Siegel, actually a very genial guy despite his brilliant intellect, simply speaks truth to power. When mayoral candidate Bloomberg declared he would support putting the Ten Commandments on the walls of our public schools, Siegel sent him, in his own words, "a six-page single-spaced letter about why [according to the Constitution] he couldn't do that." Siegel also was successfully involved in freeing the arrested bicyclists at the RNC and getting the 9-11 firefighter materials released to the public. Gotbaum, in contrast, "nicely" let Giuliani walk off with his mayoralty archives, which, by law, belong to the people of New York. If we don't elect Siegel we might as well scratch the Public Advocate's office.

Joan Gregg

Hell, it was Dante

Is Leland de la Durantaye really giving Pope Benedict XVI credit for coming up with the idea that there's ice in hell ["The Omen," The Essay, August 10–16]? In Dante's Inferno (written in the early 1300s) the last circle of hell is made of ice, with us looking at the devil from the bottom. I could see getting the origins of something recent mixed up, but for de la Durantaye, an assistant English professor at Harvard, to miss something like that from one of the great works of all time is a little stunning. Perhaps the new pope is a very smart guy, but to give him credit for novelly suggesting something bandied about for about 700 years is a little ridiculous.

Daniel Stein
Lower Manhattan

Leland de la Durantaye replies: You're quite right that Dante got short shrift. But I didn't say the connection cold-hell was new to Benedict, just that his interpretation of Christ's words was. I said the icy part was "emblematic" because of his general reputation for brilliance at the expense of warmth. Given the fact that the first section of the ninth circle in Dante's hell is to be found at the outset of a recent bestseller ( The Dante Club) and is pretty well-known, I didn't dedicate space to it.

Seal of disapproval

Re Amy Phillips's review of Antony and the Johnsons' show at Town Hall [The Sound of the City, August 10–16]: The delight she takes in attacking Antony's mannerisms and physicality is embarrassing and, frankly, lazy. Unfortunately, anything that doesn't smack of irony and tongue-in-cheek cleverness is dismissed by your paper, while artists who dare to get a little too emotional seem to make you uncomfortable. Phillips's lowest point was when she compared Antony to a beached seal. Is it that unsettling to watch a performer who doesn't look like a perfectly styled Williamsburg hipster? Phillips comes across like a bitchy cheerleader, laughing at the fat kid.

Michael Cavadias
East Village


The research assistants for Wayne Barrett's story "Billionaire Buys Union" [August 17–23] were omitted. They are Nicole D'Andrea, Bryan Farrell, Alex Gecan, Leslie Kaufmann, Ian Kriegish, and Stephen Stirling.

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