Jar Wars

Re Richard Goldstein's piece on whether Jar Jar Binks is gay ["The Nelly Menace," June 15]: either Goldstein has decided to take a vacation from writing on anything relevant or he truly believes some of the tripe he states in this article.

Jar Jar is a computer-generated character who is kid friendly and annoying to adults, à la Barney, Big Bird, etc. Leave it to adults to read motivations and hidden messages where none lie.

I stand with the other 80 percent of adults who despised Jar Jar, but I also had the presence of mind to realize he was targeted to children, which allowed me to concentrate on the more interesting characters such as Obi-Wan and Darth Maul.

Goldstein is reading what he wants to see in the character (Star Wars has a tendency to inspire that in people), but the truth is that Jar Jar is a kid's character. He's the Tinky Winky of a long time ago and a galaxy far, far away.

Now, were Mr. Goldstein to have devoted his piece to the dreadfully inappropriate accents in this movie, that might have been a tad more relevant.

Frank Fontaine


Richard Goldstein is joking in his article about Jar Jar Binks, right? I haven't seen this film, but the idea of an alien homosexual is an absurdity, an impossibility. The words and concepts "alien" and "homosexual" are mutually exclusive. The first refers to beings not of human origin; the second, to the love of humans for others of the same sex. (When you introduce aliens into the equation, the closest expression I can think of would be "bestiality.")

I herewith coin a new term to designate the state of alien-human sexuality: "xenosexuality," which marries the Greek prefix xeno, for "foreign" or "strange," with sexuality. This makes more sense than labeling Jar Jar as something he is probably physically and genetically unequipped for.

Martin Braun

Lesbi Reel

Hooray for "The Nelly Menace." As a lesbian raised on Star Wars movies, I thought this film did a much better job than any of its predecessors of providing more than a token strong female character. There were two women on the Jedi council, there were female fighter pilots, Anakin's virgin mom was a role model for single parents, and Queen Amidala/ Padme fights. One potentially gay character and a smattering of strong women may not be enough, but it's more than we (read women and gay men) get in most mainstream movies. I'll take the Nelly Menace as a depiction of my reality over The Mummy, Entrapment, The Thirteenth Floor, Notting Hill, or A Midsummer Night's Dream any day. I think you can only read racist and sexist/homophobic steroetypes into The Phantom Menace if you have those stereotypes yourself.

To George Lucas I say, "You go, girl!"

Jacyn Piper
Olympia, Washington

Richard Goldstein replies: Regarding the Fontaine letter: So it's okay to speculate about ethnic stereotyping in Star Wars but not to examine its presentation of sexuality. Why am I not surprised by this double standard?

Naked Truth

We appreciated the psychologists' perspective on Spencer Tunick's photographs in Robin Rothman's article "Nude Awakening" [June 8]. As a psychiatrist and a medical student who were actual participant- observers interested in the psychological factors that contribute to people's conceptions of their bodies, we can give further access to the experience of posing nude for art.

In a culture where priority is given to the body and to appearance, and nakedness is associated with embarrassment, posing acts as the ultimate in desensitization, allowing individuals to confront their fears in extreme ways. We were flooded with our body- conscious anxieties as we lay on the asphalt in Times Square on April 25, and transcended the arbitrary cultural norm of nudity as inappropriate and indecent. Suddenly, we were aware and free.

The experience also transforms a person's self-concept. Posing with a group of 150 people approximates a collective ritual.

Rose S. Cohen
William Pirl

Easy Street

Mark Boal, in "Women Are Easy" [June 8], writes that "most guys will run for the hills rather than watch a bad-hair makeover. Only three men tune in Oprah for every 10 women who do." Of course more women watch Oprah. And citing James Webster from Northwestern University claiming that girls will play with boys' toys, but boys won't play with girls' toys— is Boal kidding? I can't begin to count the number of boys I know (some homosexual, some not) who played with Barbie dolls at a young age. Do homosexual males not count in this study? Boys love Barbie everywhere.  

Boal makes women sound like couch potatoes and men like interesting characters who know how to focus. Thanks for the quotations from Jean Kilbourne and Susan Faludi— yet the tactic of throwing in a few random feminists to make your article seem thought-out and fair doesn't work.

Boal fuels the fires of ignorance on which our media feed. He fills this article with empty quotes and irrelevant statistics! Men vs. Women: Who watches more TV? Who doesn't? Who cares?

Michele Mason

Mark Boal's "Women Are Easy" was informative and well written. Yet I was struck by an assumption that seemed to be contrary to the point he was making about the ad industry.

Boal wrote: "In April, more women watched Baywatch than did men, suggesting that women may be more comfortable making comparisons between themselves and an ideal."

Who says more women aren't watching Baywatch because of the male lifeguards? Maybe they're simply more comfortable gawking at bronzed hunks on the screen.

Shah Motia
Bridgewater, New Jersey

Cheap Veep

I read with horror James Ridgeway's account of Al Gore's attempts to keep South African AIDS patients from receiving affordable multi-drug medication [Mondo Washington, June 8]. The question put to the vice president in a letter by Ralph Nader's Consumer Project on Technology—

". . . how would you act if 20 percent of all sexually active young people in the United States were infected with a fatal disease, and a foreign country was trying to prevent you from purchasing drugs on the global market to save money . . . ?"— is a compelling one.

