Letters

A Modest Proposal

Norah Vincent, in her new Higher Ed column [" Hop on Pop," February 8], sneers that the contributors to Seinfeld and Philosophy: A Book About Everything and Nothing are "mostly third-rate philosophers from mostly substandard institutions." Might I ask what qualifies Vincent to make such a damning judgment?

Vincent asserts that "just as Milton doesn't belong in the rave scene, sitcoms don't belong in the canon or the classroom." If only the divide between highbrow and lowbrow were so clean. Many of the Great Books that Vincent presumably would prefer university students to study were popular entertainment in their day. The Odyssey was sung aloud at public gatherings of common folks, and Jonathan Swift's satires often appeared in newspapers. In short, just because something is popular doesn't make it unworthy of study.

That Vincent's so eager to condemn and make crude generalizations raises considerable questions as to her competence to write a column on academia.

Kevin R. Kosar
Ph.D. Candidate in Politics
New York University


Comic Notion

Norah Vincent convincingly suggests the troubles of some strands of research and teaching about popular culture. Admittedly, the notion of Seinfeld as Socratic seems somehow less than enlightened, and the funding of the University of Southern California's new pop entertainment program by TV industry folk leads one to doubt how truly independent the studies of its faculty and students will be.

However, when asserting that "low culture is infiltrating the scholarly world," Vincent telegraphs an ugly case of elitism.

Why should the amusements of the working and middle classes be any less worthy of scholarly inquiry than the favored entertainments of the wealthy? While the "low" texts themselves may appear more simple and less sophisticated than those of "high" culture, the uses to which they are put by those who appreciate them are complex and intriguing. Many of us who do write and teach about popular culture prefer to negotiate these complexities, rather than blindly celebrating all that is popular or contemptuously dismissing it, as Vincent unfortunately has chosen to do.

Katie LeBesco, Assistant Professor
Communication Arts
Marymount Manhattan College


Pop it in the mail

Norah Vincent's column about popular culture in the classroom was right on. I'm going to mail it to the professor who taught a class I was unfortunate enough to take by the name of, what else, "Popular Culture." To hell with that mush.

James Carrick
Portland, Oregon


Rock On

Norah Vincent's column in last week's issue was the best piece of writing I've read in 10 years in the Voice. You guys are almost as bad as TV in dispensing the pap that passes for left-wing "comment." Most arguments (or positions) in your newspaper are neither made nor proven but asserted, usually hysterically. Please have your staffers read Vincent.

By the way, I also loved Nat Hentoff's column on John Rocker. I can't believe it! Two great pieces in one issue of the Voice.

Shelley Hartman
Bedford, Massachusetts


Shrinking World

Bravo, Nat Hentoff [" It's Not Only John Rocker," February 8]. It seems as if Commissioner Bud Selig and Major League Baseball—and sadly a lot of New Yorkers—are perfectly willing to join Bubba Clinton in the serial violation of the Constitution.

Rocker's comments were, without a doubt, despicable, unwarranted, and definitely stupid. But they were his opinions, and he had the right to speak them, whether or not people liked what he had to say.

Tim Mocarski
Racine, Wisconsin


Dread-Ex

Thank you for the article " Dread Locked" by Joel McQueen [February 1], about Kenneth Dickens's troubles, as a result of his hairstyle, with his employer, Federal Express.

I am a dreadlocked professional employed by a nonprofit in New York City. You would think that after a century of struggle and protest, a simple matter such as how one wears one's hair would not be a reflection of how a person performs a job, or whether that person should continue to hold a job at a mainstream corporation. FedEx should be ashamed of itself—and, in this regard, it should be clear that most companies that tout their "diversity" are still in the Stone Age.

There are many of us who grow our locks in order to accept ourselves, to acknowledge the fact that we do love ourselves and the nappy texture of our hair, despite all that institutional slavery has tried to strip from usas a people.

Clearly, this is discrimination. And the word will get out in the community regarding this practice, and it will hurt the business of FedEx. Simply put, a lot of us who use the service will not put our dollars where we cannot be free.

Franklin Madison
Jersey City, New Jersey


Locked Out

In response to Joel McQueen's article "Dread Locked," I should like to express my condemnation of Federal Express's totalitarian employee policies.

The dilemma faced by former FedEx senior service agent Kenneth Dickens is emblematic of a larger problem: corporate America has far too much influence on societal and cultural norms. A corporation should not have the right to discriminate on the basis of physical appearance.

I find FedEx's actions thoroughly appalling, and I applaud Mr. Dickens's decision to file with the city's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

We all ought to follow his lead and be quick to counter suppression of personal freedom wherever it rears its ugly head.

