Eyes Wide Shut
As a high-heels-wearing, late '70's-, '80's-, '90's-, and even, yes, New Millennium-living whatever one may choose to call mefaggot-sissy-punk-same-gender-loving-man-who-loves-men (and women)who listens to, yes, Barbra-Janet-Tupac-Ms.Hill-Sisquós's-Juvenile-club-house-disco-jazz-blues-gospel-classical-chants, etc., I was enlightened, as well as saddened, by Guy Trebay's "Homo Thugz Blow Up the Spot" [February 8]. However, I am sure the alleged faggots, project punks, sissy un-manly queens, dykes of the Harlem Renaissance and, yes, the Stonewall Era must be snapping their fingers and rolling their eyes from beyond the grave to know that their energy, blood, sweat, and tears (mixed with a little foundation) were all in vain.
It seems as though we are experiencing a backlash. That young, urban, black men are listening to music which condemns their sexuality, yet elevates their "down-low-manly" status (even to the point of glorifying their self-hatred), should be a wake-up call to everyone concerned with their social development.
Over the past 20 years, I can recall dancing to music that was about being uninhibited, exploring one's sexuality, and having major fun right along with the faggots, B-boys, dykes, and ho's who only cared about having a good time and enjoying the moment. But once we left the dance floor, we entered the bright morning sun with our heads held highhigh heels, combat boots, Timberlands, and allproud of our past, present, and future. However, after reading this article, I began to question the future for the next generation of sexual black men.
I guess Trebay didn't stay long on the second floor at the Warehouse, where he would've seen a diverse group of men and women of various backgrounds who don't play into this self-hating mentality. Next time he visits, I would suggest that he leave the basement with the "down-low project thugs" and cover a wide range of Warehouse "children." As my colleague Mark Tuggle stated in the article, "hip-hop overall supersedes the lyrics"-or perhaps one should ask Kaos, the former video actor, now porno movie thug, to help educate his posse to embrace everyone regardless of one's "image" (but eventually time will take care of those images as well).
Jaime Lowe's "The Adorableness of Asian Alphabet Pop" [February 8] conveys a tone of condescending sympathy (mainly toward Korean pop) that I find upsetting, because Lowe fails to examine the culture behind the music. Yes, in many ways K-pop does imitate Japanese pop and does appear to be a "homespun response to Western culture." Still, what Lowe interprets in the mannerisms of K-pop's stars is but an elementary foreign perception of a culture she does not understand, and will fail to understand if she never removes her Western goggles.
Lowe refers to K-pop stars as "rock stars too shy and uncoordinated to look straight at you." What she sees as an underdeveloped stage presence is not a result of clumsiness or reserve, but a reflection of a philosophy that permeates Asian culture and unfortunately escapes the understanding of Westerners: that one does not have to scream his/her self-absorbed message at another to be understood.
Lowe also claims that Korean stars' attempts at English are "a little bit rocky, like fortune cookies that aren't quite complete sentences but close enough to get a laugh and a good fortune." Although Lowe may get a good laugh out of Koreans speaking English, she apparently does not realize that any Asian language must often dumb itself into near idiocy to be expressed in English. The attempt comes off as funny, and seems to reflect an inability to speak in grammatically correct fashion, but more poignant is the futility of the English language itself to contain the right words.
If Lowe were truly soaked in Korean language and culture, and didn't have the useless aid of an American filter, then she wouldn't be so amazed that a Korean vocalist can "actually sing" and possesses a "surprising range."
Lowe's acknowledgment is applaudable, but her lack of cultural understanding is unforgivable because it is thick with American nationalism. It is that sort of regrettable pride and condescension that permeates American air and preserves Asian stereotypes. Such lack of depth will continue to keep Korean pop from crossing over to American audiences, and thankfully so.
Thank you for the article "Dread Locked" by Joel McQueen [February 1], about Kenneth Dickens's troubles with his employer, Federal Express, over his hairstyle.
I am a dreadlocked professional employed by a nonprofit in New York City. You would think that after a century of struggle and protest, a simple matter such as how one wears one's hair would not be a reflection of how a person performs a job, or whether a person should continue to hold a job at a mainstream corporation. FedEx should be ashamed of itselfand, in this regard, it should be clear that most companies that tout their "diversity" are still in the Stone Age.
There are many of us who grow our locks in order to accept ourselves, to acknowledge the fact that we do love ourselves and the nappy texture of our hair, despite all that institutional slavery has tried to strip from us as a people.
