Revenge of the Mad Reader
In Peter Noel's article "Revenge of the Mad Rappers" [December 1], his main concern seems to be the conflicts between people in hip hop.
Not everyone in hip hop is violent. Some of us contribute to our neighborhoods. Method Man and Redman do charity work in New York and New Jersey. Fat Joe and Big Punisher held a charity dinner for hurricane victims in the Carribean.
Negativity breeds negativity, and Noel is feeding the cycle. He is taking the easy way out, doing what the mainstream has done: writing us off as violent and misogynistic.
Time of the Assassins
In "Revenge of the Mad Rappers," Peter Noel quoted me correctly, but out of context.
Noel referred to a time line I compiled of seminal events surrounding the assassinations of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls as a "conspiracy theory." The conspiracy I alluded to was on the part of the federal government, whose agents were following and spying on the key players Puffy, Big, Tupac, and Suge as they were when Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were assassinated.
Noel also missed one major point: that magazines and record labels play power games with their artists, photographers, and writers. This often causes friction that leads to violence.
Out of Africa
As an Ethiopian, I was pleasantly surprised to find Douglas Wolk's review of the CDs, Éthiopiques, Volumes 15 ["Different Times," December 1]. Ethiopian music is not as accessible to Western ears as much other African music, and therefore far less listened to and reviewed. I and many others here in Addis Ababa were delighted with and impressed by Wolk's review.
However, I would like to raise a couple of points. Ethiopia in the '50s, '60s, and '70s was not as isolated as Wolk suggests. It is true that then, as now, Ethiopia did not have immediate access to all aspects of pop culture, but music was something that circulated freely throughout Addis Ababa. Not everyone in the city would have heard every James Brown 45, but a significant number of people were exposed to much of the same music heard elsewhere especially musicians. The lack of outside influences in Éthiopiques Volumes 15 that Wolk mentions is due almost entirely to Ethiopian independence and orneriness, not a lack of outside influences. I understand that a future addition to the Éthiopiques series will be a Swinging Addis CD, which will show some outside influences not heard in previous volumes.
More broadly, Wolk writes that in Ethiopia under Haile Selassie, "reportedly, any expenditure over $10 had to be personally approved" by the emperor. This is utterly preposterous. It disturbs me that such reports can so easily be put into print. It is true that Ethiopia wasand still isa poor country, but please do not paint us in such an inaccurate light.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
As the organizer of "Listen, Listen: The Music of Sandy Denny," I can agree with many of Evelyn McDonnell's assessments about the singers, but she missed a fundamental point about the show ["Guided by Voice," December 1].
McDonnell begins her piece by asking "How do you pay tribute to a voice?" Good question. We were paying tribute to the music of Sandy Denny (see the subtitle) and trying to get her songs across. Since Sandy is known primarily as a singer, I felt that people should get a chance to know her as a songwriter and adapter as well. It is absolutely true that she "earned her fame" as a singer, but it's for that very reason we chose to present the songs that she wrote and adapted.
As for McDonnell's suggestion that I "may have wanted to turn the evening into a hoedown" by "gathering Southern alt-rock cronies," I can only assume that this is McDonnell's perception of what people below the Mason-Dixon line do at night. You know, drink corn liquor from a fruit jar, haul out the banjos, and play Sandy Denny songs while the hounds bay out behind the barn. How absurd and regionalist.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Evelyn McDonnell replies: As my nth-generation Kentuckian mother might say: "It's easier to cry prejudice than accept criticism."
Re Robert Christgau's "Thanksgiving anticelebration" Consumer Guide of "records worth hating" [December 1]: Audra McDonald has won three Tonys not two and her new album, Way Back to Paradise, is more than just a showcase for her octave-skipping gifts. McDonald should be applauded for giving new composers a chance instead of doing something safe.
It's nice to see someone with talent showing it off rather than the lack of talent displayed by some of the performers on Christgau's list of "turkeys." Surely, that should score some points with your resident "cult of the snide" reviewer. Or is it just fun to find something to carve up?
Andrew Hsiao's Press Clips column about mainstream media hyping of environmentalist violence was excellent ["The Green Menace," November 10]. Hsiao explained some of the problems that are happening here in Northern California. There is indeed a movement to call kids sitting in 3000-year-old redwood trees eco-terrorists.