Mike Clement
Dix Hills, Long Island


Scene, Heard

I'm a black man who is a big hip-hop fan, and I'm moving to your city from Canada next month. I applaud you for printing Guy Trebay's "Homo Thugz Blow Up the Spot: A Gay Hip-Hop Scene Rises in the Bronx" [February 8].

I refuse to believe, based on the the ways MCs freak their flows, that homosexuality is something that doesn't exist in our community. I wouldn't be surprised if, because of this article, more gay MCs came out of the woodwork. I know people who love hip-hop, but can't get past the misogyny and sexism that is so prevalent in this genre. If it is marketed properly, a gay hip-hop band could be huge.

John Britton
Toronto, Ontario
Canada


Hip Da Hop

We need more articles like Guy Trebay's " Homo Thugz Blow Up the Spot." A lot of people ofcolor are misled about same-gender-loving people, so I'm glad that more people who don't fit the "queen," "sissy," or "fag" stereotypes are speaking up about being gay. I don't fit these labels. I'm a black man, I'm attracted to the same gender. I love hip-hop music, and I love my race, as well as others. Please keep articles like this coming.

Desi Arnaz Hyter
Charlotte, North Carolina


Conspicuous Consumption

In the Liquid City column [Voice Choices, February 1], Hugh Garvey proposes that it is "the exceptionally exacting method by which sake's distilled, that appeals to the '90s' 'if it ain't top-shelf it ain't worth it' mentality." Uh, yeah, sure. Except that sake is not distilled; it is brewed. Is that what made it appealing to the '90s' "I don't understand it, but it's expensive, so I must be seen with it" mentality?

Kevin Myers
Brooklyn


Cryptic Con

Re Harvey A. Silverglate's " DVD Desperadoes" [February 8]: The whole DVD and CSS [encryption] issue could have been avoided easily by (a) convincing everybody that the Linux people are also welcome to the party, and (b) ensuring that the price of a DVD actually has something to do with its perceived value.

History shows that many times piracy is a symptom of an underlying cause, which in this case appears to be a marketing problem.

Stephan Eisvogel
Regensburg, Germany


Lovin' Spoonful

I was surprised and touched by Camden Joy's article on Spoon and the fall of '90s white rock [" Total Systems Failure," January 25].

I met Britt Daniel and Jim Eno of Spoon just after they formed their band, and watched them record the "Agony of Lafitte" single in a friend's garage in central Austin. I think the album A Series of Sneaks is close to a classic, and I am surprised that someone else is listening to music (as opposed to listening to what people say about music). Though the music business is in sad shape, take heart. No real musician is ever in it for business reasons. And as long as America still has garages, bedrooms, six-packs, and guitars (or turntables, sitars, and Moogs), real rock and roll will never die.

Phillip Niemeyer
Austin, Texas


Wise Guise

What a shame you let Michael Atkinson interview Frederick Wiseman [" Frederick Wiseman's Fair Game," February 8]. Here you have one of the great documentary filmmakers of all time and Atkinson wants to get in a pissing contest about objectivity. He couldn't leave it alone when Wiseman eloquently responded to his film school whining by saying, "I'm an active participant, just not a very obvious participant." He needed to show us he went to college and learned about deconstruction. And then to snipe at the value of Titicut Follies, a film that helped change the treatment of inmates throughout this country.

It's hard to know what the hell was wrong with Atkinson—maybe Wiseman reminded him of his father and he needed to express his anger at daddy. The unfortunate thing is that he treated Wiseman shabbily, and he wasted a great opportunity for all of us to hear what he might have said.

Paul Quinn
Los Angeles, California

Michael Atkinson replies: That Wiseman was treated "shabbily" would surely be news to Wiseman, just as the involvement of deconstructionism and my father is news to me. This was, rather, a discussion of formal issues that pertain to all documentaries, including Wiseman's Titicut Follies in particular.


CORRECTION

  • In a photo caption that ran with the article "Undeployed" (February 1) the statement, "I guess the NYPD doesn't respect us" was incorrectly attributed to former New York traffic agent Olen Jones. As was made clear in the article, the statement was made by former traffic enforcement agent Charles Mills.
  • Due to an editing error, the article "Home Work" (February 8) stated that domestic worker Maria Vidania left her job with a former employer whom she is now suing last August. Vidania left the job in October.


Global Trade Panel

A discussion of the subject "Global Trade: Has the WTO Lost Its Way?" will be held on February 9 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, 116th Street and Broadway. Participants will include Lori Wallach of Global Trade Watch, Gary Clyde Hufbauer of the Institute for International Economics, and Pat Choate of the Buchanan for President campaign. Admission is free. A Modest Proposal

Norah Vincent, in her new Higher Ed column ["/issues/0005/vincent.shtml"> Hop on Pop," February 8], sneers that the contributors to Seinfeld and Philosophy: A Book About Everything and Nothing are "mostly third-rate philosophers from mostly substandard institutions." Might I ask what qualifies Vincent to make such a damning judgment?

