Letter of The Week
All that was so real

I read with amusement Nona Willis-Aronowitz's review of the movie Secuestro Express [Tracking Shots, August 3–9]. As I sit in my office in La Previsora, which sits behind the building where one of the most violent scenes in the movie takes place, and look out the window and see the poverty and the lawlessness surrounding me and hear about yet another person who got mugged, attacked, robbed, or suffered the horrible experience of a secuestro express, I would like to tell Willis-Aronowitz and your readers that yes, it's really as bad as you think down here. No, it's not a stereotype of a sensationally dangerous Latin America; it's the daily reality of millions of people. This movie is a wake-up call that if we do not change our attitudes, start electing responsible and accountable governments, and start enforcing the rule of law and respecting our neighbors, things will only continue to get worse.

Veronica Maldonado
Caracas, Venezuela

White perspective wrong

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The attack on black studies described by Chanel Lee in "Black to the Future" [Education Supplement, August 3–9] is racist. Many whites, even so-called intellectuals, think black studies and the experiences that shaped the discipline are irrelevant. Anything that is not mainstream and Eurocentric is irrelevant to them. The same white people have been conditioned to believe in their own superiority with or without expressing it directly. Anything that challenges their beliefs somehow is not scholarly. They actually believe that tragedies such as transatlantic slavery, colonialism, and the genocide of indigenous peoples in America were all for "our" own good. The long-term consequences do not matter to them, because their way of life was supposedly better than that of people of color, and it needed to be imposed on them.

Even though not all whites are racists, I know the beliefs I just mentioned are widespread. I had some white students who felt that way in the black-literature class I taught last spring at the University of Iowa. Despite their prejudices, some took the class thinking electives are supposed to be an easy grade. They refused to take me or my course seriously. That some of them were not used to having black authority figures is no excuse. Despite my credentials and academic achievement, I was nobody to them. Despite their merit, the texts I taught from were irrelevant to these students. Many whites have the luxury of being able to get away with being oblivious to the realities blacks and other nonwhites have faced. Black studies should be growing, not struggling for survival.

Tyari Witherspoon
Iowa City, Iowa

Idiot wind

Werner Trieschmann made me wince with his snide, age-obsessed "From Hair to Eternity" [August 10–16]. His cheap potshots directed at three alternative-music legends (Billy Corgan, Frank Black, and Bob Mould) show again that the Voice is about youth and style, not substance.

Artists who get props everywhere else for bringing genuinely dark, personal, and challenging music to the modern-rock mainstream get creamed in the Voice for doing so. And yet again, Voice music reviewers sound like shallow, aging frat boys who refuse to ever acknowledge that good art is ageless and usually dark and personal. It's not some young corporate mannequins from England in white suits jumping around for MTV. It's a 38-year-old bald man spilling blood on the tracks.

So yeah, Billy Corgan sucks. What do you like? Franz Ferdinand? The Killers? Such original, non-disposable bands will be around for a long time, I'm sure.

Steve Barwick

Let them eat Crake

In "Brave New Hamburger" [Education Supplement, August 3–9], Geeta Dayal mentions that the idea of cultured meat doesn't come up "even in science fiction." Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake addresses the scenario of cultured-chicken nuggets throughout and might be a good read for anyone interested in the potential social ramifications.

Rebecca Machalow

Gur's boutique

In an effort to discount "boutique" political candidates, Jarrett Murphy's article on petition challenges in the District 2 City Council race treaded dangerously close to calling democracy a "boutique" issue ["The Name Game," August 3–9]. Vanities aside, a citizen's right to run for office is certainly paramount to "housing, bars, schools, and other gritty issues."

Gur Tsabar
Democratic candidate for City Council, District 2

The other West Village

Wow, I'd hope The Village Voice would know the Village, but Christine Lagorio's geography is a bit off in her "Close-Up on the West Village" [August 10, villagevoice .com]. Aside from telling people to take the now defunct No. 9 train and naming the sedate Greenwich Street a main drag—I assume she meant Greenwich Avenue, which is indeed a major strip—she tells readers to stroll south from Gay Street to Christopher Street, pausing at Stonewall Place in the middle. In the actual West Village, Gay Street lies south of Christopher, and Stonewall Place is Christopher Street.

Wayne Hoffman
West Village

Legal Siegel

Jarrett Murphy's article on the three Public Advocate candidates ["Finding Your Voice," August 10–16] sure got one thing right: Betsy Gotbaum is no Mark Green, and she's no Norman Siegel, either. Gotbaum states, "I'm not a 'loud, aggressive person,' " implying that Norman Siegel is. In the last election debate, Gotbaum said that because she meets and dines socially with Mayor Bloomberg, she was more likely to get things done than the "confrontational" Siegel.

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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