Re Jerry Saltz's "Poor Memorial" [December 17-23, 2003]:

The reason why the eight finalists' memorial plans do not work is that none of the designers has experienced the pain and the sorrow of the loss of loved ones as have the victims' families.

When the human element of this tremendous loss is eliminated by the LMDC, who created guidelines that were without emotional elements, the result is a bland, nondescript, incredibly similar set of memorial plans. We must remember the horror, the pain, the sorrow, and the loss. Families have not been included in any meaningful way in this process. Without their input there will never be a "soul" to any memorial. Saltz was accurate and very on target. Thank you for speaking out.

Maureen Santora
Long Island City


Re Rob Sheffield's "Nobody Can Touch Him" [December 31, 2003-January 6, 2004]:

A bit mean-spirited, don't you think? Billy Bragg has been putting out earnest, leftist, punkish folk for years. He's been hitting the road hard; he has stayed true to the message and the spirit of Woody. Doesn't that count for anything?

Edward Brinson
Nashville, Tennessee

I have no idea what "Nobody Can Touch Him" was trying to say. In your constant effort to be Al Gore-ishly intellectual and insightful, you underwhelm a lot of intelligent people. I didn't know anything about Billy Bragg before I read this piece. Maybe I heard his name a time or two.

Now I feel like I know even less. Are you saying that the only valid singers are the ones who sound like Barbra and Celine? I'll take a singer with some style and soul any day over one that has no heart.

Ron Johnson
Swedesboro, New Jersey

Tom Petty, who was recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, has a distinctive voice and a unique sound. He writes, sings, and performs at the top echelons of rock music. Anyone who has seen Tom perform knows how dynamic and powerful he is. I think Sheffield needs to have his ears cleaned.

Fern Evans
Jupiter, Florida

Are you kidding me? Tom Petty the second-worst singer? You obviously have no idea what great music or great poetry are. Tom Petty is a genius.

More than 27 years of music that still manages to entertain, make a person weep, and feel wonderful at the same time is something that you will obviously never understand. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers still pack in the crowds in concert. Admittedly, and sadly, that does not necessarily mean anything in this day and age. Britney and Dave Matthews pack them in too. Go figure. However, I cannot tell you how many people have thanked me for turning them on to one of the most lasting, most perfect bands to ever record a song. To see them in concert is just a little bit of heaven. There's nothing like it. Try it, Rob! Then write another column. I'll be waiting for it!

Kelley McCartney
San Diego, California


In Ta-Nehisi Coates's excellent article about Russell Simmons ["Compassionate Capitalism," January 7-13, 2004], he writes that Simmons hopes he can add a coolness factor to social insurgency.

It seems that a long-standing aspect of post-World War II capitalism in the U.S. has been tweaked a bit—unlike in the '60s and '70s, when advertisers tried to tap into the youth market by linking their products with counterculture ideals of freedom and revolution. Simmons has to pitch revolution through music, fashion, and hipness. Kind of a disturbing reversal.

But even if only one in a hundred of the kids that Simmons's efforts draw into the realm of social consciousness actually stays there for more than one record-release party, the effort can't be knocked, regardless of its possibly ambivalent motivations.

Jen Mertens
Long Beach, California


Re Cynthia Cotts's "Boy, Girl, Boy" [Press Clips, January 7-13, 2004]:

Concerning the male authorship of 72 percent of the titles reviewed by The New York Times Book Review, maybe women should just write better books.

David Berkowitz
Upper East Side


Consider the graphics: In November and December, only one NYT Book Review cover out of nine represented a woman (Toni Morrison, November 2). Even the Holiday Books issue's cover (December 7) had snowmen, the gender delineated by the pipes they were smoking.

Who gets on the cover is surely an indication of who the Book Review thinks is important—and it's eight-to-one in favor of males.

Ruby Baresch
West Village


Re Robert Sietsema's "Dip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" [Counter Culture, December 31-January 6]:

The French dip described sounds a lot like the Chicago Italian beef sandwich—right down to the fork for dipping. Italian beefs are typically ordered specifying the type of peppers and whether the beef should be juicy or dry. A hot, juicy beef is dipped in juice and smothered in hot giardiniera peppers. From the right places (Johnny's Beef in Elmwood Park or Al's Beef on Taylor Street only), an Italian beef is a sandwich without peer. A friend of mine who works with chefs in New York and hails from Chicago tells the story of a hapless friend who complained that a Johnny's beef was inadequately juicy. The huge, mustachioed counterman took the beef, still wrapped in butcher paper, and growled "This is a juicy beef. If you want more juice you say, 'Dip it with a fork!' "

He then took a fork, stabbed the wrapped beef, and plunged the beef, the fork, the paper, and his entire hand into the lukewarm juice for a full 10 seconds. He then slapped the sodden sandwich into a bag and re-empha-sized: "Dip it with a fork!"

Colin McNary
Chicago, Illinois


Voice film critic J. Hoberman will give a talk and sign copies of his new book, The Dream Life: Movies, Media, and the Mythology of the Sixties (New Press), at 6 p.m. on Thursday, January 15, at Coliseum Books, 11 West 42nd Street. The event is free and open to the public.

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