By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
Letter of the Week
Re Jennifer Gonnerman's "Baby Madness" [April 27-May 3]: That Tara McDonald spent 1,000 days in prison without being convicted should come as no surprise to anyone. As a society we decided long ago to criminalize aberrant behavior and foist the problem on the shoulders of overworked judges and court-appointed attorneys rather than expend precious tax dollars that could be much better spent on, say, building a football stadium on the Upper West Side. The way this city and the country in general treat mental illness is shameful. What possible good could come of sending a mentally ill woman to Rikers Island to wallow in a Kafkaesque limbo while bureaucrats, judges, and lawyers make decisions about her fate? Society badly needs a paradigm shift in the way it views mental illness. Criminalizing disease benefits nobody except the proponents of prison building and their bought-and-paid-for representatives in Albany and Washington.
What is the point of having someone as ill-informed about the music of Bruce Springsteen as Amy Phillips review his new recordDevils & Dust ["Adult Imagery," April 27-May 3]. As with everything she writes, a third of the piece is about her and not the recordbut that's expected. What isn't and what is unacceptable is that her entire review is laden with clichés about Springsteen and is inexplicably vague in its analysis. She fails to put the record in the context of his other work or discuss some of his emerging themes as the years have gone on. What about the shift in focus from the relationship between fathers and sons to mothers and sons and his embrace of Christian images and myth over the latter two records? Early on she says that "his metaphors of roads and rivers and darkness seemed to hold the answers to the Important Life Questions." Stop the presses. Where'd that come fromBruce for Dummies? That might hold water if the guy had stopped working in 1983, but c'mon. And anyone who writes about Springsteen and evokes belief in a promised land should have her rock critic lifetime membership revoked. D&Dis no masterpiece, but it deserves a more rigorous critical approach than Phillips provides.
Carle Place, New York
Because bowling rocks
Devils & Dust is Springsteen's best since Nebraska. Music for my mom? Are you fucking joking? This album is raw and real. Maybe take up bowling 'cause you sure don't have an ear for music. Actually, with a review like that you'll most likely be spraying shoes at the alley. Hey, maybe then you'll understand the album.
Amy Phillips's review would be infuriating if it weren't such flimsy criticism. She makes no effort to explain her most ludicrous statement: that Devils & Dust is "pure mom rock." What? She then goes on to praise (even if mockingly) Springsteen's talent for pornography in the song "Reno." Maybe your mom likes bleak songs about prostitutes who charge double for sodomy, but mine sure doesn't. My mom also doesn't go for brutal songs about boxers with guilty consciences ("The Hitter") or ones about immigrants dying as they try to cross the border ("Matamoros Banks"). Not many artists can achieve the emotional range that Springsteen does. Whatever you want to say about it, this album runs the gamut of human feelings: from fear and guilt (the title track) to lust and self-loathing ("Reno") to hope and repentance ("Long Time Comin' "). As for the album being "preachy," once again, I have no idea what Phillips means, since she never offers any evidence from the music itself to support her assertion. If I had one complaint about the album, it would be that it's not preachy enough; that it tells great stories but doesn't take a stand. Especially in the wake of the last election, I was hoping Bruce would make a bolder comment on the state of our country. However, I realize this is an unfair expectation, since his music has never been overtly polemical in its politics. My own expectations, though, don't keep me from appreciating what the album does offer, as Phillips's do.
Of course Phillips was going to be disappointed, expecting fatherly shoulders to lean on with D&D. The songs are about people whose souls are in danger and are looking for a way out; some make it, some don't.
Of course the album sounded long and boring to someone who was looking to be offered some sort of salvation.
Many thanks to Jennifer Gonnerman for exposing the stupidity and inadequacy of the New York criminal justice system ["Baby Madness," April 27-May 3]. Tara's story, of an individual inappropriately thrown into the criminal justice system, is an unfortunate reality for far too many people in this city. As a member of Rights for Imprisoned People With Psychiatric Disabilities, I and the other family members in this group have seen firsthand the inhumane practices of our current system. There are an estimated 25,000 individuals with mental illness who go through Rikers each year. In contrast, there are fewer than 1,000 beds in mental health treatment programs in New York City for those in the criminal justice system who are suffering from mental illness. The time has come for our lawmakers to begin making the necessary investments in alternative programs for the mentally ill.