By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
LETTER OF THE WEEK
Fight like a Bravery
I want to thank Nick Sylvester for his article about the Bravery ["Everybody Wang Chung Tonight," April 13-19]. These kids are probably not to blame. It is not their fault that they are completely incapable of creativity and originality. That said, if I see anyone from the Bravery on the street, I am going to kick his ass. Shame on them for contributing to the ongoing and unstoppable mediocrity that is modern music. These kids have about as much soul as a Phil Collins record their music should be played only in elevators, on soft-rock stations, and at Duane Reade. The major-label assholes helping them need to be punished. If one of you assholes is reading this, then fuck you and shame on you. Even the kids that go see them don't have any fun. They are only there because the media are telling them they have to be.
In "The Hayseed vs. Hillary" [April 20-26], Kristen Lombardi reports on incredulity in certain quarters (for instance, on the part of Sullivan County Republican Committee chairman Gregory Goldstein) at the prospect of Bill Brennera Republican country lawyer who looks, but does not act, like Dick Cheneyunseating New York senator Hillary Clinton in 2006. Financially quixotic as it may appear, the heart of Bill Brenner's campaign is in the right placewith the unemployed people of upstate New York who are still waiting for Senator Clinton to deliver the jobs she promised in 2000.
I wouldn't write Bill Brenner off just yet: His folksy way, his proximity to people's real concerns, even his impassioned (and occasionally empurpled) rhetoric, all recall another country lawyer who came to New York in 1860 for a speech at Cooper Union. Lincoln knocked off the naysayers' stovepipes he showed that a coherent moral message can transcend the divisions of location, race, and status. Brenner may be tilting at windmills, but his campaign can point to a noble and quintessentially American precedent.
The hayseed factor
Reasons to disbelieve
Re "The Hayseed vs. Hillary": Remember the 2004 election results? Democrats in New York defeated Republicans in record numbers. Enrolled Democrats now outnumber Republicans 5.5 million to 3.2 million. The only way to overcome such a deficit is by persuading millions of Democrats to cross party lines and vote Republican. Followers of Mayor Koch and other crossover Democrats, who voted for President Reagan in the '80s, Mayor Giuliani in the '90s, and Mayor Bloomberg in 2001, continue to retire out of state or succumb to old age. There has been no successful GOP outreach to new immigrant groups, and attempts to reach African American home owners in former city GOP neighborhoods have failed. Governor Pataki's handpicked candidate against Senator Schumer, former assembly member Howard Mills, set a record low, receiving only 24 percent of the vote. Even a majority of Republicans voted for Schumer. Why should any potential GOP candidate against Senator Clinton believe he will fare any differently?
Two letters means a lot
Edward Crouse should not be reviewing African film since he can't even make the basic distinction between Nigeria and Niger in his preview of the New York African Film Festival ["ABC Africa," April 20-26]. But then I suppose Africa is one big country. In the process, he renders the work of Rahmatou Keita of Niger (the director of the documentary Al'leessi . . . an African Actress) obsolete.
Dance, whitey, dance
In his review of the Bravery ["Everybody Wang Chung Tonight," April 13-19], why does Nick Sylvester bother writing about "No Fun Guy" in the third person? Of course Sylvester is No Fun Guysucks to have that disposition all the time. Sometimes I'd rather not think about it and just move to it. That's probably a bit more honest than most of the shite that gets passed off in the indie world. Should the music make whitey dance? Well golly gee, that surely can't hurt, can it? I know Sylvester looks weird when he tries and that's why he probably doesn't try often, but let those who at times just don't care have some fun.
Re "To Hell and Back" [April 20-26]: Jerry Saltz's cursory mention of the SAMO graffiti misleads substantially. The SAMO graffiti of 1978-79 were an anonymous project of Basquiat, Al Diaz, and Shannon Dawsonalthough Basquiat was indeed the driving force. It doesn't help to call them poems their guise was that of ad copy for a drug called SAMO. Importantly, they were inscribed on the walls of Soho and the East Village, broadly satirizing the social conditions of the period and of the neighborhood. The Voice article of December 11, 1978, that Saltz refers to explicitly depicted SAMO as a teamhas Saltz seen it? The team broke up and Basquiat continued for a year as a solo graffitist before becoming a career painter.
The cry of Peacock
In "Free Again" [April 20-26], Francis Davis's review of Art Ensemble of Chicago re-releases, he writes of Paul Bley's Improvisie: "Synthesizer isn't the problem with this 1971 concert. The problem is Annette Peacock's star-tripping, electronically processed voxthe big deal she makes of being transgressive." The problem is, Peacock's voice, in fact, hasn't been electronically processed.
Woodstock, New York
Beau's better blues
My name is Chicago Beau, and I am described in the last sentence of Davis's "Free Again" as a "hanger-on whose place was in the audience." I'm not sure what Davis's thing is, but he probably never listened to the music he is writing about, because if he did he would not call the composer of two of the three tunes on the album a "hanger-on." Also, I don't recall seeing him on the scene in Paris when we were doing the sessions, so how can he possibly know what the relationship was/is between the Art Ensemble and me? In fact, I am Lester Bowie's co-autobiographer, and I have written a book with the Art Ensemble of Chicago.
He also reviews Archie Shepp's Black Gipsy, saying, "Chicago Beau barges in again." Well, I organized that session back in '69, and two of the compositions and the poetry are written by me, the "barger," who also wrote the original liner notes for the album.
I don't care if Davis likes or dislikes the music, me, or my contributions, but inaccuracy and omission of important information are inexcusable. His writing is arrogant, lazy, and a cynical condemnation of goings-on in a world and a time that he has absolutely nothing to do with, except in his feeble mind.
Lincoln T. Beauchamp
a/k/a Chicago Beau
La Grange Park, Illinois
Francis Davis replies:If Everett is correct and Peacock's voice wasn'telectronically altered, her pitch is even worse than I thought. As for Chicago Beau, I'd say the identity he seems to derive from having been on the scene in Paris and chummy with Shepp and the Art Ensemble just proves my point about him being a camp follower. He may have organized the sessions in question and contributed "poetry" and "tunes" (more like rants and vamps), but that in itself hardly entitled this amateur to join in with the pros.
Thanks to Charles McNulty for spotlighting the critical establishment's fawning praise for authors of amoral, soul-deadening plays ["Misuses of Enchantment," April 20-26]. He is right that playwrights like Neil LaBute and Martin McDonough who use torture and cruelty for humor and titillation are symptomatic of the times. We live in the age of Abu Ghraib and Gitmo, an age when vicious right-wing kooks are mainstreamed by Time magazine. So what could be more natural than for a theater critic, Clive Barnes, to titter over child murder, torture, and mutilation? The destruction of the human sympathetic response is a perfect complement to the social Darwinism of the right. But you don't have to be a conservative to revel in tales of child torturethere are plenty of liberals who are so terrified of being called politically correct that they refuse to express disapproval of anything.