If Gore were on the other end, he'd be fighting mad if his counterpart in a rich, medicine-producing country refused his constituents access to cheap medication.

Scott Morrissey
Morristown, New Jersey

Bird Flies At Knight?

In John Stravinsky's article "Sideline Stoic" [June 8], he stated that "[Larry] Bird had his own problems long ago during a brief stay at Indiana University (before he moved on to Indiana State) under Bobby Knight, his coaching antithesis. 'I've played for screamers,' he told a reporter last season without naming names."

Bird may eventually have had problems with coach Knight, but since he left Indiana before the first practice of his freshman year, it is impossible to conclude that he had any problems with Knight while at Indiana. Bird has stated many times that the Indiana campus in Bloomington, and the number of people attending college at the time, were so intimidating to him that he went home to French Lick. Knight has said how sorry he was that he wasn't more sensitive to Bird's problems at the time. It's possible Bill Fitch of the Celtics was the unnamed coach Bird referred to in his "screamer" quote. It is easy for reporters to needlessly and incorrectly blame Bob Knight for everything. This is another of those times.

Barry Gellers

John Stravinsky replies: Point well-taken as far as how much of Bobby Knight Larry Bird ever had to actually endure. My assertion that Bird had "problems" with Knight is perhaps too secondary-sourced. I think it's safe to assume, however, that when Bird says, as he often does, that he doesn't care for in-your-face coaches, he's referring to the likes of (if not in fact) Knight, whose reputation as such is secure. Fitch, by the way, receives high marks in Bird's 1989 autobiography, Drive.

Quote, Unquote

I've been a reader of the Voice for many years and have appreciated the press given to me by Gary Giddins, Nat Hentoff, and Michael Musto. However, I was shocked to read Guy Trebay's article "India Ink" [May 25], and regrettably feel that I was used and quoted out of context for this story.

Trebay called me the day after a reception held by the Indo-American Arts Council for the launch of my new CD. Assuming that was the reason for his call, I accepted it. I was not aware that I was being sought for a quote, nor was I informed that I was being interviewed for a story on such an unfortunate event [a shooting in a club in New Delhi]. At no stage did I ever insinuate that the club owner, Bina Ramani, or her daughter Malini were responsible for any wrongdoing.

I also would like to inform your readers that the inappropriate reference to me as a "former pop star" is most misleading and detrimental to my career. I am still singing, recording, kicking, and very much alive. Thank God. I have immense respect for your writers, including Guy Trebay, but please set the story straight.  

Asha Puthli

No Comment

Regarding Guy Trebay's "India Ink": I appreciate the objective view portrayed in the article. However, I was quoted out of context and not one of my family members was called for comment. Furthermore, by publishing this article Trebay is doing exactly what the piece condemned. My family has been victimized by tabloid journalism in India. Any hope for a normal life seems far away. By publishing this article, Mr. Trebay added unwanted attention to an issue that deserves no more.

Gitanjali Ramani

Buena Vistas

In response to Richard Gehr's commentary on Buena Vista Social Club [June 8]: Despite its seeming faults, I look forward to seeing the film after having listened to the soundtrack CD over and over again. Finally, Cuban jazz as I always wanted to hear it. The romance, the nostalgia, the pathos all fuse together in one of the most pleasing recordings I've heard in a long time.

Ry Cooder, who assembled Buena Vista Social Club, has an ear for world rhythms that is unrivaled in mainstream music today. I suppose these musicians were easy to find, given their stature in Cuba, but, once again, it is Cooder who brings them to the American stage, as he did the incomparable Ali Farka Toure.

Jim Ferguson
Vilnius, Lithuania

Speed the Plough

I am writing in respectful protest of Charles McNulty's unduly lame review of Robert Cucuzza ["Speed Freaks," May 2]. I experienced the show as a dizzying, thrilling ride through a mind at its brink. Speed Freaks managed to tackle one of the stalest, hackiest subjects of the '90s— serial thrill-killing— and infuse it with a sense of absurdity and empathy that seemed as wrong as it was delightful. I thought its hyperkineticism was beautiful, crazy, and fun.

Charles McNulty is a smart, well-regarded critic. As a solo performer I have received both positive and negative reviews from him. I wish he were less enervated by the work that Downtown produces.

Colleen Werthmann


In the June 15 jazz supplement, the names of contributors Albert Murray and Grover Sales were misspelled.

Mcdonald Memorial

A memorial service for longtime marijuana-legalization activist Robert McDonald, 36, who died on June 6, will be held at CBGB's Gallery, 313 Bowery, on Thursday, June 17, at 7 p.m. Speakers will include radical attorney Leonard Weinglass, activists Dana Beal and Johann Moore, and singer David Peel. In 1998, McDonald was the lead plaintiff in a precedent-setting case against New York City, charging that the city had unfairly delayed the granting of a permit for a marijuana-legalization march.

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