Clearly, this is discrimination. The word will get out in the community regarding this practice, and it will hurt the business of FedEx. Simply put, a lot of us who use the service will not put our dollars where we cannot be free.
Jersey City, New Jersey
In response to Joel McQueen's article "Dread Locked," I would like to express my condemnation of Federal Express's totalitarian employee policies.
The dilemma faced by former FedEx senior service agent Kenneth Dickens is emblematic of a larger problem: corporate America has far too much influence on societal and cultural norms. A corporation should not have the right to discriminate on the basis of physical appearance.
I find FedEx's actions thoroughly appalling, and I applaud Mr. Dickens's decision to file with the city's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
We all ought to follow his lead and be quick to counter suppression of personal freedom wherever it rears its ugly head.
Dix Hills, Long Island
She Got Gamed
I really appreciated Lev Grossman's article on Ultima Online ["Mayhem in Cyberspace," February 15]. I have been playing Ultima for about two years, and have even volunteered some of my time counseling players. I have been PKd [player-killed] numerous times, lost thousands of Britannian gold pieces [which players purchase to play the game], and even lost my Ultima home.
As frustrating as all of that has been, I have made contact with people from all over the world, and formed some very valuable friendships. Thank you for shedding a positive light on something that many people still don't understand.
Many thanks to Deborah Jowitt for her thoughtful, well-informed review of The Beethoven Seventh at New York City Ballet ["Tharp the Bold," February 8].
I've had more than my fill of critics who attack Twyla Tharp for being ambitious, visionary, and original in her work with George Balanchine's companyas if the founder had not been, well, ambitious, visionary, and original.
The best thing about the Voice reviews is that they toe no party line, but speak to artists' visions.
As for Ms. Jowitt, you go girl!
I was surprised and touched by Camden Joy's article on Spoon and the fall of '90s white rock ["Total Systems Failure," January 25].
I met Britt Daniel and Jim Eno of Spoon just after they formed their band, and watched them record the "Agony of Laffitte" single in a friend's garage in central Austin. I think the album A Series of Sneaks is close to a classic, and I am surprised that someone else is listening to music (as opposed to listening to what people say about music). Though the music business is in sad shape, take heart. No real musician is ever in it for business reasons. And as long as America still has garages, bedrooms, six-packs, and guitars (or turntables, sitars, and Moogs), real rock and roll will never die.
What a shame you let Michael Atkinson interview Frederick Wiseman. Here you have one of the great documentary filmmakers of all time and Atkinson wants to get in a pissing contest about objectivity. He couldn't leave it alone when Wiseman eloquently responded to his film school whining by saying, "I'm an active participant, just not a very obvious participant." He needed to show us he went to college and learned about deconstruction. And then to snipe at the value of Titicut Follies, a film that helped change the treatment of inmates throughout this country.
It's hard to know what the hell was wrong with Atkinsonmaybe Wiseman reminded him of his father and he needed to express his anger at daddy. The unfortunate thing is that he treated Wiseman shabbily, and he wasted a great opportunity for all of us to hear what he might have said.
Los Angeles, California
Michael Atkinson replies: That Wiseman was treated "shabbily" would surely be news to Wiseman, just as the involvement of deconstruction and my father is news to me. This was, rather, a discussion of formal issues that pertain to all documentaries, including Wiseman's Titicut Follies in particular.
I am a neighbor of the former East 5th Street squatters who were profiled in J.A. Lobbia's February 8 Towers & Tenements column ["Does the City Owe Squat?"]. Although it was two years ago, I still feel empathy and sadness for the squatters, and the indignities they were forced to endure at the hands of the Department of Buildings and Adolf Giuliani's henchmen.
The fire that preceded their removal was a tragedy, but thankfully did not result in any injuries. But what then was done to the squatters was truly sadistic. From my next-door window, I watched horrified as they were restrained by NYPD barricades from retrieving their pets or personal belongings. I remember them begging for just a few minutes to reenter the building to reclaim their possessions.
I never felt as though my squatter neighbors were getting a free ride living as they did. Rather, I was glad that someone was utilizing two city-abandoned buildings that had lain fallow for so long. The city never took any interest in those structures before the fire, which, by the way, appeared to cause minimal damageyet, within hours, they had mobilized a wrecking crew and had the cops in riot gear.
As far as I'm concerned, not only should the squatters get the monetary settlement discussed in Lobbia's column, but they also deserve free apartments in that new monstrosity that is going up in place of their former home!
Jill E. Mally
Jennifer Warren and Nicole Gesualdo did not receive credit for research assistance on Wayne Barrett's article "Romancing the Right" in last week's issue.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.