Although I read with great interest Robert Davey's article "The FBI and Flight 800" [July 20], I feel compelled to set the record straight regarding references Davey made to a report prepared by Dr. Richard Bott specifically, the section in which Bott discussed damage to the left side of TWA Flight 800. Mr. Davey did a disservice to your readers by omitting key sections of Dr. Bott's comments. I'd like to quote from the report:
"Some unexplained damage characteristics on these structures [the wings] have puzzled investigators, for example, the severe shattering of the left wing upper skin. While the damage mechanisms involved may not be completely understood, the recovery and reconstruction of TWA Flight 800 is the most comprehensive undertaking of its type ever made. This wing damage may be typical for severe water impacts but has gone unnoticed in previous mishaps due to the lack of recovery and reconstruction of debris. Further, the left and right wings of TWA Flight 800 impacted the water in different attitudes, as evidenced by the damage to the engines, which may explain the disparity in damage between the two structures."
In the course of a congressional review of the Flight 800 investigation, on behalf of Representative James A. Traficant Jr. of Ohio, for whom I am chief of staff, I interviewed Dr. Bott. He made it clear that his team had found no evidence that Flight 800 was hit by a missile. I also examined all of the FBI eyewitness interviews. The overwhelming majority gave accounts consistent with the National Transportation Safety Board's breakup scenario. The breakup of Flight 800 lasted approximately 49 seconds, from the time of the initial explosion until the time the wreckage hit the ocean. There are few, if any, eyewitnesses who saw the event from start to finish. This fact accounts, in large part, for some of the diversity of statements.
Robert Davey replies: Bott's report contains far more questions than answers. Bott speculates, for example, that damage to the left side of the plane possibly could have been caused by a missile hitting the left wing near the fuselage and exploding inside the inboard fuel tank, creating enough pressure to shatter the wing's upper skin but leaving little obvious shrapnel damage. We are left to guess whether that passage should carry more or less weight than the one Marcone quotes. The missile expert quoted in my article came to the conclusion that the eyewitness reports are reliable indicators that a surface-to-air missile did indeed bring down TWA Flight 800. Marcone ignores the fact that (according to a draft NTSB report) 96 eyewitnesses saw a streak of light rise from the surface, and 128 saw a streak that terminated in an explosion, flash of light, or fireball.
James Hannaham ["Missing Persons," July 13] chastises playwright Naomi Wallace for a "lack of attention to detail," yet Hannaham appears to have written his review of the The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek untroubled by the detail of reading Wallace's text.
What Hannaham calls director Lisa Peterson's "experimental touches" that "tend to upstage the text" tossed dishes and blowing feathers are, in fact, stage directions, printed in the published script. Regardless of Mr. Hannaham's opinion, his analysis of the writer-director collaboration was needlessly superficial and uninformed.
In a city where reviews have a tangible impact on the lives of new plays (and playwrights), is a little groundwork too much to ask?
James Hannaham replies: Alright, I'm busted. I don't read every script. However, I don't think I was way off base to guess that those high-concept moves were a directorial choice. "The lack of attention to detail" was in the dialogue, not the stage directions.
In response to William Mersey's article about prostitute review sites on the Internet ["They Shoot, They Score," July 6]: Mersey stated that there is no site for prostitutes to review their clients. But there is! It is called the "Bad Client List," and can be found at http://www.casualforums.com/thepit/BadClientList.
Los Angeles, California
William Mersey replies: Thanks for the information. Sorry I missed it.
Re James Ridgeway's item "Blackout on Serbia Damage" [Mondo Washington, July 20]: Very sad that no one wants to hear about the "humanitarian intervention" that could have launched World War III. We now know that there was very little damage to the Serbian military. However, as Ridgeway pointed out, civilians took many more casualities than the military.
Denville, New Jersey
As a student athlete, I applaud Denise Kiernan for her article "Brandi Has a Ball" [July 13].
Being a senior who plays three sports in high school, I've found myself constantly trying to explain to the younger students that my role models, such as Julie Foudy and Martina Hingis, could kick the shit out of their role models, such as Kate Moss and Calista Flockhart.
There is a veil blinding the eyes of young girls today. They think skinny and waifish degrading images that piss me off are ideal feminine characteristics. I don't want to be skinny, and smoke 50 cigarettes a day, and have my "man" run around town showing me off. I want to be strong and independent and intelligent qualities that the U.S. women's soccer team embodies. They should be the role models, not Jennifer Lopez, who makes her living shaking her ass and singing trite pop tunes.
Thanks again for taking a stand on an issue that needs to be addressed more frequently.
Re Michael Feingold's "Tea in Our Harbor" [July 6]: My sentiments to a "T." Isn't it funny how we are still paying homage to England? Always England. We want our chocolates, watches, blonds, and prestige from Europe but our sensibility always floats to "Mother England." We trust and value precious little artistically from America.
