By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
Re James Ridgeway's "Manhattan's Milosevic" [August 21]: The Foreign Press Foundation has for quite some time been advocating what the Voiceis saying now, and wholeheartedly supports it. Since U.S. journalist Charles Horman was killed in Chile shortly after Pinochet grabbed power, I've said there ought to be some justice. I was there as a correspondent for Dutch and Belgian media from 1971 to 1974, and for 35 years I've been explaining that my friends and other people died because of "good old Henry," and that he should be hauled before an international tribunal. Our organization is working to get Kissinger, et al., to the International Court of Justice in the Hague.
OUR TROOPS IN EAST TIMOR
Perhaps James Ridgeway ["Manhattan's Milosevic"] could explain how he arrived at the startling assertion that "U.S. troops attempted to quell" the Indonesian massacre in East Timor after its 1999 referendum on independence. In fact, the Clinton administration did nothing to stop the violence, having supplied the arms with which it was carried out. This is the more reprehensible in that no U.S. troops would have been required; a word from the paymasters in Washington would have been enough to prevent a bloodbath. But the word came only after, in journalist John Pilger's words, "East Timor had been devastated and depopulated by Indonesian-run death squads."
James Ridgeway replies: While "quell" was likely a poor word choice to describe the actions of U.S. troops in response to the massacre in East Timor, it's important to note that Clinton did place some 200 soldiers in the region as part of the peacekeeping effort. He might not have done much, but he didn't do "nothing" either.
J.A. Lobbia's strong piece on Peter Vallone ["The King of Queens"], which ran in your August 21 issue, regrettably repeats a canard that apparently originated in City Council Speaker Peter Vallone's officewhich was reiterated in much of the print mediathat in 1999 "the council was under court order to rewrite the lead laws."
The facts are otherwise: As one of the attorneys who was involved in the longstanding NYCCELPv. Koch class action concerning the city's failure to protect our children from lead poisoning, I can categorically state that there was no such court order. Rather, the city administration had been under an order since 1990 to enforce New York City's lead poisoning prevention laws, and had been held in contempt of court since 1993 for not doing so.
It apparently served the council leadership's agenda in 1999 to perpetuate the myth of a sudden new court mandate directed at the council as a cynical fig leaf for the ramming through of an ill-considered law that greatly weakened children's protection from lead poisoning.
Matthew J. Chachère
Northern Manhattan Improvement Corp.
UP THE DOWNTOWN STAIRCASE
Alisa Solomon ["Let's Fake a Deal," August 7] makes it sounds as though Suzan-Lori Parks has had to navigate a perilous course between the Scylla & Charybdis of uptown and downtown establishments. The crooked road of genius (Blake).
First, there is no downtown establishment because there is not money to establish one. Downtown is what is un-established.
Second, Parks has made very clear (in her interview with Bonnie Metzgar in the program for her play In the Blood and in Don Shewey's recent, oleaginous feature on Parks's latest play, Topdog/Underdog, in The New York Times) her intention to distance herself cleanly and completely from her former associates downtown. In this regard, Parks has followed the straight-arrow and time-honored road of improvement (and career). More power to her.
What has been lost as Parks enters the intellectual orbit (such as it is) of Timescritic Ben Brantley is one more opportunity to discuss ideas (aside from the obvious) and true differences of opinion about the theaterwhat it can and cannot do, and what it is for.
A parting thought: One thing you cannot blame us white, effete intellectuals for is the current state of the empty wasteland of American theater (as we have been pretty much locked out of it). It is for the most part like the plays one sees at the Public Theater: slightly edgy, slightly political, slightly surrealistic, just plain slight.
FOLLOW OUR LEID
Cynthia Cotts's Press Clips item on WBAI ["WBAI Is Burning"] in the August 14 Village Voicemisrepresented recent events at the station and throughout the Pacifica network. Lost in the clamor and uproar over personnel and programming changes is what we are actually trying to do.
Ms. Cotts characterized interim general manager Utrice Leid as personally vindictive, dispensing arbitrary justice according to whim. However, we are not "running wild" at WBAI, despite a dissident Pacifica board member's claims. We are simply trying to ensure that WBAI remains an energetic and creative voice for the progressive community.
Protesters have besieged WBAI. Employees and volunteers regularly receive threatening phone calls and e-mails. Ms. Cotts seems incredulous that we have taken security precautions because of these incidents. The fact is, many employees and volunteers fear for their safety as a result of the climate of intimidation that has been fostered by the dissidents. We must ensure the safety of our employees.
Unfortunately, this problem is not unique to WBAI. Across the nation, dissidents have systematically harassed and threatened Pacifica management and board members, and in several alarming cases resorted to violence to further their narrow agenda. The recent resignations of several board members after the relentless harassment of their families and the disruption of their professional lives have only emboldened the dissidents to continue their campaign of intimidation.
