THE MATRIX REVEALED
Re Jane Dark's feature on The Matrix Reloaded ["Reloaded Questions," May 14-20]:
Use spoiler warnings! Jeez. Stuff at the end told me things I wanted the movie to tell me, ya jerks. Otherwise, cool article.
LET'S TALK ABOUT TEXT
Re Michael Feingold's "The Clarifying Fog" [May 14-20]:
Thank you, Michael Feingold, for your review of Long Day's Journey Into Night. Your discussion of theater and what it should be articulates so well everything I always believed that theater must be. To my mind, theater begins with the words. (Mr. Feingold refers to the "text.") The playwright, through words, melds our private passions and thoughts with his or her own visions. In a sacred and public space, these words are given expression through the mouths and gestures of the actors. We see our own secrets made public. Maybe we are awedor drained. Maybe we see we are not so alone in this universe. We are enlightened.
This Buffalonian may just book a train ticket to see that play.
Buffalo, New York
BEYOND THE FOG
Re "The Clarifying Fog":
Week after week I sit down to read Michael Feingold's dramatic reviews. Often, they are enlightening, providing facts from theater's history, and advice for theater's future.
However, I wonder if he realizes that his voice can only be heard by theater people. For instance, when you spend a third of your article talking about fog in Connecticut, you send the average human being to sleep. If I hadn't seen this pathetic revival of Long Day's Journey, and I wasn't a theater person myself, this review would solidify the boredom that is in store for me when I arrive at the Plymouth Theatre. Feingold adores O'Neill, so he advises us to see this production. Director Robert Falls, however, either didn't understand the script or chose not to read it. Therefore, O'Neill's talent becomes irrelevant.
Feingold needs to be more careful with his strong and certain voice. By sending folks to second-rate theater, we run the risk that they might never come back. If he was attempting to serve his community (in a way he continually states that theater artists fail to do), he would provide ego-free, entertaining, and intelligent advice about why we should not spend over $100 on this production. Sometimes us theater people are better off going to the Drama Book Shop.
Lisa Marie Black-Meller
Michael Feingold replies: I can't tell whether Black-Meller is complaining about O'Neill's play, Robert Falls's production, or my review. I strove to make the last both intelligent and entertaining, but can regrettably do nothing about the ego, which tends to be involved when one writes. As regards consumer advice, my recommendation was considerably more measured than those emanating from most of the standard sources. And it has had an excellent result: Black-Meller has seen one of the 10 greatest plays of the past century, albeit in a so-so production, and discovered that she is incapable of appreciating it. Too bad for her.
Re Tom Robbins's "The Heart of the Matter" [April 16-22]:
I just read Tom Robbins's article and I have to say how sad I feel for Fred Sawyers, and the way Russell Harding brushed him off when it sounds like he really needed a friend the most. I was glad to hear that Sawyers is cancer free, but again I was sad to hear that he will be losing his job. Maybe the city should think about offering him some aid in coming here to live and work if that's what he truly wants to do. Harding should be ashamed of what he's done, not just to Sawyers, but the whole city of New York. It is people like him who give New York City natives the reputation of being mean and coldhearted.
GUITAR FOR DUMMIES
Re George Smith's "Jump on the Grenade" [May 7-13]:
George Smith echoes my own frustration regarding the state of "rock" music today.
The music industry champions bands with little musical talent because to set the bar higher would greatly limit the pool of packageable, made-for-MTV video fodder upon which the current industry thrives. As Keith Richards's 40 seconds of brilliance in "Sympathy for the Devil" prove, one does not need a degree from Berklee College of Music or a million notes per measure in order to propel even a great song to new heights. Whereas it was revolutionary in 1976 for the Ramones to release an album of two-minute songs without one guitar solo among them, to rely on the same tired approach in 2003 is equally counter-revolutionary.
My advice to tomorrow's guitar slingers: Forsake the hairspray and the mirror for now and type the words "Mel Bay" into eBay's search engine. Once you've gotten beyond the basics, then you can bust out the comb . . .
Hackensack, New Jersey
Re "Jump on the Grenade":
I generally agreed with George Smith's assessment that most new "hard rock" bands have guitar players or musicians unworthy to lick the slime off Angus Young's stool, but to include . . . And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead in this group was confusing to me.
Has he listened to Source Tags & Codes, one of the most critically acclaimed (by indie mags and folk generally knowledgeable about music) records of 2002? I'd like to hear his justification for placing them alongside Good Charlotte and pure derivative crap like AFI. Just curious.
Re Sydney H. Schanberg's "Bush's Ever Shifting Absolutes" [April 2-8]:
Every single American should read this over and over again!
The administration's lies, deceit, and coercion combined with a tyrannical reckless burning of our Constitution all leading to an illegal occupation of a foreign country should be enough to remove them all from office.
I am totally ashamed of these people and we all should realize just how we got where we are. Should the eventual evidence show that the whole idea of weapons of mass destruction was a sham all along, what could possibly keep the war party going?
