Magie Dominic's letter/essay ["No One Decides To Be Destitute"], which was featured on the cover of the Voice last week, was extremely moving.
The worst prejudice has always been against the poor, and the bias turns to backlash if they try to pull themselves out of poverty! Try to take a piece of the pie, will you? That's the dirty root of racism and sexism. I shudder every time I hear about the booming economy and the "strength" of the soaring stock market because I know there are millions of poor people's backs being bent providing that strength: the easily ignored minions of our society. The chasm between rich and poor continues to spread, and I wonder where our consciences are.
I am sorry to say things are no better here in Southern California. I look at the suits and the BMWs and wonder what they have that others don't. Then I hand the wrinkled dollar bill to the ashen homeless man and see that he has everything nonma-terial that they lack. I pray things turn around for Dominic and all the others who didn't choose to be destitute.
Los Angeles, California
Where is the relief for people like Magie Dominic who find themselves in an emergency situation and need temporary help? Since there is no system that provides prompt assistance in times of tragedy, Ms. Dominic is forced to live on a meager $118 a week. In a situation like that, most people would be homeless long before they could recieve aid and get back on their feet. People complain about the jobless being unwilling to go out and work, but just getting an aid check and food stamps sounds like a full-time job to me.
Missing the Movement
Nat Hentoff's column "Where Is the Peace Movement?" [May 11] has such a narrow scope that it really discourages people from organizing against the war powers in our country. Focusing only on the Democratic Party and the lack of antiwar demonstrations like those we witnessed in the '60s is off the mark.
The true focus in the '90s has to be the incredible number of grassroots organizations built to communicate and educate outside the corporate control of the media. The most organized antiwar voices are now heard through newsletters, Internet sites, phone trees, etc.
Americans get no information about antiwar demonstrations and movements in other countries. There is more information in European newspapers about these issues than in any American newspaper. It's not an American response that will be the next peace movement but an international peace movement that will stop the American fascists.
Nat Hentoff replies: Since my column there has been more organizing around the country, but not enough yet to move Congress sufficiently. Nothing can move the empty president. For weeks now on both cable and commercial TV there have been many pictures of corpses and the maimed in Kosovo and Yugoslavia. Also in the newspapers. Nobody can say they do not know what's happening. To have an effective peace action we have to depend on ourselves because we are the major bombers.
Witches at War
James Ridgeway, in his May 25 Mondo Washington column, had a great item about Wicca worship in the military at Fort Hood, Texas ["Broomstick Soldiers"].
However, I would like to make a small correction. Within Wicca, male witches are not called warlocks. Warlock is a derogatory term (meaning oath breaker), which was applied to Wiccans by Christians. Wicca is a benign religion and should command the same respect as any other form of worship.
In J. Hoberman's review of Star Wars Episode I The Phantom Menance ["All Droid Up," May 25], he wrote, "The Phantom Menace may strike even some kids as excessively cartoon-like."
As adults, we are obliged by society to translate life's harsh realities into more innocent and exciting versions for children to digest. Hoberman bemoaned the lack of sex and cartoonish violence in the movie. But if the violence were real, and the sex were hot, it would not be appropriate for children.
The Phantom Menace is not a well-done adult film. It is an extremely well-done children's film. It is a modern fairy tale, with a young child at its center.
Lyme, New Hampshire
Re J. Hoberman's review of the new Star Wars: Admittedly, the advertising blitz is nauseating. Nonetheless, is there a single profitable movie that The Village Voice critics deem worthy of their curmudgeonly and bitter approval?
The constant politicizing and anti-corporate dissent against commercial films wears thin. This is not a film review, it's a social-science thesis. The Phantom Menace is just a movie; lighten up.
As a defense lawyer in Canada, I read Jennifer Gonnerman's "The Supermax Solution" [May 25] with interest, especially her comments on the new policy of housing two grown men together 23 hours a day in a cell less than 15 feet wide.
Whenever injustices are inflicted against any group of people, it helps if the people inflicting the injustices can separate themselves from the victims (in this case the prison population) by viewing them as less than human. The reality is that some of the prison population soon to be moved to Malone, New York, and interred in the supermax Upstate Correctional Facility will have been wrongfully convicted, some will have been badly socialized, others will be mentally ill, and the vast majority will be nonwhites from the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder.
Upon release, prisoners of supermax facilities will be considerably more damaged than they were when they were first incarcerated, and will have real reasons to be angry at the world.
Kudos to Ed Morales for his article "Uno Step Beyond" [May 25] about the canonization of Ricky Martin, who is hardly doing anything that could be called new. Being a gringo who has lived in Mexico City for three years, I have been exposed to a wealth of Latin music. Though I agree with Morales on several counts, I thought he would dig beyond the usual suspects: Café Tacuba, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, and Maldita Vencindad.
