Why Is It OK for Greg Tate ["Copland," May 25] to refer to Justin Volpe and Charles Schwarz, two of the cops accused in the Abner Louima case, using the "Nation of Islam term 'Cave Boy' "? Or write that Volpe and Schwarz seem "the sort whose descent from the apes was interrupted before such human values as compassion, remorse, shame, or an innate inhibition against sadism could kick in"? Or describe Schwarz as a "Big Crazy White Boy"?
Yeah, yeah, he was just relating how the "community" perceives Volpe, and not necessarily endorsing those views. But the point of the Louima case is that racism led to an unspeakable act of police violence. Race baiting is evil no matter the race.
Obie Won Can No Be
Having just won a special citation at the 1999 Obie awards for directing Sakina's Restaurant, I must say how disappointed I was with Alisa Solomon's article "Steal This Stage" [May 25]. That piece could kill the ambition of any small girl wanting to make the leap into artistic distinction.
We are in an exciting time when women can be who they want. There is no line in the sand except for unfortunate statistics that create an illusion that someone's success is largely based on gender. Winning the Obie citation was one of the greatest achievements of my life. Pieces like Solomon's discourage young women by making theater seem like a profession where gender politics always take precedence over talent.
Wisdom of Solomon
Thanks to Alisa Solomon for her concise summation of the position of women in theater. And what a goddamn relief to know that it hasn't been my imagination, as an award-winning playwright, that it's tough to get work, get paid, and get on with it!
Sharyn Abramhoff Shipley
International Center for Women Playwrights
The Fandom Menace
Re J. Hoberman's article "The Force Will Always Be With Us" [May 18]: It's not surprising that a bunch of kids back in 1977 greatly enjoyed a film about space cowboys and cool lightsabers. What is disconcerting is that these dreamy-eyed techno freaks are turning once again to grumpy billionaire George Lucas to help them revisit their idealized youth. The excitement about The Phantom Menace involves nothing more than a fantasy that Lucas's new film will transport fans to their childhood.
As a devotee of Star Wars, I enjoyed J. Hoberman's insights into the new movie. Star Wars is about a boy from the middle of nowhere who ends up saving the universe. When I left my dust-bowl town of Pocatello, Idaho, to tackle L.A., it was, in my mind, the equivalent of Luke's leaving his home planet of Tatooine to tackle the Death Star. My motto was, If Luke can do it, so can I.
Los Angeles, California
Richard Goldstein, in "The 'Faggot' Factor" [May 25], brilliantly brought to light the enculturated homophobia revealed by the Littleton murders. While some members of the press rushed to suggest that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold's psychopathology was a direct outgrowth of their alleged homosexuality, or at least to titillate their audience with that old chestnut, Goldstein probed the more cogent, albeit less popular, argument: that rage of Harris's and Klebold's intensity is cultivated by years of exposure to a very specific brand of humiliation. Considering this social dynamic is hardly isolated to Littleton, one can't help but feel a horrible sense of dread. If ever a bomb were in need of dismantling, it's this one, and Goldstein's piece brought us one small step closer to achieving that end.
Monitor & Response Team Member
Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)
Major props to Jennifer Gonnerman for her article "The Supermax Solution" [May 25]. Most telling is Gonnerman's statement, in regard to the new "supermax" prisons, that "rehabilitation is beside the point."
Law enforcement is in utter denial about the financial impossibility of jailing what is fast approaching 1 percent of the population. Many legislators now agree about the urgent need to stop jailing people for nonviolent crimes. This step alone would halve the present jail population, and the need for supermax facilities would be eliminated.
Bringing Up Andy
Re C.Carr's "The Urge To Purge" [May 25]: Tracey Emin's work has more to do with vomiting up her feelings and experiences than it has with art. Using advertising-like titles is a Warholian-derived gimmick to sensationalize her experiences. At the root of this public display of emptiness is profound narcissism. Emin is quite elegant in using that most American of devices to gain attention.
Luc Sante, in "Sewers of Budapest" [May 18], described Tom Waits's 1980s albums Swordfishtrombones, Rain Dogs, and Franks Wild Years in a way that captured their true beauty.
But how does somebody who still loves to crank up "Heartattack and Vine" and "Nighthawks at the Diner" make the transition to Waits's new sound on Mule Variations?
Turntables have been an artistic presence in non-hiphop music for a while now, but I find the idea of Tom Waits crooning to a scratch rather eerie.