Vincent asserts that "just as Milton doesn't belong in the rave scene, sitcoms don't belong in the canon or the classroom." If only the divide between highbrow and lowbrow were so clean. Many of the Great Books that Vincent presumably would prefer university students to study were popular entertainment in their day. The Odyssey was sung aloud at public gatherings of common folks, and Jonathan Swift's satires often appeared in newspapers. In short, just because something is popular doesn't make it unworthy of study.

That Vincent's so eager to condemn and make crude generalizations raises considerable questions as to her competence to write a column on academia.

Kevin R. Kosar
Ph.D. Candidate in Politics
New York University


Comic Notion

Norah Vincent convincingly suggests the troubles of some strands of research and teaching about popular culture. Admittedly, the notion of Seinfeld as Socratic seems somehow less than enlightened, and the funding of the University of Southern California's new pop entertainment program by TV industry folk leads one to doubt how truly independent the studies of its faculty and students will be.

However, when asserting that "low culture is infiltrating the scholarly world," Vincent telegraphs an ugly case of elitism.

Why should the amusements of the working and middle classes be any less worthy of scholarly inquiry than the favored entertainments of the wealthy? While the "low" texts themselves may appear more simple and less sophisticated than those of "high" culture, the uses to which they are put by those who appreciate them are complex and intriguing. Many of us who do write and teach about popular culture prefer to negotiate these complexities, rather than blindly celebrating all that is popular or contemptuously dismissing it, as Vincent unfortunately has chosen to do.

Katie LeBesco, Assistant Professor
Communication Arts
Marymount Manhattan College


Pop it in the mail

Norah Vincent's column about popular culture in the classroom was right on. I'm going to mail it to the professor who taught a class I was unfortunate enough to take by the name of, what else, "Popular Culture." To hell with that mush.

James Carrick
Portland, Oregon


Rock On

Norah Vincent's column in last week's issue was the best piece of writing I've read in 10 years in the Voice. You guys are almost as bad as TV in dispensing the pap that passes for left-wing "comment." Most arguments (or positions) in your newspaper are neither made nor proven but asserted, usually hysterically. Please have your staffers read Vincent.

By the way, I also loved Nat Hentoff's column on John Rocker. I can't believe it! Two great pieces in one issue of the Voice.

Shelley Hartman
Bedford, Massachusetts


Shrinking World

Bravo, Nat Hentoff [" It's Not Only John Rocker," February 8]. It seems as if Commissioner Bud Selig and Major League Baseball—and sadly a lot of New Yorkers—are perfectly willing to join Bubba Clinton in the serial violation of the Constitution.

Rocker's comments were, without a doubt, despicable, unwarranted, and definitely stupid. But they were his opinions, and he had the right to speak them, whether or not people liked what he had to say.

Tim Mocarski
Racine, Wisconsin


Dread-Ex

Thank you for the article " Dread Locked" by Joel McQueen [February 1], about Kenneth Dickens's troubles, as a result of his hairstyle, with his employer, Federal Express.

I am a dreadlocked professional employed by a nonprofit in New York City. You would think that after a century of struggle and protest, a simple matter such as how one wears one's hair would not be a reflection of how a person performs a job, or whether that person should continue to hold a job at a mainstream corporation. FedEx should be ashamed of itself—and, in this regard, it should be clear that most companies that tout their "diversity" are still in the Stone Age.

There are many of us who grow our locks in order to accept ourselves, to acknowledge the fact that we do love ourselves and the nappy texture of our hair, despite all that institutional slavery has tried to strip from usas a people.

Clearly, this is discrimination. And the word will get out in the community regarding this practice, and it will hurt the business of FedEx. Simply put, a lot of us who use the service will not put our dollars where we cannot be free.

Franklin Madison
Jersey City, New Jersey


Locked Out

In response to Joel McQueen's article "Dread Locked," I should like to express my condemnation of Federal Express's totalitarian employee policies.

The dilemma faced by former FedEx senior service agent Kenneth Dickens is emblematic of a larger problem: corporate America has far too much influence on societal and cultural norms. A corporation should not have the right to discriminate on the basis of physical appearance.

I find FedEx's actions thoroughly appalling, and I applaud Mr. Dickens's decision to file with the city's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

We all ought to follow his lead and be quick to counter suppression of personal freedom wherever it rears its ugly head.

