BEYOND THE PALE
In Jerry Saltz's review of Vanessa Beecroft's photographic installation VB 45, Kunsthalle Wien, Austria ["Pudenda Agenda: The Shaved-Vagina Monologues," April 16], he notes that Beecroft's "latest images show groups of more than a dozen models, all white in one performance, and all black in the other." A few lines later Saltz writes, "Beecroft's regimented models, and her predilection for beautiful, blond Aryans, have always made us think beyond the nude, to type; now she introduces race."
Huh? I hate to go all the way back to Post-Colonial Studies 101, but here goes: What Saltz wrote makes only a pretense toward sense if you take the nonsensical position that "blond Aryans" are raceless, and therefore Beecroft's work couldn't have anything to do with race unless some of the models are black. What, after all, are "blond Aryans" if not racial types? Once again, whiteness is reinscribed as the unspoken norm while the highly charged "significance" of blackness is trotted out to deflect attention away from the con game and denials upon which the idealization of white identity relies.
Re Pudenda Agenda: The Shaved-Vagina Monologues: good, punchy subhead except that women don't shave their vaginas. They might shave their vulvas, pubes, mons, or labia, but the vagina is inside the body. Am I right in thinking it's mostly men who are confused about this?
2002: A SPACE ODYSSEY
Erik Baard wrote a comprehensive and thoughtful article on National Aeronautics and Space Administration's outreach to African American and Latino students in New York City ["Brothers to Another Planet," April 23]. As an employee of NASA's Minority University Research and Education Division, the office that funds the programs described in the article, it was gratifying to see the impact our projects have had on students who have traditionally been excluded from math and science disciplines. It also was neat to read Baard's statement that educators believe "the simple act of displaying the NASA logo on a classroom door opens young people's minds to careers they were once shut out of." Just seeing the logo every day has a great impact on NASA employees as well.
Although the first African American astronauts began at NASA in 1978, officially the first black astronaut was Major Robert Lawrence Jr., who was selected in 1967 for the Air Force's Manned Orbiting Laboratory Program, and was killed in the crash of an F-104 fighter in December of that year. The Air Force officially confirmed Lawrence as an astronaut in January 1996. The first Hispanic astronaut was Franklin Chang-Diaz, selected in 1980.
At NASA, we know we must reach out to all students to keep this dream alive because in reaching for the universe, we improve the quality of life on earth for all humankind.
Mary Anne Stoutsenberger,
University Program Manager
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Chisun Lee's latest article on the treatment of nannies in her series "Women Raise the City" was very interesting ["The Heart of the Work," April 23]. I recently returned from a trip to Hong Kong, where the treatment of nannies is far worse than in the United States. Nannies there are imported from the Philippines, where the pittance they make working 60-hour weeks is a king's ransom in their native land. The small population of American and European transplants in Hong Kong hand their children over to their nannies and expect constant care of them, house cleaning, cooking, and on late nights there is a mattress in the kitchen, bathroom, or a closet for them to sleep on.
Parents there also share the confusion about what to pay someone who is practically part of the family. The family I stayed with stated that they paid their nanny more than most simply to ensure the good care of their child, yet grudgingly admitted it was still well below a decent wage.
A day's labor should be worth a day's wages. Nannies, like at-home mothers, fathers, and teachers, are unsung heroes of society. They mold children into adults, yet they are under-appreciated and underpaid. When you hire a nanny to do such important work, you should expect to pay more and provide decent living conditions.
Hawthorne, New Jersey
LETTERS TO ISRAEL
Sylvana Foa, who probably fancies herself a liberal on the Israeli political spectrum, wrote an interesting "Letter From Israel" in your April 16 issue headlined "The Filthy War." While I agree with some statements she made, she mimicked the basic fantasies about what Ehud Barak supposedly offered Yasir Arafat at Camp David, which skewed the context of the current conflict. Barak most certainly did not offer "all of the West Bank" to Arafat. In fact, the West Bank areas offered to Arafat were non-contiguous cantons, divided by several Jewish-only bypass roads (along with Israeli sovereignty over illegal settlements in the West Bank).
In an earlier piece ["Complaining to Naomi," February 5], Foa excitedly told readers about her meeting with Naomi Chazan of the Meretz Party in Israel, remarking that "it only takes an hour to drive from Jaffa to Jerusalem." Had the Palestinian state been based on the Barak plan, it would have taken Palestinians several hours to get from Ramallah to Hebron, for example, because of the bypass roads.
I urge The Village Voice to have the courage to print, in full, the maps of the Barak plan so that readers can determine once and for all what a Palestinian state would have been like based upon it.
Sylvana Foa's April 16 "Letter From Israel" about provoking the terrorists to more terrorism gives the appearance of being balanced, criticizing both Sharon and Arafat, but it has a major flaw. It repeats the tired diatribe of Barak's "courageous peace offer," which was nothing of the sort. Barak's offer actually stated that what Arafat would get was only 40 percent of the West Bank, divided into three separate Bantustans surrounded by Israeli military checkpoints. While I normally enjoy Foa's insights, I find it disheartening that she accepts Mossad propaganda at face valuenot only the so-called generous offers made by Barak, but the bogus so-called documents supposedly found in Arafat's headquarters.
