By Albert Samaha
By Darwin BondGraham
By Keegan Hamilton
By Anna Merlan
By Anna Merlan
By Tessa Stuart
By Tessa Stuart
By Albert Samaha
EMINENEMY: ROCK CRITICS BATTLE
Among the countless misconceptions, fatuities, inaccuracies, half-truths, and arrogant moralisms that riddle Richard Goldstein's bid to become an Eminem pundit, two are factually egregious enough to deserve special notice ["The Eminem Shtick: What Makes a Bigot a Genius? Presiding Over Guilty Pleasures," June 18]. First, Goldstein's arrhythmic anti-Semitic paraphrase of Eminem's oft-quoted "I'll stab you in the head whether you're a fag or a lez" implies that the line constitutes a threat to commit the crime described. In fact, as Frank Kogan long ago established in this newspaper, it's the opposite: In the previous line, Eminem states explicitly and unmistakably that the line is metaphoric, that it's his words that slice into the brain. Clearly they made hash of Goldstein's, as suits a song whose premise is that anybody who believes words imply action is stupid. Second, an anti-Semitic brouhaha like the one Goldstein posits actually occurred in 1990 around Public Enemy's "Welcome to the Terrordome." Goldstein's scenario notwithstanding, the controversy was tamer and shorter-lived than the one Eminem endures and enjoys.
Richard Goldstein replies: I'm aware of the context of Eminem's remarks, but Christgau seems unaware of the standing ovation this rapper has received when he recites these lines in concert. The audience is getting a message that the critics won't acknowledge. As for the Public Enemy flap, bear in mind that this group suffered a serious loss of prestige for its comments. In contrast, Eminem became the bestselling recording artist in America. There's far more profit in sexism and homophobia than there is in anti-Semitism. That's the issue my piece raises. Call it moralism if you like. I call it speaking truth to the power of pop.
E-QUALITY OF LIFE
Thank you for Tom Robbins's outstanding investigative reporting in his series of Voicearticles concerning Russell Harding, the head of the Housing Development Corporation under Rudy Giuliani. Once again, in last week's cover piece, "The Secret Life of Russell Harding," we learned how contemptuous Giuliani & Co. were of the law, and evento use one of Giuliani's own wordsof decency. In the case of Harding, the list of allegations now appears to include everything from stealing city funds to transmitting child porn on the Internet.
So now Harding has become the focus of a federal investigation. I hope that the probe widens to include the Giuliani administration and that perhaps, through Robbins's reporting, America will come to understand some of the truth about the real Rudy Giulianiand stop treating him like some kind of heroic saint! It's long overdue that the truth come out.
I read "Against Rosa's Odds" by Chisun Lee in last week's issue, and after that Tom Robbins's article on Russell Harding. It was quite a juxtaposition. I can't understand how Hardinga man without a college degreecould have been appointed by the Giuliani administration to preside over the prestigious New York City Housing Development Corporation, while people like single mother of three-turned-welfare advocate Rosario Rodriguez were suffering at the hands of the same administration!
Regarding the statement in the last paragraph of Jerry Saltz's review of the exhibit "Ralph Fasanella's America" at the New-York Historical Society and the reference to Local 1199's supposed dislike for his work ["Working-Class Hero," June 18]:
Labor leader Moe Foner and 1199 supported the work of Ralph Fasanella from the very beginning. The union's gallerythe only labor union art gallery in the countryhosted two extensive Fasanella exhibits with much joy and acclaim. Two years ago, we produced a beautiful Fasanella calendar. Ralph Fasanella was more than a friend to 1199. We love his work, and his beautiful posters fill our walls.
'WONDER BREAD' AND ROSES
Gary Giddins's "57 Jazz Tracks I Cherish, 1945-2001" is a treasured article. As a jazz enthusiast, it's interesting to learn what a critic like Giddins considers to be the one release he'd choose over all others in a given year; a pretty risky undertaking, I must say! Still, Giddins's list is invaluable, and should generate considerable interest for novice and seasoned enthusiast alike. And, hey VV, a CD set of these recordings would be a prized possession in anyone's collection!
SIMPLE DECLARATIVE SENTENCE
Somewhere between the despair and the dark finality of a 14-year prison sentence, Touré ["Very Much Like a Death," June 18] manages to tell us about John Forté. Not John Forté, Refugee Clique all-staranother celebrity duped by his own famebut a ghetto youth done good, who made a mistake for which he'll pay a hefty price. Take away the champagne, and Forté, a gifted, promising lyricist, is a woman from Brownsville's only son. A son who made a mistake and will have too much time on his hands to wonder "if only." Thanks for keeping it simple. Thanks for keeping it real.