San Clemente, California
Re Joshua Clover's "In No One's Army" [April 16-22]:
Clover truly captures what we're feeling here on the West Coast, particularly in San Francisco and the surrounding area, and the sadness we're all plagued by in hearing from our friends elsewhere that protest does no good. Here, I think many of us have realized it's not about changing the hearts and minds of our politicians or of the people "out there." Things have already gone too far for that. Instead, it's about regaining a bit of our sanity, reclaiming our right to see our vision of the world take form for a moment, and sometimes transforming our collective consciousness in the process.
I wish everyone could have been in San Francisco for the marches. I'm no professional activist, but I have never before experienced anything quite like it.
Pacific Grove, California
CROUCHING STANLEY . . .
Re Daniel King's "Hanging The Judge" [May 14-20]:
You'd think that after the Voice's history with Stanley Crouch, Daniel King would know better than to defend this racist phony. Yet in "Hanging the Judge," poor Stanley gets to paint himself the victim of the malicious white establishment. Shades of Clarence Thomas . . .
Crouch's claim that white criticsout of some twisted love-hate relationship with blackspromote inferior white musicians is too silly to even bother responding to. There is indeed an unfortunate racial dynamic at work in jazz today, but it's got nothing to do with the likes and dislikes of jazz criticsunless the critic happens to be Crouch.
King would rather trot out the old, tired racial battles than address the real problem with Crouch's "Putting the White Man in Charge" column, which is that Crouch libeled jazz critic Francis Davis. Crouch pointed to Davis's book Like Young, saying that it shows Davis to be one of those cringing white critics who just can't deal with the black experience. Butas Davis disclosed in his appropriately dismissive letter to the editorCrouch provided no evidence for his charge, most likely because there wasn't any.
That's pretty shoddy journalism, and Jazz Times never should have let the Crouch screed get into print. But Crouch does that kind of thing all the time.
In the '70s, Crouch and Davis were on the same page, writing about the great black music that in my book constituted the last great burst of creativity in jazz in this country. Now Crouch discusses that musicif he ever bothers mentioning it at allas something from which Wynton Marsalis had to save the world.
San Francisco, California
. . . HIDDEN AGENDA?
Re "Hanging The Judge":
On behalf of JazzTimes, I wanted to correct a few inaccuracies and missed notes in the piece on Stanley Crouch. JazzTimes did not receive any pressure or threats from advertisers concerning Crouch's column. Also, his last column was not "Putting the White Man in Charge" but rather a profile of Eric Reed. We didn't discontinue his column because of what he wrote in "Putting the White Man in Charge." We ended it because the column had become tedious, and we could no longer ignore his conflicts of interest, his many missed deadlines, or his belligerence and vitriol.
This is neither the first nor the only column we have discontinued. Columns by Martin Williams, Ira Gitler, and Chip Stern, among others, have been discontinued during the last 13 years (and all but the deceased Williams still contribute to the magazine). Crouch's claims of racism are spurious. In addition, freelancers come and go from the masthead of the magazine fairly fluidly. I would estimate that we have replaced more than 50 writers since 1990, and in nearly every case it was because of their performance (though many left of their own accord). None of their exits have received the attention that former Voice contributor Crouch has.
King's self-serving reference to himself as the new generation aside, the editors of JazzTimes and Down Beat are not old boys at all. Christopher Porter is 33 and Jason Koransky is 28. King also mistakenly attributed a prepared statement from the magazine as a direct quote from Porter. King also stated that "Decades have passed since 1961, the year Leonard Feather called John Coltrane 'anti-jazz.' " In fact, it was Don DeMicheal who called Coltrane "anti-jazz."
There is no conspiracy to delete the voices of African American writers. After all, we sought out both Crouch and Baraka to contribute to the magazine. We agree that African Americans, as well as women and Hispanics, are under-represented in jazz journalism as well as in the media at large. In fact, we recently published a piece by Ron Wynn, "Where's the Black Audience?," in which he called for an increased presence of minorities in the jazz and mainstream media.
Although we are disappointed that it didn't work out with Crouch's column, we will continue to reach out to black writers and pursue new and under-represented voices. We hope that The Village Voice will do the same.
Silver Spring, Maryland
Daniel King replies: By "old-boy battles," I don't mean that Porter and Koransky are old in age, but that Porter and Koransky inherit an old guard that I'm calling for us all to reassess. Describing Crouch's writing as an example of "belligerence" suggests that he's an aberration in the field of criticism Mergner is in charge of. Crouch is not. And calling Baraka "impenetrable," as Mergner has done, reveals the publisher's limitation as a reader rather than Baraka's as a stylist. The New York Times commissioned and then refused a now celebrated Baraka piece in 1964, stating that the editors could not understand it. History is repeating itself; that Mergner silenced the two fieriest black jazz writers who criticize white tendencies is revealing.
My apologies for misattributing the term "anti-jazz." Many Web sites state incorrectly that Feather coined the term. But this slip doesn't cancel A.B. Spellman's claim that the phrase results from an institutionalized hold on jazz history. Lastly, suggesting that the Voice printed my piece because Crouch had worked here is a stab at alleged self-congratulation at the Voice rather than a rebuttal to my actual argument.
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