such as those discussed in Lerner's column is the opportunity that the wealthy have to help themselves. Without government funding, such research will not include less affluent communities than the Hamptons.
Temper of the Times
I started reading Richard Goldstein's "All the Rage: The New Aggression and Its Hidden Meaning" [August 10] with great anticipation. I finished it with disappointment. It was well-written clichés . . . more of the same. We read of genetic causes; environmental, family, and church failures; and what they don't talk about in school. Why not? Goldstein can pontificate as well as anyone. Better than most.
But the truth is in the forest, not the trees. The head guides the body and wags the tail. It was in Germany in the mid '30s that a significant increase in crimes of passion, familial violence, street muggings, and emotional tirades by various irascibles was noted. The people sensed that savagery was being carried out by their government in the name of nationalism, and followed suit. The American people are reacting to the last 40 years of militarism, abroad, and Waco, MOVE/Philadelphia, and Ruby Ridge at home. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said it was worth the deaths of thousands of Iraqi children monthly to carry out our foreign policy. President Clinton clamored about the school killings in Colorado as he dispatched bombers and missiles into Belgrade.
Justice Louis Brandeis said in 1928, "Our government is the potent, the omnipresent, teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for the law."
Dr. Don Sloan
As a college junior, I was disturbed by Hillary Chute's article "High Crimes" [Education Supplement, August 10]. How can the government punish students for smoking pot by denying them financial aid? The effect of the decision discussed in the article will be to drive young adults out of college and into low-paying jobs. You can't do anything these days other than flip a burger without a college degree.
To associate pot smoking with serious drug use is insane.
Re Tristan Taormino's "Thorns and Roses: Here She Comes, International Ms. Leather" [August 10]: It was fun being part of such a great group of women. Fortunately, I was stuck in the photo booth taking pictures of hot women dressed in leather adorned with various instruments of pleasure for either top or bottom. One of the great things about my job was I got to meet some of the leather dykes up close and up tight; consequently, I had the privilege of feeling their electricity and love. I will not forget a young couple from Georgia I met there. They represented lesbian love in its purest form. I could not help crying. These were good tears. My transgender was not a personal issue anymore, because I belonged to a group of women with warm hearts wrapped in smooth black leather.
"I am woman, hear me roar."
Jennifer B. Miller
San Diego, California
Why did the Voice drop Max Cannon's Red Meat comic strip? It was off the wall and morbid, but not graphically sexual or violent. Cannon doesn't create twisted situations, but uses Red Meat to showcase the twisted or darkly ridiculous. I enjoy the news and happenings I find in the Voice, but please bring back Red Meat!
I manage a fish market in Delaware. From time to time, your esteemed weekly publication has adorned a perch or played host to the odd fillet of flounder or orange roughy. To get to the crux of the biscuit:
Some time ago, I happened to see the strip Red Meat wrapped around a shark steak. I've never laughed so hard in my life. I started cutting out the strip every time it appeared and posting it behind the counter so that my employees could enjoy it.
It has come to my attention that you've discontinued this cartoon. As I don't regularly come across copies of the Voice in the shop, nor do I give an aerial fornication for much of the content of your publication, this has reduced your rag to an occasional spot as a fish wrapper.
Please, for God's sake and your own, put Max Cannon back in your paper.
Joseph Patel's article on Gang Starr was thought-provoking and honest ["Jazz Fission," August 17]. I agree that Gang Starr has the lyrical strength to be in the same category as De La Soul and others named. I remember the era when De La and Public Enemy were "it" and the only flashiness came in the form of MC Hammer and En Vogue. Now those who are speaking positivity seem like the minority, and glitz and glam are "in." I believe the leaders of the new school sustained the crossover blow because their longevity and respect were established. Being into respect and awareness is not "in" anymore, which is why Gang Starr and those like them are not mainstream.
Amy Taubin's review of Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train ["Love on the Run," August 10] was right on. My view of the film parallelled hers, except I liked all the music all the time. I read several other reviews and while a few were grudgingly favorable, others were hostile, homophobic, and Francophobic. Some reviewers apparently felt the need to provide explanations for what they saw, which were naive when they weren't downright absurd.
Garland for Musto
Michael Musto is possibly the funniest writer in America right now. The Voice wouldn't be the same without him. He sets up a relationship with the reader, has a tart, toss-away "voice" all his own, and is consistently upfront and uproarious. I see others trying to copy his style all the time, but no one can do breezy-bitchy as blithely as dear little Mikey. He reminds me of Jack Carson's description of James Mason in A Star Is Born: "a child with a blowtorch."
New Orleans, Louisiana
The tone of Mark Boal's review of KingPin ["Gangsta Gamin',"August 17] bothered me. I don't blame hardcore music or video games for the violence lately, but it doesn't help when a video game makes it seem cool to shoot people in the streets. Although the elements of KingPin were discussed, which I can appreciate, I think Boal overlooked a bigger point. Or maybe I'm an old-fashioned guy who only finds it slightly amusing to play a game where a two-bit frog gets run over by a three-bit truck.
CorrectionsDue to an editing error in the article "Ryan's Hope" by Danny Hakim (August 17), Ryan Jacob was incorrectly described as the first fund manager to invest in "dot-com" stocks. Jacob was the first to invest only in such stocks. Due to a fact-checking error in an August 17 Music Short List item by Leighton Kerner, the Mozart symphony performed by the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra at Avery Fisher Hall was misidentified as No. 40 rather than No. 47. Lou Bardel was not credited for research on the article "The King of Comix" by Ted Rall (August 3). Letter writer Mary Feingold's address was printed incorrectly in last week's issue. It is Middleton, Wisconsin.