Though these are vanguard groups, there are quite a few more worth checking out. Los de Abajo from Mexico City put on a very energetic show of Latin ska. From Venezuela, Los Amigos Invisibles produce a lively mix of disco-revival, club,and funk. Jarabe de Palo, from Spain, does blues-infused folk-rock. Los Tres from Chile are completely ignored in the U.S. except, ironically, by MTV, which featured them on a Latin edition of Unplugged two years ago.
Mexico City, Mexico
Ed Morales replies: Three years before you left for Mexico, I went there to write a five-page story about Rock en Español for the Voice, which featured early interviews with Maldita, Café Tacuba, and Caifanes. Los de Abajo were discussed in a previous Voice review I did on Ozomatli. The other three acts you mentioned, Los Amigos Invisibles, Jarabe de Palo, and Los Tres, are non-ska bands and therefore did not fit this article's theme.
Just wanted to let Douglas Wolk know that the version of "Heard it Through the Grapevine" by the Crust Brothers, a/k/a Silkworm, was sung by Tim Midgett of Silkworm, not Steve Malkmus of Pavement, as he incorrectly stated in his May 25 article ["My High Guy"].
I know that Midgett is not quite the celebrity Malkmus is, so the piece might have lacked a certain je ne sais quoi had Wolk actually looked into it to any appropriate degree (damn those bootlegs and their lack of liner notes). If you are going to determine a "Grapevine" hero, please endeavor to put the laurel on the correct head.
Re "Keely Sings Sinatra," [Will Friedwald, May 4]: I couldn't agree more. In an age of pseudo-tributes, Keely Smith is the genuine article. The assured, clear delivery of her bronzed alto has long been a cherished staple in American music. Her Capitol albums Politely and Swinging Pretty remain outstanding gems in the golden-age archives of great albums devoted to pop standards. The only mystery is why this great artist has not been recorded more frequently during the last 20 years! Judging from a relatively recent appearance at Long Island's Westbury Music Fair, Ms. Smith's voice remains in exquisite condition. Singers of this caliber are a rare commodity indeed!
Smithtown, Long Island
Late White Way
Re Michael Feingold's "Playing It Again" [May 25]: I agree that Broadway has misplaced its priorities.
When I was 12 my parents took me to the West Virginia Mountaineer Dinner Theatre's production of Fiddler on the Roof. There were 13 actors. My mom and dad and I ate pulled pork and hushpuppies while the funny fat Jewish man made big faces and shook his belly. Late in the play, he sang a sad and sweet song about his little Chavaleh. Chavaleh danced under a couple of blue lights next to the buffet. Then a good-looking Russian boy joined her and Chava said "Papa, I beg you to accept us." When Tevye's response came, my skin turned hot.
In that moment, I knew that musical theater would be my life's work. I listened to every cast album I could find, and I studied the holy rites of dance, acting, and singing. I spent many long years practicing my art. My passion was unrelenting.
Twenty-two years later I am leaving the industry. Turns out the Great White Way has no room for the likes of me who fell in love with storytelling pioneers such as Lerner and Loewe, Kander and Ebb, Loesser, and Sondheim. Somewhere along the way the path they cut has been obliterated, the sets have grown bigger, the stories smaller, and I have grown emptier. If only someone could convince the producers "if you don't build it, they will come."
As the Staten Island coordinator for the Citywide Task Force on Housing Court, I appreciated J.A. Lobbia's effort to inform readers about the trials and tribulations of nonprofit groups that lost or were delayed funding in the past year ["Wrecking-Ball Budget," May 25]. Two facts, however, need to be made known.
The Task Force has maintained an information table in Staten Island Housing Court since 1992. I am available in the Staten Island Housing Court on the days it convenes to help people who can't afford attorneys. I work with homeowners and small-property landlords as well as tenants, who would otherwise be unaware of rights, laws, and procedures. Last year, while we were in the midst of the cutbacks and downsizing Lobbia outlined, some borough presidents contributed emergency interim funding. In fact, some funding came from Staten Island Borough President Guy Molinari, thus enabling me to continue serving his constituents.
Chiara C. Montalto
Staff writers Jennifer Gonnerman and J.A. Lobbia have won the New York Press Club's top award, the Gold Typewriter, for outstanding public service for their article "New York's 10 Worst Landlords," which appeared in the March 24, 1998, Voice.
Investigative reporter Wayne Barrett, jazz critic Gary Giddins, film critic J. Hoberman, photographer Andrew Lichtenstein, and illustator David O'Keefe have won awards in a competition sponsored by the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies.
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