By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
. . . HAM-HANDED
The viciousness and inappropriateness of James Hannaham's review of Charles Mee's plays True Love and Big Love demand a response all the way from the Pacific Northwest ["It's All Greek to Mee," December 11].
Hannaham's assumptions about Mee's personal psychology are deeply offensive. Since when is it appropriate for a critic to ruminate about drawing a "psychological conclusion" based on the physical attributes of a playwright? Since when is it appropriate to suggest that a director "should get the electric chair"?
Mee (whom Hannaham also accuses of having "sexually abused" his characters) is widely recognized as one of the most intelligent and irreverent playwrights in the country. Far from being fearful of the physical aspects of theater, he exults in that physicality. That he does so with such joy and intelligence and political consciousness places him in a small group of exceptional artists.
Dearest Michael Feingold: Please come back soon. We miss you terribly.
BARRETT DREAM TEAM
Accompanying Wayne Barrett's article "Rudy's Gift to Mike" [December 18] are two photo-graphs, one of Osama bin Laden, the other of Mayor Giuliani. The caption states that "one-third of the nightmare [incoming mayor Michael] Bloomberg inherits is attributable to Osama, two-thirds to Rudy."
To place their pictures side by side, calling them "Osama" and "Rudy," and comparing a low-life murderer to a politician with whom you happen to disagree on certain issues is really beneath contempt.
Wayne Barrett replies: To condemn a comparison that did not occur is really beneath contempt. The caption ascribed the city's fiscal condition, according to budget experts, to two, vastly different, culprits.
"Death Wish in the Holy Land" by Jason Vest [December 18] is a classic example of an article by a writer who, having made up his mind in advance of writing the piece, then proceeds to selectively gather facts to support his conclusion. Vest's continued reliance on quotes from an anonymous veteran CIA operative would be laughable were it not pathetic. The Voicenow looks to anonymous CIA operatives as authoritative voices of international analysis?
However, the worst pablum that Vest, through the CIA operative, tries to feed us is the idea that the building of homes (i.e., Jewish settlements) is a terroristic act appropriately compared to the deliberate killing of women and children with exploding devices packed with nails. You should be ashamed for publishing such drivel.
STATE OF SIEGE
Jason Vest's article "Death Wish in the Holy Land" demonstrates a sound understanding of the present situation in Israel/Palestine. It is the perfect antidote to the risible propaganda with which powerful media organizations are deluging the American public.
One fact that Vest does not mention, however, is that the Israeli offer at Camp David II gave the Palestinians only about 65 percent of the West Bank and Gaza. It would have allowed Israel to maintain full control over water in Palestinian territories, and did not allow for any semblance of sovereignty save for the name "state" and the right to fly a Palestinian flag. What the Israelis offered Arafat were Bantustans, or reservations carved out of 227 mini-enclaves in the West Bank.
Kansas City, Kansas
Despite his flip writing style, I'm afraid Ted Rall may be right ["How We Lost Afghanistan," December 18]: Appearances of change in Afghanistan are only surface illusions. It will take more than interference from North Americans to make the 180-degree spin to capitalism, a system they probably don't even want.
I am torn between desperately wishing for a better life for all those veiled women who are slowly fading away in body and spirit, and demanding that everyone go home and leave the Afghans to arrange their country as they see fit.
In J. Hoberman's review of the film Lord of the Rings ["Plastic Fantastic," December 25], he remarks on the "fiery slit of doom that is the object of the quest" that Frodo sees in his ring-induced visions. Hoberman remarks with cynical amusement how "noisily suggestive" it is. What, pray tell, does he think it is suggestive of? I hate to spoil the joke, but that was not one of the Cracks of Doom that are the objects of Frodo's quest. What Frodo sees is the eye of arch-villain Sauron in search of his Ring. Perhaps Hoberman should rewatch the film with fresh eyes.
MANO A MONO
In the piece, Ms. Phillips likens the counterpoint of one song to that of medieval chant. One of the most striking characteristics of medieval chant is that it doesn't have counterpoint. It's monophonic.
I believe Miss Phillips actually praised a particular song for sounding like it was "made by robots." It was. You'd think an Ivy League student would understand that most pop music is made by computers. Quite different from the medieval approach of art being made by people.
Amy Phillips replies: Only medieval plainchant was monophonic. Organum, another popular form of chant, was indeed contrapuntal. I learned that at my Ivy League university. As for the computers, someone has to push those buttons.
NO PANE, NO GAIN
Kudos to Joshua Clover for his review of Jeff Ferrell's book Tearing Down the Streets ["Nerf Anarchy," December 25]. Thanks for finally having the balls to mention, even post-9/11, that the point of anarchy, and all the other revolutionary radical-leftisms, is "the liberatory moment of the riot, the music of smashing windows"not just hackysacking around the drum circle scarfing vegan treats. I have encountered too many lefties like Jeff Ferrell for one decade, and I had hoped the crises of personal freedoms currently going down in our fair land would serve to re-radicalize the Movement away from platitudes and into action. We'll see what we'll see, but I am more than ready.
