By Albert Samaha
By Steve Weinstein
By Devon Maloney
By Tessa Stuart
By Alison Flowers
By Albert Samaha
By Jesse Jarnow
By Eric Tsetsi
Five Borough Bicycle Club
HICK HOP I was disturbed by the racist, reactionary, and frankly bizarre article about Southern hip-hop I encountered on your Web site ["Self-Hating Hicks," December 4]. Aside from showcasing the author's dangerous misconceptions about what century this is, what purpose is served by this extended rant extolling white (and even more ridiculous, European) artistic and moral supremacy? The sneering tone of this bafflingly pigheaded author is so absurd that I suspect the piece may have been written as a joke. I hope so.
I was devastated by N. Bedford Couch's insulting, inflammatory "review" of "white" Southern rap. The article reveals Couch as nothing more than a throwback to the first "race music" hatersbut with the neoracist's invention of discrediting that race when it comes to the sensitive subject of the origin of American music. Chock-full of all the racist clichés one can think ofnonsentient blacks, whites "refining raw black materials," and referring to a majority black university as a "dark world"Couch doesn't miss a Confederate drumbeat, especially when he argues the validity of black and white "historical proximity" in the best of American music, as though it is a fantasy that can be conveniently removed from history itself.
Of course, he hides his philosophy behind his overdone and redundant criticism of gangster-themed rap (tired as gangster-themed rap itself), which he classifies monolithically and incorrectly as a synonym not only for hip-hop en masse, but for the totality of black culture. Funnily Orwellian, he ends the article with a reference to a book on whites involved in jazzhypocritical considering how not all that long ago, Couch-like critics hated both jazz and whites' involvement in it for the identical reasons that were expressed in this slighting tract.
Is N. Bedford Couch's article for real? Are you sure Couch didn't submit his little brother's term paper on "The Semiotics of Booty in a Post-Fordist Milieu" by mistake? For your readers' sakes, please sit Couch down with a copy of Strunk, or better yet, sign him up for style lessons with Savage or Musto.
Tony Green a/k/a N. Bedford Couch replies: To quote malphigian from metafilter.com: "I'm aghast, Mr. Swift is proposing we eat the poor Irish children!" The short version is that the piece was satireI'm not entirely convinced some of the letters I have received (like the two wholeheartedly agreeing with the piece) aren't also. If people didn't get it, it's likely because it's not that far removed from some of the oddball takes on race and music that they (and this black man) have heard and read since the dawn of the hip-hop era.
I appreciate Alisa Solomon's criticisms of the sweatshop industry in the article "Shirts Off Their Backs" [December 11], but I found the implications of ignorant, blind patriotism on the part of street vendors Loki and his father offensive.
Why not address the fact that the lowest socioeconomic sector in this country is growing at a rate as fast as the rest of the world? In Solomon's own words, "Even as the wages of the middle and working classes decline (while the wealthy rake in ever more riches), we still have to be able to afford fancy sneakers and trendy clothes, DVDs and MP3s, SUVs and the gas they guzzle." Nevertheless, these people cannot afford DVD players, SUVs, or personal computers.
Those who are below the poverty line (12.7 percent of the entire U.S. populationnearly 35 million people) are the least likely to have a computer (less than 10 percent of this contingent own one). These figures are without a doubt conservative when compared to the cost of living in urban areas. The perception that all Americans are rolling in excess while people in other countries are starving is inaccurate. Ms. Solomon's article perpetuates this assumption, rather than addressing the problem.
Alisa Solomon replies: Loki and the other street vendors I wrote about are part of the low socioeconomic sector Dolan mentions. They are among those whose labor the middle and upper classes depend on for goods that remain beyond their own reach. I did not mean to present them as expressing "ignorant, blind patriotism" but as hardworking people trying to build a better life for themselves while contributing to, and feeling a sense of belonging to, this country.
In "Al Qaeda Duped?" [www.villagevoice.com, November 16], James Ridgeway writes that the design features of Al Qaeda's atomic bomb plans are drawn from the "geek-humor newsletter" Annals of Improbable Research. While this may be true, the design is a workable version of a basic atomic bomb. The mechanics of an A-bomb are pretty easy, and well within the capabilities of any first-year engineering studentor handy auto mechanic for that matter. The hard part is producing fissionable, bomb-grade uranium. I keep seeing reports about how Al Qaeda, or Iraq, or Iran have everything they need to build an A-bomb but the nuclear material. But the trick is creating the bomb-grade materialnot the mundane mechanics of its deployment.