Susan Nowaczyk ,
Sylvana Foa's article "The Filthy War" correctly presents the current situation as a catastrophe for all involved. However, she is dead wrong about Barak's offer. The dealings she describes at Camp David included no border with Jordan for a Palestinian state. In fact, Israel would have occupied a border region for an unspecified time. Israeli settlements and bypass roads would have cut the West Bank into three distinct sectors.
In addition, Barak's "courageous peace offer" was not made at Camp David. It was made at Taba in the last days of his leadership, and the principles were accepted by Arafat's team. However, Sharon took power shortly after.
Chaz Bartok ,
In Sylvana Foa's article "The Filthy War," the question is asked, "Why?" The answer is obvious: During the recent incursion, terrorism against the citizens of Israel dropped to a new low. In addition, bomb-making factories were discovered and destroyed, terrorists were captured or killed, and hard evidenceinwritingwas discovered implicating Arafat and his associates of direct involvement in nefarious activities related to terrorism.
Additionally, I'm not clear who the Israelis are who are constantly mentioned in the article as being critical of the Sharon government. I live in a predominantly left-wing, Peace Now-type of community. I haven't met anyone yet who disapproves of what the Sharon government is currently trying to accomplish.
Stuart Pilichowski ,
Mevaseret Zion, Israel
Sylvana Foa replies: Unfortunately, no maps of the Camp David talks exist since no one wanted to put their position on paper until there was agreement on principles. Maps found on the Internet are based on the Palestinian Authority's oft-revised version of events and are just propaganda . . . but evidently effective propaganda. "Non-contiguous cantons," "Bantustans," 40 percent total nonsense, probably based on an earlier Netanyahu proposal. My sources say that Israel accepted the Clinton proposal giving 94-96 percent of the West Bank to the Palestinians with the other 4-6 percent of the territory kept for large settlements and traded for other land. The territorial conflict was not the sticking point at Camp David. The hurdles were sovereignty over Temple Mount and refugees. Let me assure you: Arafat blew it.
SPAR SPANGLISH BANNER
While Juleyka Lantigua is no doubt well intentioned and intelligent, her review of my book Living in Spanglish misses the point ["The Spanglish Manifesto," April 23]. I intend Spanglish to be a metaphor for a multicultural, multilingual New World, one that is more inclusive of all races and all languages. Lantigua also fails to notice that my book offers detailed descriptions of the agendas of different Latino groups and is not intended to urge incorporation into a homogenized Spanglish whole.
Finally, my book continually reinforces the idea that what I call Spanglish culture is the direct result of the resistance and ingenuity of our immigrant classes. To say that overworked busboys or delivery people are incapable of self-analysis or self-actualization is more stigmatizing and condescending than most of what you read about Latinos in the mainstream media.
Ed Morales ,
As an unapologetic female porn enthusiast, I feel compelled to respond to Johnny Maldoro's Dirty Pornos column [April 23].
What killed me about Maldoro's column was the combination of frat-house giddiness at actually snagging a dream job like thisbetrayed by the use of sparkling prose nuggets like "absolute buttload"and his play-by-plays of the shitty lighting and bad camerawork on parade in the spliced-together cumshot compendiums he reviewed. Of course the production values suckit's bargain-basement porn, for fuck's sake. I hope Maldoro can diversify his arsenal of criticism to include more than just smirking at bad angles, scuzzy lighting, and unfortunate blow-up mattresses, or he's going to run out of things to say before his next column appears.
I'll be the first to point out that a whole lot of porn is mind-numbingly interchangeable, but if you're going to write about it, you've got to wade through the garbage and find something worth your time, or what you write will be just as godawful boring as what's on the screen. And if you can't spare us the softcore commentary and really talk about what you're seeing, then maybe the time has not yet come for a porn-review column in a major-market newspaper.
Hannah Fons ,
If you must stoop to XXX movie reviews (and won't you catch well-deserved hell from your more p.c. readers), at least acquaint your critic with the felicities of simple declarative sentences. No criticism could possibly be lamer than a porno review that is, well, impenetrable. A more diverse critical view would also help. Gay-boy pornos, dyke pornos, bi-porn . . . it's a great big filthy world out there!
Plainfield, New Jersey
Loved the new column on porno by Johnny Maldoro. But what about films with an all-male cast? If you're going to review dirty movies, give us some variety!
Editor's Note: Waldo Lydecker's You've Got Male, which will review adult gay videos and DVD releases, will appear every fourth week in lieu of Johnny Maldoro's Dirty Pornos column.
So typical of the Voice to just buy the New York City electroclash scene's blatant self-promotion and not dig any deeper ["Trans-Decade Express," Tricia Romano, April 9]. Most of the artists who've made a name for themselves in electro-pop over the past few years aren't even American; they're European. And most of the folks doing proper electrorather than the electro-pop Larry Tee fetishizesare from Detroit or Germany. How about giving Drexciya, Ectomorph, Dopplereffekt, and the Ersatz Audio crew a little more of the respect they deserve? "Everyone's looking to New York for the first time in a long time" my ass.
Brian Dillard ,
San Francisco, California
GIDDINS BOOK WINS SECOND AWARD
Voice jazz critic Gary Giddins's book Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of DreamsThe Early Years, 1903-1940 has won the 2001 Theater Library Association Award for excellence in writing on film and broadcasting. The book previously won the Ralph J. Gleason Music Award.
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