Lone Star Stand-Up

Thanks for Jennifer Gonnerman's article on stand-up comic Randy Credico's fight against the Rockefeller drug laws ["Seizing the Spotlight," March 20]. Credico has also been influential as far away as our little town of Tulia, Texas (population 5000), where he helped expose a racist drug sting which indicted 43 people for selling powder cocaine. Forty of those indicted were African American. Others were closely associated with the African American community. Thanks, Randy, for helping us expose that injustice.

Charles Kiker
Tulia, Texas

Asthma Attack

With reference to Sharon Lerner's article "Air Wars" [March 27], I want to declare a citizen's war against state governments that willingly and knowingly jeopardize their citizens' health, as Governor George Pataki is doing in New York and as my former governor, George W. Bush, did in Texas!

I had asthma prior to moving to Dallas, but in Dallas I got so ill that I was using anti-asthmatic medication around the clock. Bush's first act was to suspend the operations of auto emission test stations that had been built all over Texas. When Bush canceled that effort, saying that he wanted voluntary compliance, the state was immediately sued for $160 million for the lost income and cost associated with the construction and staffing of those stations.

Fortunately, after three years, my husband took a job transfer to New Mexico, which got us out of the toxic air of Dallas. I am now functioning well, no longer unable to work, and breathing much better in the high desert air of Albuquerque. I say good riddance to voluntary compliance and grandfathered polluting plants.

Mimi Adams
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Life & Death Struggle

In "Queer on Death Row" [March 20], Richard Goldstein writes: "After all, a death sentence is never mandatory. No matter how heinous the crime, a jury can choose to spare the murderer's life."

Well, true. Death sentences are indeed imposed by juries, not on them. However, in Texas, where Calvin Burdine awaits lethal injection, juries cannot sentence a person to life without parole. In capital murder cases, the jury has two options: death, or a life sentence for which the person may be paroled after 40 years. During the past several legislative sessions (and the current one, which ends in May), several legislators introduced bills that would permit life sentences without parole, thus allowing for the possibility of a reduced number of death sentences in punishment-happy Texas. None of the bills were passed in previous sessions, and those that are up in this session are not expected to pass.

Amanda Toering
Davis, California

Ralph Stanley, Where Art Thou?

In Robert Cantwell's review of the soundtrack for O Brother, Where Art Thou? ["Dream of a Miner's Child," March 20], he wrote: "What can the Coens have been thinking when they planted Ralph Stanley's voice . . . under the red satin hood of a Klan Wizard, chillingly declaiming the verses of the hard-shell dirge 'Oh Death'?"

I, too, was initially horrified, even though I knew to expect it before I saw the movie. I also shook my head at the use of Dan Tyminski to sing Stanley's signature song, "Man of Constant Sorrow." But plot sometimes dictates these sorts of choices. Can't blame the Coens for not wanting the voice of a 74-year-old man coming out of George Clooney. The Klan scene is arguably the movie's most powerful, due in no small part to the song and Stanley's treatment of it. Short of the late Roscoe Holcomb, can you think of another male singer who could have given it a more otherworldly edge? A disturbing experience for Stanley fans, yes, but a plus for the scene and the movie.

Lisa Holzer

Traffik Jam

As a writer, I am extremely concerned about the issue of artistic integrity as discussed in Mark Holcomb's review of Traffik ["Trade-Offs," March 20]. I am also painfully aware of marketability (his comments re: Traffic), and the fact that actors, writers, and directors cannot live on artistic integrity alone. A script must be marketable to become a film, and a film must have box office appeal to keep other creative people working. For our "pure" artistic outlets, we rely on indies, but the fact is, most writers and actors want to make and/or sell big films. My point: Judge a work for what it is.

Khiki Cavannarro
Asheville, North Carolina

A Myrmidon in Minneapolis

I picked up the February 27 Voice and turned to Michael Feingold's weekly essay only to find a headline that said: "Over 30: After Three Decades in the Reviewer's Chair, What's Left to Say? Lots," and I thought oh God, no! He's gonna quit. I was relieved to find that the piece was a summing up so far, not a farewell. People don't often, I have come to tardily realize, get the praise they deserve. That is especially true for our country's artists and an almost unheard of phenomenon for critics. Feingold's essay reminded me of how much I have enjoyed his opinions of the theater for many years, and I belatedly thank him. His knowledge of theater history and traditions, his appreciation of its uniqueness and idiosyncrasies, and his evaluations of its more recent growth pains (the emphasis often being on the pain) have inspired me. And challenged me. And pissed me off. I live in Minneapolis—a city about whose theater Feingold has made a crack or two from time to time (not without justice).

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