Reading Guy Trebay's "The Enemy Within" [May 11], I was disgusted by the hypocrisy of the U.S. military. Clinton's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy remains one of his biggest errors. If gay people want to serve their country, they have to lie about an essential aspect of their being, yet heterosexuals are free to taunt and harass at will. How can you expect gays to survive under the pressure of having to hide who they are?
Re Alisa Solomon's "Big Guns on Campus" [May 11]: Although I sympathize with students who feel that the money CUNY allocated to buy guns should have been used for academic programs, the 69 percent drop in crime that resulted from the creation of this new school security force is impressive. Anyone who claims that armed security isn't needed should consider their safety.
Sharon Lerner's analysis of our nation's health-care system ["Profit and Loss," April 6] was right on the money. For 80 years, right-wing ideologues have frightened us with the bogeyman of rationing under a national health program, to the point where 44 million of us are now rationed right out of our private-market system, 30 millionplus are partially rationed, and the rest of us have to fight like hell with our health plans just to get the care we need.
The result? We spend almost twice as much per person on health care as other national health programs and we allow for-profit entities to rake off 10 to 30 percent or more for administration, slick advertising, outrageous executive salaries, and profits. Meanwhile, those of us in need suffer and die. And now they want to turn our only national health insurance program, medicare, into a voucher scheme to feed HMO profits.
The private insurancemanaged care revolution has failed. It's getting to the point where we cannot afford to get sick anymore. But the dirty little secret the insurance industry doesn't want us to know is that we can do better. We can afford the best health care for everybody by instituting a universal health-care program. Representative Jim McDermott's American Health Security Act has been reintroduced in Congress, and Assembly Member Richard Gottfried's New York health bill has passed out of committee and awaits Speaker Sheldon Silver's assent for a likely positive floor vote.
The only way we're going to get out of this mess is if people demand that public officials guarantee comprehensive, affordable, quality health care for all. Enough of feeding the beast!
Mark Hannay, Director
Metro New York Health Care for All Campaign
Richard Goldstein's May 25 Press Clips column was great! We need more on the anti-labor bias of the press and the resurgence of labor in New York City and nationally.
Fanning the Flames
Great article on the MetroStars fans at Giants Stadium [Denise Kiernan, "Among the Thugs: Who Are the Real Soccer Hooligans at Giants Stadium?" May 11]. There is nothing quite like the fan culture of soccer. It's a shame that security personnel cannot tolerate this.
As anyone who has attended soccer games overseas can attest, hearing fans chanting, singing, drumming, etc., is infinitely preferable to being in the comparatively lethargic crowds that watch American professional games. I'll take rambunctious fans over annoying, piped-in organ music and cries of "Charge!" any day.
Smoke & Mirrors
Re Donna Ladd's "Rebel Without a Smoke" [May 18]: I agree with Tom Humber of the National Smokers Alliance that historical photos should not be altered to suit the philosophy of the day. However, the digitally altered image of James Dean without a cigarette discussed in Ladd's article does not report history. It is being used to depict a sales image, and the advertiser has every right to alter it.
The question is, how is society starting to regard the promotion of cigarettes in the media? Do we still need to cast heroes in movies with butts dangling from their lips? Perhaps that is what needs to disappear.
It was good to read Sarah Smith's piece on Patrick Ewing ["Center of Attention," May 25]. Ewing may not be the athlete he used to be, but at his age and with his injuries, who would be? While I constantly hear the Knicks aren't a team to pin your hopes on, I've never doubted them. Why should I start now? Ewing is a warrior, which is what makes him stand out from all the other centers in the league.
Rose G. Charles
Thanks for Sarah Smith's cheeky coverage of the underwhelming New York Knickerbockers, who've probably broken more hearts this year than Casanova did in a lifetime, my soft pea included. Her style is phat, her jams plentiful, and her insights penetrating.
Late, Great Graffitist
Guy Trebay, in "Getting Up: DONDI and the Late, Great Art of Graffiti" [May 4], described the life of my brother, Donald J. White, from 1977 to 1988.
Dondi used the city of New York as his gallery and its public space and transit system as his canvas. He walked away from the fickleness of the art world in 1988. He fought demons, overcame obstacles, and found contentment in his life.
When death called, it did not ask Dondi what disease he had. The epidemic cut short my brother's life.
He is greatly missed.
Michael A. White
Lower East Side Arts Festival
The Lower East Side Festival of the Arts, three days of theater and theater-related events, will be held from Friday, May 28, through Sunday, May 30, in and around the Theater for the New City, First Avenue and East 10th Street, Manhattan. For information, call 212-254-1109.
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