By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
In your endorsement of Ralph Nader's presidential bid ["A Green Light for Nader," November 7], you write that "safeguarding abortion rights is not about the Supreme Court, but about maintaining feminist activism," and cite me as someone who argues that "access to reproductive services has actually declined under Clinton, because the movement that established them has waned." You must be confusing me with Barbara Ehrenreich. In my rather too many Nation columns about Nader, I argued that the many nominations and appointments made by the president not just to the Supreme Court but also the federal appeals courts, as well as to the offices of attorney general, head of the FDA, and hundreds of other positions, have had a great deal of effect on abortion rights and access. It's true that a vibrant pro-choice activism is key, but to dismiss the importance of the entire legal and governmental apparatus surrounding abortion strikes me as quite mad. I doubt very much that Ralph Nader would treat his own constitutional rights so lightly, and I said as much in my Nation column.
Ralph The Righteous
Re Nat Hentoff's post-election article "Ralph Nader Keeps Democracy Alive" [November 21]: Which is sadder? Nader's sanctimonious self-righteousness or the pathological inability of his supporters to admit their error? Contorted analysis can't disguise their vanity and folly. To gain a cheap rush of moral purity, they may have poisoned the wells for us all. Typically, they are unwilling to acknowledge any responsibility.
Well, we knew from the start that responsibility wasn't quite their thing. Let the rationales roll on. Greens, go down.
Thanks to Nat Hentoff for an inspiring and well-written article defending the only true choice we had for president, Ralph Nader.
Cheerleading For Gore
Some unnamed Voicestaffers sum up their dissenting November 7 editorial cheerleading for Gore ["Nader: Unsafe on Any Issue"] by urging not only a vote for him but also a cautionary "movement to make him do what is right," tacitly acknowledging his longstanding tendency to do what is wrong.
Too bad there was no such movement to stop Gore and Clinton from ramming through NAFTA, betraying lesbians and gays in the military, destroying welfare, and choosing a running mate who backed curbs on affirmative action in California. Reagan and Bush could only dream of doing these things: Clinton and Gore accomplished many of them.
Contrary to the dissenters, the Voicegot it right when it said, "Gore and the machinery he represents will never get us anywhere we ultimately want to go. The only way to achieve real equality is to build the left."
To AFL-CIO president John Sweeney and anyone else "seething" over the election ["Dark Victory," Richard Goldstein, November 21]: Instead of whining about Ralph Nader and the 2.6 million people who voted their conscience, why not focus on the 50 million voters who stayed home? They're the reason Gore lost.
Ah, the advantages of the erudite Michael Feingold's long and lovely memory! I was very pleased to see his acknowledgment of my play about Alice James, Signs of Life, in his review of Susan Sontag's play on the same subject ["Sick of Fancy," November 21].
Signs of Life, which is included in my play collection, Signs of Life: Six Comedies of Menace, published by Wesleyan University Press, has been consistently produced and taught for the last 20 years. It has as its central refrain a tea party peopled with historical figuresas, apparently, does Ms. Sontag's much later work. This, needless to say, is the kind of artistic "coincidence" that keeps writers grinding their teeth into the wee hours.
Sometime in the mid 1980s, Ms. Sontag asked to borrow a copy of the Samuel French edition of Signs of Lifefrom me, andas a very flattered, young (well, younger) playwrightI sent it to her. I have not read or seen her play Alice in Bed (tolerance has its limits), and since the works are apparently very different in other respects, I make no representation as to her play's provenance (who can say which beat of the fork scrambles the egg?). But I do have a confession of my own to make.
Perhaps this recognition from me will inspire a similar one from Ms. Sontagor perhaps, at long last, she'll simply return my borrowed playscript.
In response to Lara Pellegrinelli's article on Jazz at Lincoln Center ["Dig Boy Dig," November 14]: It's very hard to maintain the integrity of the music under the kind of harsh scrutiny Wynton Marsalis has received. I don't envy Marsalis at all. I've seen Jazz at Lincoln Center many times, and he has had white musicians in the band. Bassist Ben Wolfe is only one.
As a jazz musician, I think what's really in question here is the integrity of the music. Many of Marsalis's critics would like him to include fusion/smooth players in his concert series. This is totally against Marsalis's philosophy of what jazz is, based on jazz traditions. If Jazz at Lincoln Center is going to be about preserving the jazz tradition and art form, performers of fusion and instrumental pop should not be endorsed in those veins of music. Imagine, if you will, Kenny G. at Lincoln Center.
