By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
According to Larry Blumenfeld ["Burns-Eye View of Jazz," January 16], Ken Burns calls those critics who find fault with his PBS Jazzseries "gnats." His pal Stanley Crouch refers to them as "fleas" in a recent Daily Newscolumn. Do we see an echo here of the practice of totalitarian governments calling opponents "insects"? One would think so, given the series' Soviet-style method of treating the pioneers of the jazz-rock fusion movement of the 1970s as nonpersons, and the refusal of the mainstream press to publish pieces that expose the discriminatory spirit behind Burns's documentary. Down with the jazz police!
EVE OF DESTRUCTION
Re "Kind of Blue" by Richard B. Woodward [January 16]: The irony of the current sad state of jazz in America is that those who thought they were saving jazz have been the ones who are killing it. The neo-traditionalists of the '80s thought they could save jazz by putting four walls around it and trying to stop the clock at 1967. But anyone who knows jazz history realizes that jazz has been an ever-expanding universe, and those who have expanded it have been invariably attacked for trying to destroy it. Go through old reviews and you'll find among those accused of killing jazz Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, and Miles Davis, to name a few.
The difference in the American scene during the 1980s was that these people were put in a position to prevent the next generation of "jazz destroyers" from making records and getting reviews. The current crop of destroyers is at work in Europe, but can't find any work in this country outside of New York.
Right now it looks like the only real future for jazz in the States would be for these artists to stage a revolt similar to that of the Jazz Composer's Guild in 1964 by putting out their own records and promoting their own concerts.
Los Angeles, California
James Hannaham ["Awake and Talk," January 23] obviously had some pretty strong feelings about Steven Berkoff's show Shakespeare's Villains at the Public Theater. Some of us feel strongly that Hannaham should know whereof he speaks to a great enough degree to know that Macbeth did not have what Hannaham describes as "clouds lowering on his house," nor did he march "a dreadful march"that was Richard III.
Hannaham also seems to have missed Berkoff's point about "political correctness" as it applies to actors and their roles. If that is to mean anything at all, it must be universally applicable. I have seen Titus Andronicus beautifully played by an Asian actor and a female Antony in Julius Caesar, whom I was determined to dislike, but who won me over. How many excellent Othellos have we been denied because no one dare cast a Caucasian in the role? Should the Royal Shakespeare Company's Mark Rylance not have been permitted to play Cleopatra? He is, after all (gasp) male.
As for Berkoff's "one (gasp) word (gasp) at (gasp) a (gasp) time iambic fits," perhaps it makes him indulgent, but at least through them he shows his love of the verse and its infinite possibilities. But in order to appreciate him on that level, Hannaham might want to first learn to tell Richard III and Macbeth apart. One challenge at a time, James.
James Hannaham replies: Given Berkoff's histrionics, I'll bet Harold Bloom couldn't tell Richard III from Macbeth. But thanks for the free dramaturgy. (NB: The error's corrected online.) As for incorrectness of the political sort, I say let's level the playing field just a little before whining about the limited opportunities for Caucasians in Shakespeare.
Many thanks to Janet McDonald for her ode to the "Project Girls" [January 23]. I am an alumnus of Taft Projects in East Harlem, and I too remember scenes from my youth: doormen, elevator operators, milk delivery, and a sense of community. My family was so happy to have been accepted there back in the early '60s. However, there were subtle changes throughout my childhood, and at some point I began to feel unsafe. I moved away in 1980, but go back periodically to see family and friends. It's nice to know there was, and still is, a vibrant group of folks holding it down in the projects.
Teaneck, New Jersey
In response to Janet McDonald's "Project Girls" [January 23]: I'm a white project girl of the baby-boomer generation. The projects I lived in were in eastern Pennsylvania on the steep incline of a riverbank. I moved there with my mother and sister in the mid '50s. Eventually my father reappeared from the army. My aunt, uncle, and two deaf cousins also lived in the projects.
A part of me never forgets that experience, which provided the first bit of stability for my family. I remember the kindergarten with sour milk, the way my mother fussed over dresses that she sewed for us, the hunger for food, and escaping into books.
Like Janet McDonald, I have come farnot in riches, but in a creative and good way. Hello, ladies of Farragut Houses, from Hanover Acres.
BYE BAI BLUES
As a producer of numerous shows, I have seen the streaming to the center at PBS firsthand. Programs that I produced in the '80s, like Crisis to CrisisBarbara Jordan, will never be funded again by the czars at CPB.
