Alisa Solomon may be a bit too pessimistic about the likely effect of the World Trade Center attacks on U.S. attitudes toward the Arab-Israeli conflict ["Fuel for the Fire," September 25]. I share Solomon's distaste for Israel's methods, but I don't agree that they will inevitably become more palatable to the American public as we grapple with our own terrorist problem.
It may appear to some people that we have taken a hit in part because of our support of Israel's behavior in the occupied territories, and it would be a grave error for Israel's leaders to behave as if they have just been written a blank check.
Thanks for Richard Goldstein's article "That's Entertainment!" [September 25]. It encapsulates what many of us felt but could not quite formulate while watching the disaster on TV. As I watch the preparations for war becoming more and more insane, I cannot help but be relieved that there are a few calls for reason amidst the madness. Long live the Voice of sanity.
Re Richard Goldstein's "That's Entertainment!": When I saw the World Trade Center towers fall, I also thought not only of Independence Day, but Mars Attacks!, which was released a few months later. Both films used special effects to "destroy" nearly every famed landmark on earth. Neither film offers any worthwhile critical basis for the virtual apocalypses they engineered. Rather, they (along with countless other Hollywood extravaganzas) are pure spectacle: cinema and computer technology reveling in its own narcissism. When those once unbelievable images were made real on September 11, I couldn't help but think that the attacks were comments on America's own decadence. It seemed that the terrorists, striking from a tradition in which filmic images are profane, were saying to us: If this is all you can think to do with your wealth and fabulous technologycreate images of your own annihilationthen we will show you the real thing.
I have just read "City of Ghosts" [September 25] by Tom Robbins and Jennifer Gonnerman. Although I wish that circumstances had never required such an article to be written, it was an extremely well-done piece that really helped me, a non-New Yorker, understand more of the personal side of the tragedy. In all of the television news and endless replaying of the attacks, it is all too easy to forget the smaller things, that the victims were real people just like usthey read books, they ate doughnuts, they had families and friends. My thoughts and prayers are with you all.
Nat Hentoff's piece about a possible return to McCarthyism was right on the money ["Liberty Is a Fragile Thing," September 25]. But I would add that the loss of freedom comes not only from the government, but from the everyday actions of people. I've already heard stories of people refusing to eat at Afghan restaurants and I worry about my Pakistani and Afghani friends, especially the ones that were born and grew up in this country. Bigotry doesn't concern itself with details like that. I do hope the Left can put together a united front against government intrusion and public ignorance. I certainly plan on being on the front lines of that war to protect our civil liberties and First Amendment rights.
Mamaroneck, New York
"The New World Order" [September 25] by James Ridgeway and Camelia E. Fard was an amazing article. I would normally consider myself the antithesis of a typical Village Voice reader, but the article's points on what could await us in central Asia were dead-on. Not only was the piece well-written, but it seems that this tragedy is drawing Americans from all sides of the political spectrum together.
TOWER DE FORCE
The photo by André Souroujon on the September 25 cover of the Voice is absolutely superb. I found it haunting and appropriate.
BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY
During the year that I have been living and studying in Manhattan, I have made many a negative comment about New Yorkers; their rudeness, their individualism, their selfishness. Since Tuesday, September 11, 8:45 a.m., I have taken them all back.
I saw immense dignity in the stunned eyes of thousands of people as they fled downtown Manhattan. I saw them walk with outstanding discipline, so that what could have been a fatal stampede turned out to be a remarkably quiet procession that stretched out for miles. I saw pure humanity pour out into the streets as strangers handed out glasses of fresh water to those whose throats had been parched by the smoke. I will always remember the man who stood a few blocks away from the demolished World Trade Center bearing a sign that said, "Free Hugs."
As a foreigner, the first thing you notice when arriving in the city is that everything about New Yorkers is enormous: their buildings, their cars, their portions at the restaurants. . . . I did not know until last week that their hearts are enormous too. I shall never look at my fellow commuters the same way.
In his article "WBAI = Anti-Free-Speech Radio" [September 18], Nat Hentoff repeats the incorrect assertion of public broadcasting newspaper Current that public relations firm Westhill Partners worked for tobacco company Brown & Williamson during its dispute with whistle-blower Jeffrey Wigand.
Brown & Williamson has never been a client of or in any way associated with Westhill Partners. In fact, Westhill Partners was not even founded until 1998, well after Mr. Wigand's allegations against Big Tobacco became public.
John Scanlon, who joined Westhill in October 2000 and worked with us until his death in May 2001, did work for a time as a consultant to Brown & Williamson several years before joining Westhill. To imply, however, that we were involved in any way with the campaign to cast aspersions against Mr. Wigand is wholly incorrect.
Current has acknowledged its error. Mr. Hentoff should do the same.
Edward J. Reilly
Founder, President & CEO
Nat Hentoff replies: Current did not acknowledge its error until September 14, and my column appeared on September 12. I join Current in correcting the record.