WBAI is as committed to our listeners as we have ever been. Our focus remains on our missionindependent community radio for the people. But the station also is committed to adapting to the challenges of radio in the 21st century to ensure the survival of this important public service. Change can be painful, but without it, Pacifica faces irrelevance.
In the era of corporate media consolidation, the need for WBAI and Pacifica has never been greater. WBAI is working hard to produce coherent and socially relevant programming that focuses on the unique information needs of our listeners. After all, community radio should be about serving the needs of those who listen to the programs, not those who produce them.
MAMATAS ON THE MAT
After reading Nick Mamatas's article "Everything's Fake but the Deaths" [August 14], I am disgusted not only as a WWF fan, but also as a person. Stating that "half a dozen active wrestlers and wrestling personalities died during [a] ratings war . . . as punishing road schedules, painkillers, and ever more fantastic stunts were offered to television audiences hungry for the spectacle of gladiators," and following it up with the article Mamatas wrote, is preposterous.
The facts are that, with the possible exception of Owen Hart, the deaths that Mamatas discussed were not due to professional wrestling. Two of them were due to addiction. One was due to heart failure. One was due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Are we to blame rock music for the death of Kurt Cobain because he was an addict with a gun?
I don't think so.
In "Everything's Fake but the Deaths," Nick Mamatas wrote that when Owen Hart fell to his death in Kansas City's Kemper Arena the lights were down and the audience didn't see him fall. That's false.
I was one of 17,000 people at that event, and I definitely saw this man fall and die in that ring. I can still hear the loud thud his body made as he hit the mat and lay there motionless. I saw emergency crews work on him with no success. Hart was dead as soon as he hit that mat. And even though they didn't tell the audience, we knew! Also, the lights weren't down. You could clearly see him plummet to the mat. He looked like a rag doll. At first, that's what most of us thought . . . another wrestling gimmick.
Kansas City, Missouri
Only one of the deaths mentioned in Nick Mamatas's article occurred during a wrestling event, and it didn't happen while Owen Hart was wrestling. The reason behind Hart's fall from the rafters of Kansas City's Kemper Arena was an improper hookup. The WWF had trained Hart to hook up the harness and do the maneuver; however, the carabiner reportedly was improperly closed. Also, I'd like to point out that Chyna was not released by the WWF. She asked for more money, and when she was told that the WWF didn't believe she was worth that much, she broke off negotiations.
Nick Mamatas replies: Wrestlers have no off-season and perform risky stunts. One can presume that painkiller and steroid abuse is independent of this, but since there is little time to recuperate from injuries or to hone physiques, the causal link between wrestling and drug abuse is clear. Concerning Hart's death, a reported $18 million in damages suggests that the WWF didn't take all necessary precautions. Reports from the scene contend that nobody witnessed Hart's fall.
MAN TO MAN
Chris Nutter's article "Post-Straight: How Gay Men Are Remodeling Regular Guys" [August 14] struck a chord of disappointment in my heterosexual female heart. Although the piece provides hope that brutish male behavior could someday be molded into the dreamy Pottery Barn standard of life, it bothers me that once again the female perspective can only be validated by the male voice.
It seems that the trend to be "homo savvy" is a new form of patriarchy that merely echoes and pinpoints what women have been saying for years about "regular guy" behavior. When I am hollered at, catcalled, ogled in bars, jeered on the bus by men, my protests (and hope for reform) are less effective than when gay men instruct hetero males, "Hey, not cool, buddy."
Although I find it admirable that some heterosexual men can get over their qualms about gay men, and can talk and socialize without pretense, I believe that this so-called "post-straight" trend is disheartening to the female masses.
San Francisco, California
Re Chris Nutter's article: Hurray for these bright straight men. As a woman I have always found the meat-locker mentality boring and annoying. A few years ago I developed my first real friendship with a gay male and have surrounded myself with these intelligent, sensitive, and cultured individuals ever since. Straight men have a lot to learn from their gay counterparts, and it pleases me to read articles such as this one.
Re "The Black Book" [August 7] by Miles Marshall Lewis: I agree with Nelson George in his closing comment about the black imprints at major publishing houses: that if they "all are closed down in five years and they've spawned three good writers who'll have a constituency and continue going on, then they'll have served their purpose."
The argument about high literary pursuits versus more common populist material is such a nonproductive one, particularly for us unknown African American writers, who need every possible opportunity to be read. It is also such a facile argument for well-known writers to indulge in.
The American marketplace is laden with invaluable as well as mediocre commodities. There will always be a market for junk and a market for high art.
In his review of Redman ["What Fresh Sell," August 14], Chris Ryan refers to the rapper as "Jersey City's pride and joy." Redman is from Newark, not Jersey City. He constantly reminds the listener of this. It's a minor detail, but not to his many fans.
The sidebar to James Ridgeway's article "Manhattan's Milosevic" ("Harms and the Man," August 21) incorrectly stated that East Timor won its independence from the Dutch. East Timor was a Portuguese colony.