By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Hillary and the Heights
Peter Noel, in an article headlined "Hillary 'Banned' in Crown Heights" [August 31], reported that a spokesman for the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council expressed various views about the probable Senate race between Hillary Clinton and Rudolph Giuliani. We are surprised that the Voice did not verify that this information was in fact the viewpoint of the Council.
Chanina Sperlin, the reported spokesman, did not speak in the name of the Council but rather as a private individual. (In addition, in a personal communication to me, he expressed dismay and surprise at some of the quotes attributed to him.) Mr. Sperlin is a well-known and respected community leader, and we find it difficult to imagine him espousing the views attributed to him.
As the elected representatives of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, it is our obligation and responsibility to make the needs of our community known to public officials. The Council has always welcomed and met with any and all officials and politicians who have expressed a desire to meet with us. We will continue to do so. Specifically, we will meet with Mrs. Clinton if she so desires.
The Crown Heights Jewish community has enjoyed a good relationship with Mayor Giuliani's administration. Along with the rest of the city's citizens, we have benefited from many of his policies and innovations, and we admire his leadership. Certainly, anyone who runs against him is aware that they will be facing a candidate with a most formidable record of public service.
The Council also has enjoyed a good relationship with our local lected representatives, including Assembly Member Clarence Norman Jr. and Council Member Una Clarke. We intend to continue working together to positively affect all the residents of our neighborhood.
Our relationship with former mayor David Dinkins is well known. Since the Crown Heights riots in 1991, we have been working with many individuals and organizations in the community to ensure continued racial harmony and positive neighborhood growth. We are proud of our relationship with our neighbors and look upon Crown Heights as a model that demonstrates how diverse people can meld into one harmonious community.
Michoel Chazan, Chairman, Board of Directors
Crown Heights Jewish Community Council
Missed the Point (Man)
Peter Noel must have been desperate for a story to quote Chanina Sperlin and label him a "point man for the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council." While the Council wields considerable influence over the Lubavitcher community, Mr. Sperlin is by no means its "point man." This is true, even if Mr. Sperlin claims, "Anybody who wants a meeting comes through me."
It is true that Hillary Clinton will not get a fair shake in Crown Heights. Her liberalism and past statements on Israel, combined with Rudy Giuliani's popularity within the community, will not win the First Lady many votes. But Mrs. Clinton's record on women's issues and children's issues, combined with recent reports that she leaned on federal investigators to begin probing the 1994 fatal shooting of Ari Halberstam and the wounding of another Hasidic student on the Brooklyn Bridge, may have earned her a meeting with Ari's mother, Devorah Halberstam, and the very powerful and influential N'shei U'bnos Chabad, the Lubavitch women's movement.
It is sad that Mr. Noel allowed the klein keppeled (small-minded) Mr. Sperlin to besmirch the community, and chose not to confirm or validate his personal opinions with the head of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council or any of its other members.
Huff and Puff
I am amazed and amused that one of your critics would dismiss a piece of theater on the grounds of second-hand smoke ["Two Visions of Victim Mentality Collide Across a Century," September 7]. Elizabeth Zimmer should have left. She should not have to suffer for art. However, thanks for staying. Any press is good press.
Paule Turner (Duchess), Performance Artist
Elizabeth Zimmer replies: I would hardly call my review of Duchess's She's Out of Her Tree a dismissal. Space considerations prevented a more detailed analysis of his piece. I rarely leave a performance early, but his character's puffing and vamping, barely inches from the audience, left me sorely tempted.
Lynch for Lunch
Does writing for The Village Voice prompt scribes to react positively only to kinky or cool? Amy Taubin ["Fall Film Preview," August 31] gushes lyrically over the sordid story of Brandon Teena, then goes Saturday Evening Postal over the Norman Rockwellian epic The Straight Story. The film that I saw in preview was a profound, moving piece about coming to terms with one's own mortality and setting priorities straight. Showing a dark drama beneath the surface of a placid-seeming American landscape, David Lynch looks down the double-barreled shotgun of old age, frailty, and impending death in his characteristically unblinking fashion. And by the way, Alvin Straight did not drive across three states, as Taubin wrote in her mini review. From Laurens, Iowa, to just across the Wisconsin border is roughly three-quarters of one state. On a lawnmower tractor, it was more than enough. Pay attention, Amy!
