By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
CARTOONIST AT WAR
What is Ted Rall doing in Afghanistan ["Gimme Danger: Drearily Awaiting Death on the Front Line," December 4]? It sounds like a Lonely Planet guy wandered in and tried to be a reporter. He could get killed, and for what? He isn't really adding to what we know. It seems almost like a kind of extreme tourism. The title was an accurate appraisal of that sophomoric articleand your paying him for "articles" is not unlike some reality TV show encouraging people to do stupid tricks in hopes of getting on the air.
Are we inadvertently glamorizing war? War is a tragedy, not an adventure. Don't tempt Mr. Rall into getting hurt for nothing. Believe me, I'm not fond of Rall; his articles have all the depth of his cartoons. But he's a human beingdon't encourage this "Gimme Danger" trip he's on.
I've always been a fan of Ted Rall's Search and Destroy cartoons, but after reading his report from Afghanistan in your December 4 issue, he's my new hero. We need more journalists who aren't afraid to critically examine our country's foreign actions regardless of the domestic political climate, so get him home safe, OK?
Ted Rall's article "Gimme Danger" begins with what looks like an important story: that U.S. bombs killed civilians in Kunduz, destroying an entire residential neighborhood. Rall makes a snide remark about how American TV isn't reporting these civilian bomb deaths (he could add the U.S. and European print media as well), and then, instead of supporting his charge by getting solid sourcing or viewing the damage himself, he changes the subject to the introspection of a war correspondent. If Rall really has this story, which his evasiveness makes me doubt, he should report it. I don't want to know about the life of a war correspondent. I want to know about the war.
Ted Rall replies: Hey Joe, European media outlets have in fact reported on the extensive civilian casualties in civilian neighborhoods in Afghan cities in and around Kunduz. My "scoop" isn't a scoop, and I didn't say it was. Come on, Joe . . . surely you didn't think bombs could smash into cities without killing a bunch of civilians?
Editor's Note: The following letters were received in response to the death of J.A. Lobbia, who wrote theVoice's Towers & Tenement column. Some letters were printed in last week's issue, and more will appear in future issues.
SISTERS IN SPIRIT
Julie Lobbia and I were exactly the same age. In 1990, when Julie was interviewing for her job at The Village Voice, I had recently joined the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart at Mother Cabrini High School in Washington Heights, named after a woman who trod the streets in New York City on behalf of immigrants a century ago. Julie came to the convent to visit her cousin, Sister Diane Dalle Molle, who was my superior and mentor in making practical applications of Catholic social teaching, a role she also had with Julie. Immediately we found common ground in conversation and the hopes and dreams that surrounded our shared belief in helping to improve the quality of the lives experienced by the disempowered and the poor and marginalized.
In Wayne Barrett's obituary [December 4], he spoke of Julie's complexitiesthe statue of Jesus and the gyrating redhead both on her desk. Our casual friendship symbolized that! I was going in one radical direction with my life choice at the same time that Julie was. She was a sophisticated city girl; I was from a rural community. She was joining what was perceived as an ultra-liberal newspaper; I was joining an organization that was perceived as very conservative. Yet those differences did not separate us.
I had been at Covenant House for many years prior to the Bruce Ritter sex scandal covered by the Voice in 1990 and we discussed the paradoxes and complexities of this situation. Throughout the years I kept in touch with Julie, driving her family members around New York when they visited for the reception following her wedding in Chicago to Joseph Jesselli, and seeing Julie at her family reunion here in Chicago.
Julie always extended herself to me and brought me into a closer circle. I admired her zeal and energy for humanity and recognized a kindred heart.
Sister Barbara Staley
Thank you for Wayne Barrett's article honoring Julie Lobbia, whom I knew when I worked in display advertising at The Village Voice. Julie touched the life paths of everyone she came in contact with in a most positive way. She was one gutsy, beautiful soul, and we will miss her immensely.
Gallup, New Mexico
NAME THAT LANE
I knew Julie Lobbia since 1999. She started weekend riding with various bike clubs, but she would do morning laps in Central Park during the week before heading to work. From the park, she would ride on the Broadway bike lane. I have witnessed her fearless cycling in the haphazard Herald Square intersection. The bike lane between 59th and 23rd streets should be named after her. She was one courageous individual.
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.
Georgia State University
CINEMA ON THE ATTACK
Thank you, J. Hoberman, for the article "Made in Hollywood" [December 11]. It is one of the few pieces I have read that effectively discusses the role Western culture, in this case film, has played in imagining the atrocities that your city has faced. Unfortunately, I'm not sure that moving back to a "wholesome" cinema [as was suggested by a TV executive quoted in the article] will dampen the specter of terrorism. I fear that in the future terrorists may resort to ever greater acts of violence to obtain world attention. The question following September 11 may unfortunately be, what next?
Thank you for Michael Atkinson's insightful "Moviehead Gift Guide" [December 4]. However, Atkinson attributed the recent 11-disc Buster Keaton set to Facets Video. The Art of Buster Keaton was released by Kino Video, though it can be ordered through Facets.
In the November 13 letters section, Bill Putney cites Nat Hentoff's views on human rights as "a model for me in standing up for my beliefs . . . in a way that has helped me be proud of the capabilities of human beings."
However, this would not be the case if the human being is a woman, who, according to Hentoff, should not be allowed control over her own bodyi.e., to have an abortion if she, and not Hentoff, decides that is in her best interests.
Nat Hentoff replies: I suggest Marcella Tobias look at a sonogram at any stage of pregnancy, and she will see a human being with his or her own independent DNA.
A sentence in a letter from Dave Silver in last week's issue was cut for space reasons, distorting its meaning. The sentence should have read: "Goldstein quotes some prominent Jewish people to see whether Sharpton passes the so-called 'friend of the Jews' test to determine whether we can trust them."