Letter to the Editor

Breathing room

I've been reading your series of articles titled Generation Debt: The New Economics of Being Young, and I'm glad these domestic issues are coming to the forefront. The ever widening income gap between classes and the difficulty of jump-starting a post-college life are not going away just because these topics haven't been on the major networks lately. I especially could relate to "Superwoman 2.0" and "Sorry, Kids" [December 22-28, 2004] and breathed a little easier knowing I'm in a similar boat as others—single, early thirties, student loan and credit card debt (starting in college and then from being self-employed for five years). Finally, my income is almost equal to my expenses now, but only due to the fact I'm renting a condo from my (disgruntled but kind) parents for a fraction of the market rate. Anyway, thank you, and keep them coming please.

Kate Hanson
Burlington, Vermont

Cinema verities

Anthony Kaufman's piece "Living in Oblivion" [January 12-18] poses a hopeful question, but the answer seems to be "no." So far, five years into this decade, we have not seen anything resembling the last wave of American indie film, and the article suggests that we are still riding that one out: Todd Haynes, Alexander Payne, Christine Vachon, and Mary Harron are all still working, but a new generation has yet to manifest itself. What we have now is the bloated and passé Angels in America (which was a TV show! by Mike Nichols!), a ready-made for the NPR demographic. Only Jonathan Caouette's Tarnation is offered as a glimmer of hope, but the truth of the matter is, a film like that could be found on Macs across the country, made by people who don't see themselves as auteurs. I too have the optimistic belief that art may be the one thing that thrives in this Bush II era. However, I see scant evidence of a renaissance. Maybe this article was more about cheerleading?

Alex Segade
Los Angeles, California

Ted Hope, James Schamus, and Christine Vachon decline to acknowledge that their own middlebrow tastes, their search for corporate consensus, and their interest in the safe "quality" productions so beloved of Sundance and HBO represent the demise of independent film in the U.S. Real "independent" film is where it always was—made artisanally, existing largely out of view, of little or no interest to festivals, and obliged, for better or worse, to leave dramatic filmmaking alone, for lack of money. Hope, Schamus, and Vachon had the good luck, in the early days, to enjoy promising associations. Once they began expressing their inner selves, it was all over.

John Paines
New York City

Public editor, private lives

Michael Musto is entitled to his opinions, but not to his facts. His January 6 Web Extra asserts that I said that the Times "couldn't find any backup to support running with the lesbian stuff" regarding Susan Sontag. What I wrote was that the Times could not find anyone authoritative who could confirm that Sontag had a lesbian relationship with Annie Leibovitz. Given that Leibovitz would not discuss the subject with the Times, and that Sontag herself very specifically denied such a relationship in a May 27, 2000, interview with The Guardian, it seemed appropriate that Times editors would be more careful than Musto was.

Daniel Okrent
Public editor
The New York Times

N.B.: Any opinions expressed here, unless otherwise attributed, are solely my own.

Michael Musto responds: I'm sorry for the inexact quote. But if Okrent is saying that what the Times couldn't authoritatively confirm was the relationship (despite a wealth of reporting on it), not the general lesbian stuff, why didn't they include the lesbian stuff? In the same Guardian interview, Sontag talks openly about being bisexual and having loved four men and five women in her life.

Young, gifted, and broke

I was put off by the judgmental tone of Anya Kamenetz's story"No Trust Fund? Try Food Stamps" [Generation Debt, January 12-18]. Kamenetz seems to make the assumption that if you are white and college-educated, you can choose not to be poor. Not all of us with white skin who are living in a poor neighborhood are doing so as a youthful lark. It took me nearly nine months after graduation to find a job, and the search was a constant, daily effort. I happen to love my neighborhood, but I'm also living here because it is what I can afford—barely.

I also took issue with the underlying tone that all those white kids who have chosen to pursue a career in the arts should stop being so self-indulgent and should suck it up and get real jobs. It's unfortunate that we live in a society that offers zero support to its artists, so that they are reduced to depending on public assistance for survival. We should commend those people who are brave enough to accept poverty as the trade-off for creating something we all benefit from.

Diana Fox
Central Harlem

I enjoyed your story, but it's important to realize that there are many poor people in this country, and many of them are white. And not all of these poor whites are slumming artist wannabes. I work for a community-action agency in western Pennsylvania, and the vast majority of our clients are white. Not that African Americans and Hispanics aren't well represented among those who are poor, because they are. It's just that this area has always been mostly white, and with our poor local economy (rural America seems to be dying, if you look at the rapid depopulation rates), there is no reason why immigrants would want to move here. What you see in the urban areas like New York are the young whites from places like this who were raised in the middle class and have college educations. What you don't see is what we see, the people who were left behind—the ones without high school diplomas, the ones with substance abuse problems or mental illness, the elderly, and people who just can't keep it together on the very low wages that are prevalent out here in the sticks.

Jan Kurth
Ellington, New York

Gap-ing wound

I would like to express my concern and disappointment in the cartoon your paper published by Ward Sutton calling red-staters "gap-toothed troglodytes" and portraying them as inferior citizens vis-à-vis education and intellect [Sutton Impact, November 24-30, 2004]. Satire? Perhaps, but what is not amusing is the fact that you are fueling the fire of contempt between city dwellers and Middle America.

Josh Hill
Charlottesville, Virginia

Fish tales

Wow, a topic that isn't war or how Bush is so courageously leading the U.S.A. on the path toward a 21st-century corporate theocracy. A topic I actually know something about: That is, the complete unsuitability of the glamorous goldfish as a pet for those of us too income-impaired to support much more than our meaty brains, or who have little time for a lot of daily involvement or upkeep of a pet [Sloane Crosley, "Heavy Petting," The Essay, January 19-25]. A few years ago, demoralized by the high mortality rate of previous attempts at goldfish wranglin' and without adequate electrical outlets near the logical placement of a proper aquarium, I made the accidental discovery of the Betta splendens, more commonly known as Siamese fighting fish. Those sad, horrid-looking things in tiny jars I used to see in Woolworth's are bettas, or betas. And you know what? They not only do not need filtration (because they partially breath air from the surface, unlike our golden friends who do need to live in filtrated tanks), but they possess actual personalities. My betta, Fishy, would respond to me when I came into the room, especially in anticipation of breakfast or dinner; look at me; and I swear, watch TV with me. It was as if I could actually make the damn thing happy. And unlike our dumb-but-pretty goldfish buddies, bettas in an unfiltered, weekly-attended-to fishbowl can live quite happily for years. In this time of such economic and political upheaval, we need all the living friends we can get, don't we? As for my Fishy, sad to say, R.I.P.—but 1,000 times more long-lived than any indifferent pretty-boy-toy goldfish.

H. Roche
San Francisco, California


The photo corresponding with Don Allred's review of Nicky Siano's Legendary the Gallery: New York's Original Disco 1973-1977 ["Siano the Times," January 12-18] was mislabeled as Nicky Siano. The photo that ran was of Nicky's brother Joe Siano.

In last week's Press Clips by Jarrett Murphy, a former CBS News executive was misidentified. His name is Josh Howard, not John Howard.

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