I write in response to Touré's article on John Forté. It pains me to think that Mr. Forté, a man of such intelligence, a man so well-educated, a black man graced with opportunities and resources so far beyond the imagining of most of his fellow black men in America, could so stupidly throw away his freedom. Don't get me wrong: Drug laws in this country are preposterous, and drug sentencing even more absurd, but Mr. Forté, as a graduate of Phillips Exeter Academy, was surely not a man under any illusions as to his rights and freedoms. He fucked up. He alone bears responsibility for his incarceration, with no possible rationale built around a life of poverty, ignorance, and low expectations. What a waste. This is not a tragic story, however: It's pathetic.
J.M. Johnson III
A person need not be wearing his doomsday glasses to see that Richard Goldstein's quick sweeping under the carpet of recent anti-Semitism ["Never Again? The Great Second-Holocaust Debate," June 4] is a bit suspect. It is not merely the existence of anti-Semitism in the Islamic world that is cause for alarm, but the institutionalization of it elsewhere recently that requires Jewish vigilance.
Exactly how did Europe react "forcefully" to anti-Semitic "outbursts"? By German police telling religious men not to wear yarmulkes and prayer shawls? By the French saying that attacks weren't anti-Semitism? By the French re-electing Chirac out of guiltof possibly electing an anti-Semite, anti-immigrant candidate? Certainly, as Mr. Goldstein points out, there are other forces at play, but it is the existence of a strong Jewish state that provides our people with the stability necessary to counter these horrors. And a strong Jewish state is not a state that cedes its territory to people who still refuse to acknowledge it on their maps.
PROFILE IN COURAGE
To dispel one of Richard Goldstein's own myths in his article "Never Again?": I, as a Jewish American male, think Mr. Goldstein is a brave manand an exemplary Jew. Peace is our heritage. To heal and repair the world is our mission. Mr. Goldstein represents the best that is in all of us, and I say: God bless. Keep this important debate alive. Your voice is not just your own. You are the de facto representative of millions of sane but scared Americans who only want peace.
NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE
Thank you for Tom Robbins's article on the El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice ["Real Estate 101: Hard Knocks for Brooklyn Alternative School," June 4]. It's comforting to know that communities are taking education into their own hands, but disheartening to find that others within the same neighborhood would be so self-minded and petty.
It pains me, as a Jew, to read that a school that seeks to teach harmony and justice should have to defend itself in the face of those who should, through their religious beliefs and practices, uphold similar values. It would seem that the education of William Muschel [the owner of the property who reneged on a deal under which the school would have purchased its own building] has fallen short in the area of goodwill and righteousness. I can only hope that such circumstances will not prevent others from taking such commendable initiatives for their children's future.
Michael Atkinson's review of the Norwegian film Elling ["Double Jeopardy," June 4] was insightful and flavorful as usual, but he made a rare factual gaffe in his list of worthier Foreign Film Oscar nominees.
Most of the films Atkinson mentioned were not eligible by the Academy's arcane one-film-per-country nominating system. Of the seven films Atkinson listed, five were in fact ineligible: Kandahar, Y Tu Mamá También, Time Out, Warm Water Under a Red Bridge, and Fat Girl.Still, Atkinson's point is well-taken. Oscar shamelessly encourages simpering crowd pleasers (Belle Epoque, Life Is Beautiful) over more thoughtful, oftentimes darker works of art.
Michael Atkinson replies: Any movie released in its homeland from November 2000 through October 2001 was eligible for that nation's single vote. Thus, the films I listedexceptTime Out andWarm Water, both November 2001 debutswere contenders.
I'd like to point out a factual error in the lead item of James Ridgeway's June 4 Mondo Washington column ["While You Were Freaking"]. While both the men's and women's NCAA championship hockey teams hail from Minnesota, they do not represent the same university or share the same mascot. The University of Minnesota Golden Gophers (Twin Cities campus) took home the men's hockey crown, while the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs earned the women's title. It probably seems like a small distinction in New York City, but definitely fightin' words up north.
FRIEDMAN WINS '9/11' FEATURE AWARD
Andrew Friedman has won the New York Press Club's special "9/11" Feature Award for his articles "What Color Is Your Parachute?" which appeared in the November 20, 2001, Voice, and "From the Margins Erased," which appeared in the December 4 issue.