Re Lisa Marie Williams and Katie Worth's "A Tale of Two Schools" [December 25]: With all due respect to New York City's community colleges, including Borough of Manhattan Community College, it is entirely appropriate that Stuyvesant High School be the focus of energy and resources in the recovery of downtown Manhattan. Stuyvesant's continued excellence, along with a handful of other academically selective high schools, is one of the anchors preserving the commitment of the middle class of this city to the public school system.
Not only do these schools serve their 10,000-plus students excellently, but they also foster an environment of excellence and high expectations at many primary and intermediate schools throughout the city. The extent to which high-performing neighborhood school environments serve to make our neighborhoods vital and to combat suburban flight cannot be overstated.
One doesn't have to travel far (Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., are far enough) to see the disastrous effect first upon schools, and then upon the vitality and diversity of a community as a whole, that occurs when an urban public school system no longer devotes significant resources to rewarding and fostering excellence and high achievement, and instead becomes wholly devoted to struggling to help the poorly prepared attain basic proficiency.
Re Richard Goldstein's article "The War on Identity" [December 18]: Don't get me wrongsome of my best friends are Log Cabin Republicans, but when I hear some of their ideas, I just want to scream. You would think after enough "luxury cruises" to who-knows-where, one would have some sense of a world beyond his tiny privileged own. The next time some of them are, as the Liberty Education Forum's ad quoted in the piece states, "filling black-tie dinner halls to hear keynote addresses from Hollywood celebrities," someone should ask a gay member of the wait staff what he thinks of their new think tank's anti-gay agenda.
UNITED WE FALL
Thank you very much, Richard Goldstein, for your refreshing and on-target analysis of the new movement to whitewash the diverse gay, lesbian, bi, and transgender movements into one "united" group ["The War on Identity"].
The reason our movement has no one leader is because there is no way for any one person or group to speak for all of us. Certainly, this new agenda of setting aside the push for gay-rights legislation in the name of a united country plays right into the hands of our enemiesboth in the U.S. and around the world. Most corporations and candidates want our gay dollars, but not our truly diverse gay politics. A "centrist" approach is just another way of saying that wealthy white gay male views matter, and everyone else is on the fringes.
They want us to come join their party, never the other way around.
Tracy Baim, Publisher
Windy City Times
A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN
I must respond to an item on Stanford University coach Tyrone Willingham, criticized in Brian Dunleavy's "The Real Top 25" [December 25] for "his desire to join, and expand, the ranks of minority head coaches in the NFL, even though Stanford reportedly pays him roughly $800,000 per annum on a contract running through 2004" and for considering coaching posts at Ohio State and Notre Dame.
Willingham and the student-athletes he is able to attract to Stanford surely represent what college athletics should aspire to be. In criticizing his desire to coach in the lily-white ranks of the National Football League, Dunleavy has done him, aspiring African American coaches, and talented minorities everywhere a disservice.
Brian Dunleavy replies: I have no problem with Willingham's desire to join the NFL coaching ranks. There is no question the league needs more minority coaches and executives. And Willingham is certainly qualified. However, his public declarations are merely one example of the lack of respect extremely well-paid college coaches give to their contracts.
TRIPPINGLY ON THE TONGUE
Michael Feingold's return to the Voice's theater section is most welcome. However, Feingold is mistaken in asserting that Iago is "the longest role in Shakespeare" ["Less Is Moor," December 18]. Line counts vary a little depending on the edition. But there are four Shakespearean roles that exceed 1000 lines. Heading the list is Hamlet, at 1500-plus lines. Second is Richard III, with about 1150. Iago is next, with just under 1100, followed closely by Henry V.
Michael Feingold replies: I should have said "in standard playing texts" since all three plays are full of material, which, like the Clown inOthello, generally is (and always used to be) omitted.
Due to a typographical error, a sentence in a letter by Timothy Gallagher in response to Irin Carmon and Amy Phillips's "Got Your Money Shot" (December 18) was misprinted last week. The sentence should have read: "Most red-blooded American fathers believe daughters and young girls are best ignored, a cost to be endured, especially since the smart ones, like Ms. Carmon and Ms. Phillips, who are on the path to Ivy League degrees, willingly obsess about self-referential pop deities, the image of women in the world, and how men perceive them."
VILLAGEVOICE.COM WINS ONLINE JOURNALISM AWARD
The Village Voice's Web site, Villagevoice.com, has won the National Press Foundation's second annual award for Online Journalism. Other 2001 award winners include CBS News, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, The Sacramento Bee, the Chicago Tribune, and The New York Times. The award will be presented on February 21 at the NPF's 19th Annual Awards Dinner in Washington, D.C.