In another incident last year, a group of young people chained themselves together in the Eureka office of Congressman Frank Riggs to protest old-growth logging. Videotape showed the police applying pepper-spray to the eyelids of the protesters with cotton swabs. In reaction to the event, Riggs hit the media circuit calling these nonviolent protesters "terrorists."
James Ridgeway's new Mondo Washington column has more information in just six or seven paragraphs than can be found anywhere else in the paper. His item on Henry Hyde's S&L dirty dealings and his analysis of the Mobil-Exxon merger [December 8] were first-rate.
The latter reminds me of Ridgeway's long-forgotten book, Who Owns the Earth?, which laid out the ownership structure of mineral resourcesit should be updated.
St. Paul, Minnesota
Mark Boal's article "Spycam Chic: The Surveillance Society: Part Two" [December 8] was very disturbing. I shudder at the thought that someone else is privy to acts I reserve for the privacy of a toilet, a cubicle, or voting booth.
The majority of Americans are unaware of the pervasiveness of these hidden surveillance devices. We rely on reporters like Boal to expose them.
Thank you for Nat Hentoff's column about antigay violence ["The War Against Gays and Lesbians," November 24]. As a child of Holocaust survivors, I am appalled by the Jewish leaders Hentoff wrote about, who want federal funding withdrawn for an exhibit at the Holocaust Museum about victims who were gay.
As Jews, we should know that violence against any group harms us all. America should be a place where no group feels unsafe. Hentoff's column was a strong reminder that it isn't.
New Rochelle, New York
Glad to see Gary Dauphin keeping the faith and giving smart coverage to the 6th Annual African Diaspora Film Festival ["Continental Drift," December 1].
However, near the end of his review, Dauphin refers to Claudia Cardinale as an "aging Italian diva." Ms. Cardinale was born and raised in Tunisia.
Her family is originally from Italy, but they live in Tunisia, too which is only to say that African identity is never what it seems.
I enjoyed Linda Stasi's column about the media's hypocrisy in ridiculing "the less-than-model looks of Paula, Hillary, Monica, and Linda" while letting their male counterparts like Ken Starr and Henry Hyde go unscathed ["Scandalous Beauty," December 8].
I have often been embarrassed by the comments made by some of my male acquaintances regarding the appearance of women who happen to be newsmakers. These same people never comment on the appearance of men in the news.
S. Robert Politzer
Robert Christgau's music reviews are enjoyable, but in his piece about Willie Nelson ["The Unflashiest," November 17], he refers to 1995's Just One Love as "an old-fashioned country record... featuring Austin songbird Kimmie Rodgers." The reference should have been to Kimmie Rhodes.
Graffiti For Sale
I loved Richard Goldstein's "New York (Old) School" [November 17]. Case 2 is a master of aerosol art and it's good to see him getting some attention. Now why don't some nice rich folks go out and buy his paintings?
Hollis, New York
HMO to go
Dr. Jordan Stern may beas Sharon Lerner's November 10 column is titleda "Pain in the Neck" to HMOs, but that's all he is.
Dr. Stern's experiences with the new bosses of U.S. medicine are commendable but not unusual. Many of us in clinical practice have tried to take on the insurance cabal with mixed results, like Dr. Stern. Occasionally, we score a victory for our patients, but the contrary is the norm.
It is naive to think that one doctor can take on the insurance empire which has the backing of the federal governmentand win. The HMO system was created by the banking and insurance industries as an answer to the call for a universal health-care system.
Our profession, which has an elitist attitude, has refused to accept the need for unionization. Now, we are paying the price, working harder for less income and worse, our patients are getting quick, cookbook remedies from HMO-dictated management.
Don Sloan, M.D.
Gary Giddins's lucid analysis of jazz and other music is the reason that I buy the Voice in Boston at two bucks a pop. His contemporary cultural criticism will be read long after it is published.
I enjoy Toni Schlesinger's informative columns about how people manage to live in New York City. I spent last summer in New York, and wondered how people could possibly afford it!
Regrettably, I'm back in Arizona, but Schlesinger's interviews give me insight into the lives of the people living in New York.
Michael Zilberman's equating of the Canadian film Hard Core Logo with That Thing You Do [November 17] shows that, to use his own words, he has "neither dick nor talent" as a critic.
Hard Core Logo was one of the ballsiest films I've seen in years a stunning representation of life on the road.
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