By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
BUT JAZZ IS BORING
With nary a jazz musician even mentioned in the Pazz & Jop poll [February 12-18], is it maybe time to change the name? Something like "Pap & Rop," perhaps?
The 2002 Pazz & Jop poll made me worry that the average music critic has grown old and irrelevant, just like me. Personally, I do believe 2002 was a good year, and that the critics were just playing it safe by electing a mix of tired albums by artists they used to like, then backing them up with Former Next Big Things they learned about from other writers. Somewhere in between, truly exciting discoveries like Nina Nastasia, Mum, Lemon Jelly, etc., probably just slipped them by.
I don't mean to gripe. I just still really, really want to be blown out of my socks again like I was the time I first saw Liz Phair on the Pazz & Jop insert cover back in '94it made me feel like anything could happen. Now I can't help but believe that if Exile in Guyville came out in 2002, these grown-older critics would dismiss Miss Liz as some smart-mouthed chick in need of lessons, manners, and a major label. Then they'd slink back upstairs to their leather sofas, trying once more to play Sea Change all the way through.
On the other hand, I haven't heardand now refuse to even listen tothe new Wilco album. I'm afraid I'll look like a trend follower if I like it, and what would the guys at Other Music think of me then?
In Robert Christgau's piece on the 2002 Pazz & Jop poll ("Party in Hard Times"), he repeatedly refers to Wilco's drummer, Ken Coomer. The only problem is that Ken Coomer was not the drummer on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot; Glenn Kotche replaced him at the start of recording. You'd think the Dean of Schlock Criticism would read the liner notes to his poll's No. 1 album. Or at least see the movie based on the making of it!
Robert Christgau replies: In fact, both Coomer and Kotche are listed in the package, which attributes no instruments to anyone, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't have figured it outfactual errors are always inexcusable. The point, however, remains the same. Of course I heard Kotche's tricked-up meters and textural fills as Coomer's attempt to keep up with the artiness at hand. No matter who played them, they don't rock, funk, or propel.
I cannot say with what dismay I read Rivka Gewirtz Little's article on the Renaissance Plaza apartmentsthe building where I live ["Renaissance Rats," January 22-28]. This is not a luxury building, and its units were quite reasonably priced. Although they're not perfect, I have seen no rats. And I wonder whether the informers thought about the impact that their public comments might have on the value of the co-op. When I was not disgusted, I was mildly amused by the complaints and the tone of the article.
EXPANDING THE DEMOGRAPHIC
Unfortunately, it's going to be read by neither the gung ho, benighted American yahoos cheering on this latest and most transparent aggression, nor the leaders who have been planning it for over a decade.
I enjoyed Joshua Clover's review of Michael Hamburger's translations of Paul Celan's poetry as translated by Michael Hamburger ["Death Fugue," February 12-18]. He was right to mention Emily Dickinson and Paul Celan in the same breath (breath being an especially important word for Celan).
Mr. Clover might also have mentioned in passing that Celan knew Dickinson's work intimately, since he translated her poems into German. He also translated many other difficult and allusive poets, including Osip Mandelstam and René Char, whose work surely contributed to the difficulty and allusiveness of Celan's own poetry.
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Re Savage Love [January 29-February 4]:
Dan Savage attributes much of the spread of HIV among gay men to the inability of AIDS educators to aggressively challenge gay men with the realities of HIV infection. For proof, he points to the reported response of a Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) staff person who was given a hypothetical situation involving a man actively seeking to become infected with HIV. The staff person's complete response acknowledges the inherent complexities of HIV prevention. Mr. Savage's characterization of the response as passive is ill informed, since GMHC is not and has never been neutral, ambivalent, or passive about HIV infection or other threats to gay men's health. In fact, we abhor them. To suggest that GMHC takes "bug chasing" lightly disregards our work to reduce the spread of HIV and two decades of active struggle against the devastation wreaked by this epidemic.
GMHC knows that preventing HIV transmission is not simple. Savage apparently would have us believe that the only way to prevent further HIV transmission is through the policing of gay sex, and more absurdly, gay men themselves. GMHC wholeheartedly disagrees. Rather, by respecting gay men, always affirming their sexuality, and equipping them with the tools they need to make healthy choices, GMHC has reduced and will continue to reduce the spread of HIV.