Bravo to Lynn Yaeger and her assault on the vacuous, self-important, and totally worthless fashion media ["Lifestyles of the Rich and Heinous," September 11]. I worked as a photo retoucher at Condé Nast for over a year and was also nauseated by this self-perpetuating sham. I toiled in a windowless sub-basement below Times Square, airbrushing away pimples, lines, pores, and arm hair. The trade secret is to reduce most of the crow's feet, eye bags and laugh lines without completely removing them so as to fool the reader into believing it's a natural look. One issue had the gall to place a headline reading "Lasers, Liposuction, and Lifts: Has Beauty Become Too Artificial?" right next to a picture of an actress I spent days Photoshopping into a replica of plastic perfection!
If any readers out there ever wonder how these starlets continue to look so good as the years take their toll on the rest of us, the truth is they don't. Teams of retouchers are kept running around the clock so fashion mags can keep foisting this dishonesty on the public. The most hideous aspect of this whole charade is that the women who helm these publications would be considered irrelevant by the very standards they promote. How much do they get paid for diminishing themselves and real women? I have no idea, but in the smoke and mirrors world of fashion, integrity is not an accessory these assholes will be promoting anytime soon.
Hackensack, New Jersey
Michael Atkinson's odd put-down of Pauline Kael's writing and supposed influence in "As the Lights Go Down" [September 18] is as hyperinflated in tone and agenda as he thinks Kael's own work is. He posits her as virtually unassailable, or in any event unassailed (he must be ignorant of Andrew Sarris's and Renata Adler's widely circulated attacks on everything from Kael's prose style to the tiniest aspects of her taste). Then he attempts to topple her on the issues of, well, her style and taste. But those of us who found her work so affecting respond as much to its passion and wit as to her means of expressing them in a given piece. For all its flaws, Kael's collected writing will remain essential reading for lovers of film, both in these lean cinematic times and in whatever others lie ahead. It will remain so because she demonstrated that independent thought can be the means to great pleasure, be it in analyzing a movie, another artwork, a politician, or a life. As she once said, "We read critics for the perceptions, for what they tell us that we didn't fully grasp when we saw the work. The judgments we can usually make for ourselves."
Michael Atkinson replies: That Kael had vocal detractors wasn't the question; it's how few there were, amid the din of praise. As for her "style and taste," since when are these not challengeable issues for a critic? (Both, for Kael, had serious limitations.) A paragon of "independent thought," perhaps, but hardly the nation's most serious and searching critic.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
For some inexplicable reason, each fall Cynthia Cotts grows obsessed about my dining habits [Press Clips, September 18]. In an October 2000 column about my depredations as an editor, she criticized me for being late to a dinner party. This week, at a moment when surely she ought to be concerned with stories of much greater world significance, she's alarmed that I opted out of a local awards dinner. Must be some New York thing, I guess. I just hope she never finds out that I usually microwave an Uncle Ben's Rice Bowl when I'm at home, or else she'd really disapprove.
As to the departure of our former political columnist, Jonetta Rose Barras, I can only say that I've never accepted a resignation as quickly as I did hers. The two of us never could agree on the appropriate level of small-mindedness, wrongheadedness, and unfairness that belonged in her column. But if she's as talented as Cotts makes her out to be, then surely we can expect the Village Voice to quickly hire Barras as a Washington correspondent, the better to keep tabs on me and Washington City Paper.
Washington City Paper
Re Richard Goldstein's "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Backlash" [September 18]: Lighten up. Yes, homosexuals are a persecuted minority. Yes, they are the butt of many jokes in cinema. Kevin Smith does indeed make jokes at the expense of said group. But within the same movie are jokes about blacks (Chris Rock's character is named Chaka), law officers, women, and many more I will not bother to mention.
A comedy by definition makes fun of people for the purpose of a jokean easy laugh. If you look at Smith's track record you will see that he is one of the few directors out there who does show respect to homosexuals. His film Chasing Amy is a fine example. Jason Lee's awakening to his sexuality is a minor but important event in that film. Additionally, Smith's Green Arrow comic book (published by DC Comics) has a gay character who is portrayed as just another guy. His sexual preference is not a major issue, and is rarely mentioned. A comprehensive look at Smith's work clearly shows that he is not hateful toward any group.
Greenville, South Carolina
Richard Goldstein replies: Anyone who sees Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back can attest to its obsession with homosexuality. As for Chasing Amy, any film that features a woman whose lesbianism stems from a traumatic relationship with a guyand who ends up with a guyis not pro-gay. It's a straight man's dyke film.
In last week's article "For Whom the Bell Tolls," on the missing and dead in the World Trade Center attacks, John Hynes was mistakenly listed among those unaccounted for. The missing person is his brother, Thomas Hynes. The Voice regrets the error.
The September 18 Voice cover photo, "The Bastards," was miscredited. The photo was taken by Todd Rengel.
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