Amy Taubin replies: The real-life story of Alvin Straight could have been made into an interesting and moving movie. David Lynch, however, gave Straight all the humanity of a 70-plus person in an over-the-counter drug commercial.
Three things: First, Manhattan vs. Brooklyn is the wrong question. It is divisive and only serves to further splinter the performance (and visual arts) community. Second, the studios, performance spaces, and galleries must maintain a foothold in lower Manhattan if the area is to retain any cultural integrity. Otherwise, you simply have the world's most expensive mall. Third, viewing Brooklyn and Manhattan as part of some either/or axiom only serves to limit the cultural possibilities of the city. The boroughs have artistic centers and an aesthetic of their own, created and fueled by the artists and audiences who live there no matter how they got there. If anything, they are a welcomed augment, offering the possibility of greater cultural democracy. While both infrastructure and demographics have shifted, much to every real estate developer's chagrin, the possibilities are limited. The inclinations to transform Williamsburg into a carbon copy of lower Manhattan are as boring as they are oppressive.
What would be truly interesting would be for the not-for-profit art world to shed its man-the-lifeboats attitude, fueled by the current end-is-nigh mentality. My millennial wish is for the formation of some meaningful cultural consortium to study the hard facts of commercial real estate infringement vis-à-vis what NYC's cultural communities might do about them. Whether it is partnerships, combined multi-use spaces, or what have you, as long as artistic integrity is kept relative to economic survival mechanisms, the bastards are kept at bay.
Andrew Cohen, Managing Director
550 Broadway Dance
Arion Berger ["Over That Hill," August 31] is a fine writer. It's just too bad that the only way she could think to praise Mary J. Blige was by putting down Lauryn Hill. At the end of the day such a cynical tactic cannot fail to be recognized as faint praise indeed.
Although I found Kyle Gann's article on the Kurstins interesting, I disagree with the statement that "great art never gravitates toward cutting-edge technology" ["It's Not Just for Aliens Anymore," August 31]. Most great composers have been eager to utilize new ways to produce sound. Think of the expanded orchestras used by Wagner and Strauss, the baroque and classical pieces which exploited new keyboard designs, Zappa's Synclavier, Debussy's use of the latest chromatic harp in Danse Sacrée et Danse Profane, or Varèse's absence from composing as he waited for the technology to catch up with his imagination. Nancarrow might have been attracted to the player piano's sound, but he used it as the only way he knew to realize his "unplayable" compositions. If he had had access to digital equipment when he was punching piano rolls, he might have been happy to go that way instead.
Bruce Benderson's cursory review of Henry Flesh's novel Massage [August 10] contains comments that are inaccurate and irrelevant. Contrary to Benderson's assertion that the "obvious" point of the story is the protagonist's realization of his childhood abuse, Randy is aware of his history of abuse from the start of the book. Also, Benderson's quibbling over which drugs are now appropriately hip ignores the circumstances in which Randy got them. Massage is a complex and provocative work, which deserved a more prepared and respectful reviewer.
Bruce Benderson replies: Nowhere did my brief review condemn the drugs in Massage as not "hip" enough. I merely pointed out that Dexedrine and barbiturate pills are anachronisms because they're almost unattainable today from anyone. I am aware that the character realizes from the start that he has been abused; the events of the novel are a playing out of those memories.
Leighton Kerner replies: Zekov apparently still lives by the outdated and musicologically discredited 19th-century catalogue of Mozart's works. So do Lincoln Center and most of this country's symphony orchestras. I refer Zekov to the updated Mozart work-list in, among other sources, The New Grove Dictionary, where a few misattributed and several lost, but definitely composed, symphonies are sorted out and totaled authentically at 48. Thus the so-called "great" G Minor Symphony is not No. 40, but No. 47.
'Voice' of the City
I am a young guy from Mexico who just spent a summer in New York. I had very good experiences and met a lot of New Yorkers. I also discovered The Village Voice, and it was very useful to me. Through it, I found interesting places and events that have changed my mind about some things. Now I visit your Web site as if I were in New York City.
Thank you for adding Tristan Taormino's column, Pucker Up, to the Voice. She is a great addition to your staff. I also enjoyed her article on the 13th Annual International Ms. Leather Contest a few weeks ago ["Thorns and Roses," August 10].
CorrectionThe band whose album La Collección Cubana was chosen as the "pick hit" in Robert Christgau's Consumer Guide, in last week's issue, was misidentified due to a typographical error. The group is Los Van Van.
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