Re Michael Atkinson's "Trauma Centers" [February 19-25]:

I have no problem with the criticism of Gods and Generals as a movie, because I didn't think it was that great, either. But Atkinson exposes his complete ignorance of history with all kinds of nonsense that he thinks might be the truth.

Atkinson seems flabbergasted that Stonewall Jackson was, in the film, the one who gave "a sympathetic rumination on race relations." If he ever actually educated himself, he might have known that before the Civil War, Virginia law prohibited whites from teaching blacks to read and write, but Jackson routinely broke this law every week by organizing a Sunday school class for blacks. Ultimately, he earned the respect and (gasp!) admiration of the black citizens of Lexington long before the war started. If you are from north of the Mason-Dixon Line, this is the sort of thing you will never hear about.

When you throw Trent Lott's name into a review and lump his idiotic statement with everyone else in the South, you don't appear very smart. I think slavery was the worst blight on this country's history. But not everyone in the South was a blatant racist or owned slaves. People like Atkinson cannot get over this, or that some people actually believed in God that much, or that some Confederates fought the war simply because they didn't like the Union soldiers marching in their backyard, or that there were even blacks in the Confederate army.

Next time, Atkinson ought to pick up not one but several decent history books.

Blair Lovern
Greensboro, North Carolina

Michael Atkinson's review of The Recruit ["Spook Easy," February 5-11] is more vitriolic fodder for the "hate America first" crowd. He revels in the fact that CIA agents are not paid well enough—karmic payback, I suppose, for any failure or dirty deed committed on his behalf while he was still in his nappies.

Perhaps he is right on one point. Certainly Atkinson should need no protection from enemy states, as he would fall into the useful-idiots category as one who so openly credits "decades of failure" by the CIA as a good thing. Unfortunately, he would, given his openly stated leanings, be equally affronted were the CIA successful in their pursuits—this time from his long-suffering infantile regard for anything Big Brother-esque.

His comments would be slander, except that you printed them, so that makes it libel in the guise of a movie review.

Grow up, Village Voice.

Fred Manteghian
Wolcott, Connecticut

Michael Atkinson replies: And 2 + 2 = 5, right? Not all Southerners owned slaves, but Jackson sure did, which makes his piety—in history and in bad movies—barely worth the shitrag it's wiped on.

As for the CIA, its rate of compensation was of concern to The Recruit characters, not me. In or out of my nappies, I certainly would not accept any CIA action to be "on my behalf," be it a "successful" illegal assassination or the royal cock-ups the agency is so famous for. If things "Big Brother-esque" bother you less than a skeptical movie review, the fight over you is long lost.


Thank you for Duncan Osborne's "The State of Oral Sex" [February 19-25]. As far as it went, it gave the right message at the right time and will help clear away many myths surrounding its practice. But there is more to the story that needs to be told.

Those of us who worked in the medical community at the onset of the AIDS pandemic in the U.S.A. almost a quarter century ago were well aware of its transmission, which therefore meant that oral contact was safe. That was why the New York State Department of Health did not include AIDS on its list of sexually transmitted disease states. It was known then, and confirmed in 1985 when blood banks were protected, that the HIV is blood-borne and -carried, and needs open vessels for its carriage.

(For that same reason, even vaginal dispatch is somewhat mythical; transport through anal coitus is valid. The rectal mucosa is friable and vascular entry is accessible. The vaginal walls, like the oral cavity, are durable and relatively resistant.)

The bad news is that HIV is a very nasty microorganism, capable of great morbidity. The good news is that it is very fragile, and unless there is an open vascular tree in the mouth and somehow a viral load from some form of excretion or secretion is deposited, oral contact is safe. This is not unlike other similar pathogens, most notably hepatitis B.

AIDS is not the common cold, but neither is it the green glob of science fiction. Proper knowledge and behavior can keep it well under control until that elusive vaccine is found.

Don Sloan, M.D.
Associate Professor
New York Medical College


Cartoonist Ruben Bolling's January 22-28 installment of his Judge Scalia series [Tom the Dancing Bug] was absolutely hilarious.

If Bolling is not the greatest cartoonist in the world, he is at least tied for first place. Let us see a lot more of this amazing thinker.

Clifton Wellman
Elmhurst, New York


Re James Ridgeway's "Bad Seeds" [Mondo Washington, February 5-11]:

It appears that vegans (and all obsessively health-conscious individuals for that matter) may now be profiled as "agro-terrorists," or food saboteur suspects.

Ridgeway states that FBI special agent Jerry Lyons warned farmers at the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation convention to "keep an eye out for guys who adamantly oppose the drinking of milk or object to genetically modified food."

So if you're a vegan or raw-foodist, the FBI probably has a file on you for their weapons of mass destruction counter-measures unit.

Good luck if you also happen to look Middle Eastern.

Bill W. Mejia
Rego Park


Re "Top 10 Plus" [2002 Pazz & Jop Poll, February 12-18]:

Sorry Wilco and Beck are just too uncool for your ultrahip sensibilities: Two records that don't have the manufactured "roughness" of the Strokes, the Hives, and company, but rather a real emotional roughness that is a little too uncommon these days in popular music.

Keith Harris commented that "maybe [Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and Beck's Sea Change] wouldn't be so boring if they were a little less perfect." Yeah, I really hate it when records are perfect. Fortunately, most of the other critics disagree.

Ben Waters
Prospect Heights

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