As a playwright with an Off-Broadway production under my belt, I definitely relate to audiences being teased by the allure of anywhere but here. South Africa as opposed to Detroit. Ahhh, the sweet-smelling memory of those lovely "township extravaganzas" . . . Such exotica, such high-stepping musical teens and their charming harmony. I can still hear their lilting patois.
Pity the poor New York playwright who has to live through year after year of maximus-in-your-face-inferioritis. And if it wasn't for Hollywood stars looking to gain that obligatory theater credit why, heavens to betsy even the dramas wouldn't be there.
Who won the friggin' revolutionary war? But we've been apologizing ever since, haven't we?
Alonzo D. Lamont Jr.
Franklin Ibáñez Soults ["Spanish Class," July 6] seems to have a problem with the fusion going on in today's "crossover" albums. He has overlooked the fact that Latin music doesn't have to come in "Tejano," "merengue," or "salsa" forms. Latin American countries produce everything from classical to classic rock.
When I was growing up in Puerto Rico, my parents were into merengue and salsa, while I was more into Menudo and New Kids on the Block. I've always listened to "Spanish" music, and I do tend to enjoy music in my native tongue. Still, I feel the Anglo community has a stereotypical outlook on Latin America, which makes acts such as Ricky Martin, Chris Perez, and Jennifer Lopez harder to swallow than "English" acts. Why is there always such a big deal made when Latin music sounds like English music? Is there really that much difference?
J.A. Lobbia's "Poisoned Politics" [June 29] makes me wonder just what it is City Council Speaker Peter Vallone learns as he sits in Mass each morning. I'm outraged that, because of the city's cozy relationship with landlords, the children of poor and working-class people of color are steadily exposed to lead paint dust, which causes illness as well as learning and behavioral problems. These same children are blamed and penalized when they do poorly in school or disrupt classrooms or go on to engage in criminal activity.
Eva Yaa Asantewaa
Gary Dauphin missed or dismissed the nasty misogyny of The General's Daughter [June 29], a film that masquerades as a tale of rapists brought to justice. Among the images the camera lingers on are a naked woman spread-eagled, once for a brutal gang rape and then for murder. These are the money shots, the soul of a movie that revels in male sexual brutality. No amount of byzantine plot twists can erase or justify the bitter taste this film leaves you spitting.
San Diego, California
Re Lynn Yaeger's "Big Deal" [July 27]: The fashion industry's inability to understand that the average American woman finds little to relate to in the super-skinny models shows how insulated from reality they are.
There are millions of women cheering for the new crop of plus-size models who represent all that is natural, wholesome, and full of life. The constant message that we must continuously diet to meet some artificial measure of beauty compels women and young girls to hate their bodies. Let us move forward to honor the diversity of woman.
Praise to Kenji Jasper for writing such a great article regarding Big L ["Of Mics and Men in Harlem," July 13]. The media didn't spend enough time on his brutal murder. Meanwhile, rappers and other entertainment artists are being constantly assaulted and fear for their lives. In order for you to make headlines these days, the media only cares whether or not your album is platinum.
I hope Big L will rest in peace in the arms of the Lord.
Witch Is Real
Re Anthony Kaufman's "The 'Blair Witch' Directors on the Method to Their Madness" [July 20]: On opening day two friends and I decided to see The Blair Witch Project. We had seen the Sci-Fi Channel's program about the Blair Witch legend and were not aware the movie was just that, a movie. In the theater, Heather Donahue's screams of terror sent chills through my bones. Most of the people I talked to believed it was a true story. We were terrified to go to sleep until a friend called to say we should read Kaufman's article suggesting that the film was fictitious. I feel The Blair Witch Project was an excellent movie, given that we were led to believe it was real. Orson Welles, adapter of The War of the Worlds, would have been proud.
Magie Dominic's article "No Relief" [July 27], about life as a poor artist under Giuliani, was exquisite. Her ability to write such a lucid and succinct account of her experience is astounding.
Never has Michael Musto transformed words into poetry more perfectly than in his June 29 column. The multi-layered, self-loathing realities he speaks of, while acknowledging the 1999 Gay Pride week festivities in New York City, mirror the alarming complacency around the issues of AIDS and gay bashing in the gay and lesbian communities today. Musto's column left me realizing how easy it is to coexist with so much pain and choose denial rather than confronting issues head-on, substituting the endless quest for bigger "tits" and the next party in place of demanding change.
Voice jazz critic Gary Giddins has won a Ralph Gleason Music Book Award for Visions of Jazz: the First Century. He also has received two 1999 Bell Atlantic Jazz Awards, one for Visions of Jazz and another for his columns in the Voice.
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