HOW IT OUGHT TO BE
As one would expect, Gary Giddins wrote a fine and insightful overview of the career of Lionel Hampton ["Lionel Hampton, 1908-2002," September 25-October 1], but, it seems to me, failed to make two very important points. One is that the kind of hysteria we associate with rock-and-roll youth culture (if we stretch culture to include juvenilia) actually began with Benny Goodman, when kids were screaming and hollering and going berserk in the aisles of movie theaters from the moment the curtain went up. Secondly, the great Giddins could have backed up his claim for Hampton's ear even more strongly by pointing out how smoothly he navigated the harmonic snake pits of Coltrane's "Giant Steps" and "Moment's Notice" on Live in Emmen, Holland, recorded in May 1978. It is also unfortunate that Giddins did not witness the funeral for Hampton at Riverside Church, which included a New Orleans funeral procession of 2000 people, remarkable music, and commentary from people as diverse as Calvin Butts, George Bush, John Conyers, Charlie Rangel, and Illinois Jacquet. For once, a sequoia brought down by the butcher of time was given the majesty he was due. As Roy Haynes, who was in the procession, said, "This is how it always ought to be."
Gary Giddins replies: Actually, the hysteria can be traced back to when mounted police cordoned off 81st Street to accommodate Rudy Vallee's horde of fans in 1929, but I'm entirely in synch with the great Crouch on Hampton's harmonic ear, and wish I could have been at Riverside Church.
THAT'S (NOT) ENTERTAINMENT
Articles like Ken Switzer's "Killing Yourself to Live" [September 18-24] have me wondering whether there is still intelligent life on the liberal side of the fence. If self-mutilation is in as entertainment, count me out.
Switzer was unsuccessful in convincing me that Bam Margera's so-called "entertainment" is one of our best hopes for the "inspired" or "provocative." Last time I took a shit, I wasn't particularly inspired. I think many people are finding themselves increasingly alienated by a culture that won't observe limits to what we should accept as mainstream. I am disappointed in the Voice and Switzer. I will never consider a staple to the scrotum entertainment, no matter how much MTV tries to brainwash me. I am trying to maintain any senses I have left in a world trying to beat us senseless.
THE BEST REVENGE
In "Killing Yourself to Live," Raab Himself explains that the reason he defecated in a teacher's coffee cup and threw it against a wall was that every teacher he had told him he was a moron. So he "got above them" by behaving like a moron? Perhaps now he thinks he's made it because he's about to star in another of a string of moronic videos. Himself claims it "fucking sucked" because his favorite janitor had to clean up the shit he threw. What really fucking sucked was that he was not made to clean up his own mess. Despite earning a bachelor's degree in finance, it seems Himself has done little to prove his teachers wrong.
James Hannaham's review of Beck's Sea Change ["Hung With Guitar String," September 18-24] amazingly confused the sounds and aesthetic of those songs with grunge, which couldn't be further from the truth. Beck's voice has a far more early-country tinge to it than anything resembling Seattle's Cobain or Vedder vocal styles. Hannaham stated that Beck confused "earnestly repeated clichés for personal lyrics," but missed the colloquial charm of songs like "Guess I'm Doing Fine" and "Lonesome Tears," which channel Hank Williams more than anything (remotely) contemporary.
Also, Hannaham portrayed Beck's seriousness as general mopeyness, which I don't believe is fair. True, the pathos on the album is often that of an average guy/working man ("There's a blue bird at the window/I can't hear the song he sings"), but, considering Beck's great command of lyrics, I take this as a bit of lyrical projectionsinging in a common voice for a desired effect, as a novelist might write. Sea Change is a tremendously warm and convincing album that deserved more regard than Hannaham allowed.
James Hannaham replies: I think we just disagree, Samuel. To me, "Little One" sounds a bit like "Black Hole Sun" performed while melting. And I can't stand the idea of Beck as an average guy. Don't we have enough of those? Must we always applaud nonconformists loudest the minute they begin to conform?
LEFT FOR WAR
In her September 25-October 1 Press Clips column ["Vietnam Surfacing"], Cynthia Cotts writes that "many Democrats have shed their party's traditional anti-war stance." Just what "tradition" does she have in mind? Democratic administrations took the U.S. into both World Wars I and II, as well as Korea; decisively escalated the Vietnam War from 1964 on; and presided over the development of both the atomic and hydrogen bombs, not to mention a number of military interventions in Latin America and the Caribbean. That, in the waning stages of the Vietnam War, the Democrats nominated the anti-war George McGovern for president does not constitute a "tradition." Hawkish Republicans would, of course, have the rest of us believe other-wise, and, evidently, they've succeeded where Cotts is concerned.
SORRY, WRONG NUMBER
I would like to correct a statement made about me in "SUNY, Inc." [September 18-24]. In the article, John Giuffo stated that Michael Clemente (a former SUNY official who was terminated from his position) "claimed that SUNY chair Thomas Egan and [I] had urged him to grant [a SUNY construction job] to the neophyte contractor." The only source for this allegation was a footnote in the state inspector general's report on this matter. It said, "Clemente stated that during this period he received a telephone call from Thomas Egan, and possibly a second call from Randy Daniels, both members of SUNY's Board of Trustees, asking him to meet with Copeland [a contracting official] to explain the Fund's procurement process. Both Trustees told [the Office of the State Inspector General] that they did not make such calls." Clemente never stated that anyone urged anyone to grant the contract. In my case, he used the word "possibly," which sets a preposterous standard for justifying negative charges. In addition, both Mr. Egan and I denied making any calls.
In J. Hoberman's "Fling Time in a Quiet Town" [September 18-24], director Tian Zhuangzhuang's name was misspelled and his new film misidentified. The correct title is Springtime in a Small Town.
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