San Diego, California
Wayne Barrett's article concerning the upcoming municipal elections ["2001: An Election Odyssey," January 16] left me with few expectations for any significant changes. Too many term-limited councilmembers believe their offices are an inheritance to be passed on to family members or staffers. Others are seeking higher office. The same old faces will continue dominating city government.
Why not expand the City Council to 59 members? District boundaries could be coterminous with those of the 59 New York community boards. Delivery of many city services is based upon them. Most councilmembers are part-timers, doing little more than naming streets after the dead. Community boards tend to better reflect neighborhoods than do the gerrymandered City Council districts. Smaller districts could support real diversity in membership.
Also, much work performed by the public advocate overlaps with work done by the city comptroller and other agencies. Why not save taxpayers some money and abolish the office?
In Peter Noel's article about the trial of Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs ["Daddy Under the Gun," January 9], a top witness's connection to the FBI was mentioned only in a quote from Combs's lawyer. Once again, a Voice writer has failed to show the full extent of foul play by police against a rap star. A January 10 article by Barbara Ross and Leo Standora in the Daily News mentioned that the police did a test on Combs's hands to see if he fired a gun, yet didn't send it to the lab for results. The same article also presented the credibility problem of a witness who accused Combs of firing a gun.
Furthermore, although Noel referred to Tupac Shakur's New York trial several times, he failed to mention allegations of police and prosecutor misconduct, such as erasing tapes supporting Shakur, keeping pictures from the defense team that contradicted statements by women who had accused him of sexual abuse, and police links to a codefendant.
Other foul play involving rappers that has gone unmentioned in the Voice includes award-winning Las Vegas Sun crime reporter Cathy Scott's assertion that the FBI was "allegedly watching both Tupac and Biggie [Smalls, who was on Combs's Bad Boy label] the nights they were killed." Finally, Noel mentioned Wu Tang Clan's Ol' Dirty Bastard, but failed to discuss a grand jury finding that undercover police illegally shot at ODB for no reason.
Such repeated actions by the police should lead someone to file suit on what looks, at the very least, to be a pattern of racial profiling of black rap stars.
Re "Confessions of a Gangsta Rapper" [January 23]: For Peter Noel to suggest that Larry "Biz" Pagett is like Sean "Puffy" Combs is ridiculous. I do not admire Puffy or what he stands for, but he is no gangster. All you have [in the Combs case] is a renegade D.A. who wants his name in lights. The Voice would gain more respect from its readers if you did not publish a garbage story about someone who is nothing but an uneducated gangsta wannabe rapper from Flatbush.
Les G. Matthews
I was thrilled to see Carol Cooper's article on artist and comics historian Trina Robbins ["Pretty Persuasion," January 9]. Robbins provided my first instruction in comic art when I was a teenager taking summer school classes, and continued to mentor me during my years as a full-time indie cartoonist. We now work together as editor and contributing writer on Powerpuff Girls at DC Comics.
Whether it's getting quoted out of context in a comics documentary, having an interview mysteriously cut short by misprinting in the comics trade press, or just plain getting slagged for her advocacy of women working in comics, Trina Robbins has always gotten short shrift from the neurotic, inbred comics industry. It's nice to see her getting the critical attention she deserves.
Thanks for Jeff Ryan's piece on female sports reporters [A Woman's Place," January 23]. I'm one of them and, unfortunately, there are still a lot of issues out there for us to deal withwe need a little inspiration now and then.
Re the death of Gregory Corso [January 30]: I remember attending a reading at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado, about 1974. Ginsberg, Burroughs, Ed Sanders, Anne Waldman, and at one particularly quiet moment a scratchy, cranky, nasally voice called out from the dark end of the auditorium for the poets onstage to be real: "Be poets! Not a bunch of kiss-asses." It was Gregory Corso.
The next day I ran into Sanders and asked him what he thought about the incident. "Ah, Gregory," he said. "He's our angel, you know. Sometimes he's the Dark Angel, sometimes the Angel of Light." Now that dichotomy is over. He's limned as a lunar eclipse.
Avon, New Jersey
CORRECTIONSIn James Ridgeway's Mondo Washington column (January 30), factual information for the item "Franken Shrub: Bush's Ties to Monsanto" was inadvertently not attributed to the Web site www.notmilk.com. In Nat Hentoff's column "The Man Who Stood Up to Bobby Kennedy" (January 30), the amount of time the late New York mayor John Lindsay served in Congress was given incorrectly. Lindsay served four terms in the House of Representatives.