I also understand where Marsalis is coming from on the age question. In jazz you have a lot of well-established older musicians. In an economy that only rewards artistic endeavors that make big money for the recording industry, very few younger musicians are getting a chance and quite a few are losing their recording contracts because of redlining practices, which require jazz artists to sell a certain number of CDs. If jazz is going to prosper artistically, room must be made for the younger generation. If not, the form could be largely lost when older musicians die. (Also, jazz may not be able to survive based on its popularity, so it's necessary to ensure that musicians get work.)
That said, I would like to add that I think nonvisual auditions, with criteria that speak to one's ability to articulate swing and the tradition of the music, would alleviate much of the criticism of Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center. I also believe that jazz in general always has been a chauvinistic culture.
Frank T. Williams IV
Re Lara Pellegrinelli's article "Dig Boy Dig": Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center executive producer Rob Gibson defend JLC's anti-woman hiring practices with the same excuses whites have always made for discriminating against minorities. It's astounding that these intelligent men fail to recognize the folly, lack of originality, and hollowness of their justifications. Yet how beautiful it would have been if, instead of digging in their heels, they had opened up their minds and embraced the opportunity to approach the problem from a perspective not previously considered. After all, that's what jazz musicians do.
Off The Beaten Path
Wista Jeanne Johnson ["Abuses and Power," November 14] reports that misogyny is a strong component of men's violence against women and must be targeted in prevention programs. I would like to point out that intimate-partner violence is not perpetrated solely by men against women. Since the rates of partner violence are approximately equal in heterosexual and homosexual couples (about 25 to 33 percent, as reported in the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project report mentioned in Johnson's article), it is important not to limit the causes of domestic violence to misogyny. Focusing on misogyny as the sole social cause ignores other factors that lead people to abuse their partners, such as low self-esteem and having a history of abuse in their families.
The emphasis on misogyny may also perpetuate the silence surrounding intimate-partner violence among gays and lesbians. Gay men and lesbians, as well as transgender people, face incredible hurdles getting support from many domestic-violence shelters and agencies, as well as from friends and families who do not believe domestic violence is a problem for them. A lot of work needs to be done to prevent intimate-partner violence and to support those in abusive situations. We can start by stopping the perpetuation of the myth that misogyny is the sole cause of domestic violence.
I read with pleasure Gary Giddins's piece on Sonny Rollins [Weatherbird, November 21]. Giddins mentions "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square." He may be interested to know that Sonny always includes at least a nodding reference to this tune when he plays London. Just as there is always a bit of "La Vie en Rose" when he plays in Paris. A nice touch and his way of making people feel at home!
As the director of the Czech Center of New York, I enjoyed Elliott Stein's article on the series of Czech films at the Brooklyn Academy of Music ["Visionary Frescoes of Youth Gone Wild," November 21]. However, I was disappointed by the lack of mention of our organization as the main partner in this endeavor.
I found Donna Ladd's article about the pro-Bush rally in West Palm Beach a bit off ["Buchanan Country," November 28]. As someone who was there, I can tell you that the group was having a rather good time, not giving off the angry attitude that Ladd described. And as Ladd herself pointed out, there was only one Confederate flag flying. Yes, there was a small neo-Nazi group, but they were very isolated and did not engage with the rally. They stood on their side of the street far away from everybody. Don't taint us like we were supporting them!
Grim And Bear It
I say good for J.J. Johnson and the Keepandbeararms.com Web site ["Puke and Shoot," Donna Ladd, November 21]. That The Village Voice allows these people to reflect their ideology, albeit colored sans context and with a liberal taint, tells me there is still hope for a nation that may remain truly diverse. They are practicing their rights to speak freely, and to keep and bear arms, and no matter how people with differing opinions may not like it, they are bound to allow them to say such things, or else play the tyrant. Thank you for printing this article. I look forward to reading more about these folks in future issues.
Craig Van Wagenen
'Women Writing Women' Gala
A 10th-anniversary celebration of the monthly Women Writing Women's Lives Seminar will take place on Friday, December 8, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the City University Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan. Speakers, readers, and commentators will include Louise Bernikow, Shareen Brysac, Barbara McManus, Honor Moore, Nell Painter, Carol Stanger, Susan Hertog, Jean Fagan Yellin, Blanche Wiesen Cook, Bell Gale Chevigny, and Rachel Brownstein. Admission is free for CUNY students; $25 for non-students. For information, call 212-817-8215.