By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
THE JACKSON JIVE
Re "I Believe I Can Open My Fly" [January 14-20]:
Some of what Richard Goldstein says about R. Kelly and Michael Jackson is fairly on-target: Man-boy love will always be seen as less "natural" than man-girl (or woman-boy, or woman-girl) love in this country (ha-ha "this country," right, not any others, oh no), and it's worth noting, if not shouting about, if not getting angry about. But the idea that Jackson is about to get dunked while Kelly floats on because of that and that alone blatantly ignores several key points.
Number one, Kelly still looks like he did 10 years agoif he's had plastic surgery, it's as yet undetectable by mewhereas Jackson is for all intents a circus freak. Guess which option elicits public sympathy better?
Two, even aside from the surgery or surgeries, Jackson's career for the past 15 years (did someone say 20? 2004 is the anniversary of the Victory Tour, after all) has been one public-relations-puzzle-cum-disaster after another. To date, Kelly has not aroused the confusion of Middle America by attempting to buy the Elephant Man's bones, dangling babies from balconies, sleeping in hyperbaric chambers, adopting chimpanzees, baiting Jews, comparing record company executives to Mephistopheles, or feeding stories to the tabloid media in order to keep himself in headlines during the protracted periods between albums. Kelly may be the Pied Piper of r&b, but he's never erected a statue to himself in a foreign country or pretended to be the Messiah, surrounded by worshipping children, on the Brit Awards.
Third, has there been a review of Chocolate Factory or The R. in R&B Collection that didn't mention the allegations? I mean, rightly so. As a music editor, if I assigned a Kelly review to someone who didn't mention it, I'd write it in myself, simply because, even if Kelly is innocent, it's central to his public image right now, and it's inescapable. But the final and most important point is the simplest: Right now, R. Kelly is making the best music of his career. Michael Jackson isn't. Goldstein writes: "As for Jacko: If he wants to save his career, he'll have to start fooling around with 14-year-old girls," Um, noif Jackson wants to save his career, he'll have to start making good records again. Period.
Music Editor, Seattle Weekly
Richard Goldstein replies: No question about it, Michael Jackson is an authentic freak. But the underage male company he keeps has a lot to do with the contempt he inspires in many men. No question, R. Kelly is a compelling artist (cloying ballads notwithstanding), but there's a reason why he codes references to his legal troubles into his songs. His image is central to his appeal, and that image includes a yen for young teenage girls. Why are men who "sex up" female minors often honored by the culture even as the law condemns them? There can be no true assessment of Kelly's place in music without a full discussion of this questionnot a notation of the charges against him but a real interrogation.
TOO COOL FOR SHUL
Cynthia Cotts is wrong to question Thomas Friedman's donation of his journalism award money to a synagogue ["Religious Conversion," Press Clips, January 21-27]. It is baseless nonsense that giving journalism award money to a synagogue library is "freighted," any more than giving it to the library of some prep school, with which the writer seems to have no problem.
How Thomas Friedman, or any journalist, sees fit to spend or donate award money is a private matter. Moreover, the article's attempt to use his donation as an excuse to slander a synagogue and its rabbi is inappropriate and deeply offensive. This is innuendo dressed up as investigative reporting, with gratuitous shots at certain Jews and the religious community in Israel.
Associate National Director
New York City
GONE IN 30 SECONDS
Re Sarah Ferguson's "MoveOn Ad Competition Ushers Bush Attacks Into the Mainstream" [villagevoice.com, January 14]:
MoveOn's "Bush in 30 Seconds" campaign may have as much effect on the presidential campaigns as the candidates. MoveOn has shown us just how ingenious we Americans can be at exercising our First Amendment rights.
By highlighting how special-interest groups (can anybody say "corporation"?) impact government, the innovative "30 Seconds" ads inadvertently shine the spotlight on the inspired campaign of Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who is unique in not accepting corporate contributions. Perhaps the same kind of innovative spirit exhibited by the creators of those great ads will help us reinvent a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. I sure hope so.
BUT I'M NOT THE ONLY ONE
I loved Stephen Elliott's "The Dennis Kucinich Polka" [The Essay, January 14-20]. Like the author, I sense something very different about Kucinich that could transform this country and the world. Imagine a president who is a passionate and compassionate visionary and a man of peace at a time when we so desperately need one. A man of courage who said no to the Iraqi invasion and the Patriot Act, who knows and is truly concerned about the struggles of ordinary people and says yes to universal health care, fair taxes, real fair trade, jobs, child care, environmental protection, and true equal rights for gays, including the right to marry.