Mike Clement
Dix Hills, Long Island


Scene, Heard

I'm a black man who is a big hip-hop fan, and I'm moving to your city from Canada next month. I applaud you for printing Guy Trebay's "Homo Thugz Blow Up the Spot: A Gay Hip-Hop Scene Rises in the Bronx" [February 8].

I refuse to believe, based on the the ways MCs freak their flows, that homosexuality is something that doesn't exist in our community. I wouldn't be surprised if, because of this article, more gay MCs came out of the woodwork. I know people who love hip-hop, but can't get past the misogyny and sexism that is so prevalent in this genre. If it is marketed properly, a gay hip-hop band could be huge.

John Britton
Toronto, Ontario
Canada


Hip Da Hop

We need more articles like Guy Trebay's " Homo Thugz Blow Up the Spot." A lot of people ofcolor are misled about same-gender-loving people, so I'm glad that more people who don't fit the "queen," "sissy," or "fag" stereotypes are speaking up about being gay. I don't fit these labels. I'm a black man, I'm attracted to the same gender. I love hip-hop music, and I love my race, as well as others. Please keep articles like this coming.

Desi Arnaz Hyter
Charlotte, North Carolina


Conspicuous Consumption

In the Liquid City column [Voice Choices, February 1], Hugh Garvey proposes that it is "the exceptionally exacting method by which sake's distilled, that appeals to the '90s' 'if it ain't top-shelf it ain't worth it' mentality." Uh, yeah, sure. Except that sake is not distilled; it is brewed. Is that what made it appealing to the '90s' "I don't understand it, but it's expensive, so I must be seen with it" mentality?

Kevin Myers
Brooklyn


Cryptic Con

Re Harvey A. Silverglate's " DVD Desperadoes" [February 8]: The whole DVD and CSS [encryption] issue could have been avoided easily by (a) convincing everybody that the Linux people are also welcome to the party, and (b) ensuring that the price of a DVD actually has something to do with its perceived value.

History shows that many times piracy is a symptom of an underlying cause, which in this case appears to be a marketing problem.

Stephan Eisvogel
Regensburg, Germany


Lovin' Spoonful

I was surprised and touched by Camden Joy's article on Spoon and the fall of '90s white rock [" Total Systems Failure," January 25].

I met Britt Daniel and Jim Eno of Spoon just after they formed their band, and watched them record the "Agony of Lafitte" single in a friend's garage in central Austin. I think the album A Series of Sneaks is close to a classic, and I am surprised that someone else is listening to music (as opposed to listening to what people say about music). Though the music business is in sad shape, take heart. No real musician is ever in it for business reasons. And as long as America still has garages, bedrooms, six-packs, and guitars (or turntables, sitars, and Moogs), real rock and roll will never die.

Phillip Niemeyer
Austin, Texas


Wise Guise

What a shame you let Michael Atkinson interview Frederick Wiseman [" Frederick Wiseman's Fair Game," February 8]. Here you have one of the great documentary filmmakers of all time and Atkinson wants to get in a pissing contest about objectivity. He couldn't leave it alone when Wiseman eloquently responded to his film school whining by saying, "I'm an active participant, just not a very obvious participant." He needed to show us he went to college and learned about deconstruction. And then to snipe at the value of Titicut Follies, a film that helped change the treatment of inmates throughout this country.

It's hard to know what the hell was wrong with Atkinson—maybe Wiseman reminded him of his father and he needed to express his anger at daddy. The unfortunate thing is that he treated Wiseman shabbily, and he wasted a great opportunity for all of us to hear what he might have said.

Paul Quinn
Los Angeles, California

Michael Atkinson replies: That Wiseman was treated "shabbily" would surely be news to Wiseman, just as the involvement of deconstructionism and my father is news to me. This was, rather, a discussion of formal issues that pertain to all documentaries, including Wiseman's Titicut Follies in particular.


CORRECTION

  • In a photo caption that ran with the article "Undeployed" (February 1) the statement, "I guess the NYPD doesn't respect us" was incorrectly attributed to former New York traffic agent Olen Jones. As was made clear in the article, the statement was made by former traffic enforcement agent Charles Mills.
  • Due to an editing error, the article "Home Work" (February 8) stated that domestic worker Maria Vidania left her job with a former employer whom she is now suing last August. Vidania left the job in October.


Global Trade Panel

A discussion of the subject "Global Trade: Has the WTO Lost Its Way?" will be held on February 9 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, 116th Street and Broadway. Participants will include Lori Wallach of Global Trade Watch, Gary Clyde Hufbauer of the Institute for International Economics, and Pat Choate of the Buchanan for President campaign. Admission is free.

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