Letter Of The Week
Good as Fein-gold
Re Michael Feingold's "Far From Tennessee," about the new staging of The Glass Menagerie [April 1, villagevoice.com]: Feingold is not only a brilliant critic and writer with an artist's soul, he has finally said what needs to be said to these producers. As a playwright who has written a bio-play on Tennessee Williams, I am particularly protective of the master's works and highly sensitive to their seemingly constant abuse and misinterpretations. I was so relieved to read Feingold's critique, as I felt much of my own anguish expressed. Every word of his article is spot-on: It is not only truthbrutal and essential and ultimately beautifulbut with regard to these simpleton producers and bankers who are running New York theater today, what desperately needed to be declared.
I am truly insulted that Raquel Cepeda chose to downplay the role of reggae in the new phase of reggaetón ["Riddims by the Reggaetón," March 30-April 5]. I listen to reggaetón and all I hear is reggae beats to Spanish words. Rap is not a separate entity from reggaeit is one and the same. It was started by a Jamaican fellow. The basement parties that Jamaicans used to have became rapturntables plus DJ, and the tradition of storytelling passed on to us by our African ancestry. It is not, as is stated in the article's subhead, "Puerto Rico's hip-hop hybrid." Jamaicans transplanted to Panama brought their music and culture with them, as people who move often do.
Raquel Cepeda replies: Panama's melassa, their flavor if you will, is inspired mostly by dancehall and reggae. Reggaetón from Puerto Rico, as it was told to me by one of the founders and its "king," Tego Calderón, was not directly connected to or inspired by the Panamanian rama, or line. It was inspired by reggae, more so hip-hop, and especially the tropical rhythms of Puerto Rican bomba y plena, salsa, and with Tego specifically, Cuban guaguancoan Afro-Cuban form of rumba.
Beaten to a pulp
J. Hoberman makes the error of claiming Sin City owes its structure to Pulp Fiction ["Dark Night Returns," March 30-April 5].
The first collected version of Sin City appeared in 1993. Pulp Fiction appeared in 1994. Frank Miller already had a few Sin City stories in the works by that point, and he was already constructing a world where characters' paths meshed across books. Frames from one story line would appear in another story line in the graphic-novel series. You could read A Dame to Kill For and The Big Fat Kill and recognize these interconnections before Pulp Fiction ever made it to the screen.
Also, every audience member who's familiar with any of the genres the Sin City narrative emerges from will see some new twists in their treatments. The femmes fatales of film noir are not here to ensnare the protagonists, but work with them, and the protagonists are not the weaker-than-they-thought-they-were men of the '40s who find themselves caught in something bigger than they can deal with. The honor in this film is not to be found with those who uphold a kind of social right, but with its undersidenot those who uphold justice, but those who seem to stand outside it. And the gratuitous violence of the horror comics genre is oblique and never without some kind of audience recuperation elementa joke, a different kind of angle and lighting, the way the shot is cut.
Joley R. Wood
Love in a time of colonic release
Robert Christgau's review of Sarah Vaughan and Lucille Bogan's records [Recyclables, March 30-April 5] is insulting, offensive, and just plain gross. Is it insightful in any way for a review of such seminal records from the earlier half of last century to include such asides as Christgau's comments on his skid marks and his fantasies of Lucille saying to him, "I'll do it to you honey till I make you shit"? (Christgau wouldn't have had a chance with either of them while they were alive.) If it's supposed to be funny, it isn't. It's totally bizarre, and he comes across as a dirty old man.
Auckland, New Zealand
Robert Christgau replies: Munro is entitled to his refined tastesmetaphor can be a bitch sometimes. But he should be aware that "I'll do it to you honey till I make you shit" is a direct quote from the Bogan record reviewed.
Sticks and stones
In "Time for a Prayer Circle" [April 6-12] Kristen Lombardi raised objections around the issue of medical professionals denying abortion services, and around discrimination based on sexual orientation. She cites several cases, but it seems like most of these problems can be solved easily. A nurse who refuses to give a morning-after pill: Hospitals have more than one nurse, and I doubt that every single nurse in a hospital would refuse to give a morning-after pill to a rape victim. The Jerry Falwell-esque counselor: That, as Richard Foltin of the American Jewish Committee points out, would clearly be a hardship. The Chicago police officer who didn't want to protect an abortion clinic: Cops protect buildings and people that are under threat; the superiors should see if they can task another cop without jeopardizing the safety of the overall community. If not, he has to do it. The Ohio pharmacist: I'm sure there is more than one pharmacist in the state of Ohio. The Idaho tech worker: He posted anti-gay scripture? That's what we're worried about? A few homophobic lines out of a religious text? And because of that, while extremely offensive,we're going to limit someone's religious freedom? If we ban religious speech in the workplace because it is offensive, we might as well make George W. Bush not say anything when he is on government property. While both prospects would be very pleasing, they violate our right to free speech. It always starts out with the hatedthe homophobes and the idiot presidents. Then it expands to everyone. Speech doesn't hurt. Actions do. If that same worker were to hit a gay co-worker over the head, then we'd have a legal issue. Until then, the guy's just being a total prick, not a criminal.
New Bern, North Carolina
I wanted to thank Jerry Saltz for his last two articles ["Lesser New York," March 30-April 5 and "The Emperor's New Paintings," April 6-12]. When I look at the current art world, and exhibits such as the P.S.1 show ("Greater New York") and Damien Hirst's "The Elusive Truth" I'm just glad that someone is exposing these people and institutions for what is really happening. I hope that through Saltz's writing the public will be as turned off by these things as he is and be more critical of what they are actually looking at.
Less is more, more or less
Re Anya Kamenetz's "Generation Debt: Kids in the Thrall" [March 23-29]: I disagree very much with the statement that Congress does not care about minimum-wage jobs; I believe that they care very much about those jobs, and that's why they did not raise the minimum wage. Every company that has minimum-wage employees would need to raise the price of its goods and services to cover this increased cost; McDonald's would have the $2.50 value menu instead of the dollar value menu. The extra money earned by minimum-wage employees would be spent on items with higher prices. Unless there is an equivalent pay raise for skilled laborers, when the prices went up, those workers would actually be earning less. There are also production or manufacturing (assembly line) jobs that would be forced to raise the salaries of employees. If we force them to raise wages, we are encouraging the employer to outsource jobs to other countries. A well-paid unskilled manufacturing employee in Mexico makes $30 a week, a very good salary in Mexico. Why pay someone $50 a day here in the U.S. when you can pay the same employee less for the entire week?
Melvin N. Schneider III
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Francis Davis's outstanding article on Dave Douglas's and Dave Holland's new labels ["Resist Labels, Reverse Roles," March 23-29] had one small omission. There was one other important black-owned '70s jazz label started by a musician. That was Gene Russell's Black Jazz, a company that issued releases by Doug Carn, Walter Bishop Jr., Henry Franklin, Russell, and several others, and arguably made as much of a contribution to the dynamic of African American-owned and -operated record companies of that era as Strata-East (which Davis mentions). I raise this only because Black Jazz had the same mission as Strata-Eastfighting to see that black jazz artists be fairly recognized, get compensated for their work, and retain control of their masters.
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