Letter of the Week
Cool for karaoke kids
I mostly enjoyed Francis Davis's review of the Bad Plus ["Hearing the Irony," October 511], but if he really thinks that "Only someone who liked '25 or 6 to 4,' 'Paradise by the Dashboard Light,' and 'Open Arms' when they were current can be nostalgic about them now," he's kidding himself. I don't care for any of those songs either, but anyone who's set foot in a karaoke joint in the past decade will have seen the latter pair performed bygasp!people who weren't even born yet when they came out. As for Davis's confession that his "only recent meaningful contact with young people has been reading I Am Charlotte Simmons ," I hope I'm reading him being as ironic as he says the Bad Plus are.
I am writing to thank Sydney H. Schanberg for writing "How Many More Must Die?" [September 28October 4] As the wife of a currently deployed soldier in Iraq who has spent two of the last four years in the Middle East, it greatly saddens me how the rest of the country is afforded the luxury of being so oblivious to the tragedy of this war.
Many people do not even take the time to have an informed opinion about the war. It is so easy not to! However, it is the least you can do as a citizen of this country, which has thousands of men and women fighting, dying, and being damaged both physically and emotionally in the name of your country. Just have a damned opinion. Is even that too much to ask?
We are a small and quiet community, scattered throughout the country carrying a daily sadness all on our own. There are no countrywide sacrifices like the war rations there were when my father was young, during WW II. There is no real fear of the draft like there was in Vietnam, because the Bush administration knows that could wake the country into having real and strong opinions about this war that may be contrary to its own. But as a whole the country need not worry, need not fret over the fear of losing a child to war. This is a luxury that this country has never had before, and I find it embarrassing.
To the overwhelming majority of U.S. citizens, these soldiers are little more than numbers on a ticker at the bottom of news broadcasts or tiny helmets on a page to represent war deaths. However, when I read this story and looked at those helmets, my eyes welled with tears, knowing intimately that each one represents some young person, someone's child, parent, sibling, or friend. I have held in my arms a sobbing young widow at her husband's memorial service who could only say, "I don't want to do this," all the while knowing that one day that could be me. It saddens me that these young men and women are brought home in flag-draped coffins that the country is not made to see. It is a small courtesy that can be offered to the people who have died in the name of this country, to at least be aware of their deaths. Yet we are spared this as well.
So who tearfully reads each soldier's name in national broadcasts on a special day set aside to remember, as we've done each 9-11? Some argue that this is a voluntary military, so that makes it "different." Are the deaths of these soldiers any less tragic than those of the firefighters who lost their lives in service to their community? Where is the national outpouring of goodwill and charity, setting aside funds for the widows and children of fallen soldiers, as we have done for firefighters? Where is the "Damn, this war is a huge burden on our fellow citizens and their families"? Where is the "Are the deaths and dismemberments really worth it?" Where is the compassion? Who comes to bow their head?
So again I thank you for your article that shines a small light on the issue, which keeps those willing aware. It lets me know that at least someone is paying attention.
Thank you, Sydney H. Schanberg. I am a marine (two Iraq tourslatest one was after my contract ended) and I can't express enough my joy in seeing someone other than myself asking the same question I have asked myself thousands of times: Why is the burden of this war on such a minuscule percentage of the population (mostly people under 25)? I bet if there were a draft this war would be over by now.
A sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps
Michael Atkinson is normally among the most perceptive and eloquent critics around, which is why I'm baffled by the lead paragraph of his review of MirrorMask ["Cracked Mirror," September 28October 4], which slanders not only Neil Gaiman but an entire medium of artistic expression.
Atkinson is certainly welcome to think that Gaiman is an overrated writer or even a terrible one, but he needs to actually make an argument and describe work that Gaiman has done. (Pointing out that The Wolves in the Walls is a children's book hardly counts as a critical assessment.) Atkinson needs, in other words, to show us that he's done the homework necessary to cavalierly dismiss an award-winning and bestselling writer's fame as "subliterate demigod-hood."
Even worse is his suggestion that graphic novels or their adaptations form a subgenre. Graphic novels and comic books have addressed a wide range of subjects and are capable of both brilliance and stupidity, just like films, books, and plays. It's true that the movies have been pretty awful, often because they're based on substandard material. But in plenty of other casesGhost World and From Hell come to mindit's been the movies that have failed their sources, not the other way around.
Palo Alto, California
It seems Atkinson has become so incensed by the slew of comic-book adaptations the film industry has recently produced that he has lost not only objectivity but also rationality. While one concedes that there have indeed been a number of turkeys, it is apparently lost on Atkinson that MirrorMask is, in fact, not based on a comic book at all.
In the wake of Michael Atkinson's casual, complete, and ludicrous dismissal of the medium of graphic narrativenot a mere entire genre, mind you, but the very medium itselfI imagine Voice readers can look forward to art reviews that condemn all sculpture, book reviews that disavow fiction, and pop music reviews that lament the way in which beauteous instrumental tones are so offensively sullied by the presence of a human voice.
Metuchen, New Jersey
Michael Atkinson replies: I note that MirrorMask is a movie before it is a comic bookas if it makes much of a difference, particularly in terms of Gaiman's career, volumes of which I have snored through. As for the medium's claim to fabulousness, I'd rather actually read, thanks.
Georgia on his mind
Thank you so much for Rob Nelson's article on Georgia Brown ["Mother Knew Best," September 28October 4] . I loved her writing so much, especially every word she wrote about Kieslowski's films. She liked him almost as much as I do. I've always wondered what she did when she left the paper. While Nelson's last paragraph was interesting, I wish he'd said a little more about what she's been up to. We really need a collection of her film writingI'd go back to it again and again.
Re Sarah Ferguson's "Cindy Sheehan's Week in Washington" [September 28October 4] : Although I feel sad for Cindy Sheehan, I in no way support her. If we pull out now, all these guys and gals will have died in vain. To me and many others she is making a mockery of her son's death. That is wrong. I too have had a lot of family in the military. My husband's cousin was killed on 9-11; my husband is a disabled Korean War veteran who is in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. My cousin Rob Skinner won a Silver Star in Iraq and I'm very proud of him. None of them quit and ran. None of them put our president down at a time when our nation needs every person to stand up against terror. I hope Sheehan will have the good sense to go home.
Robert Christgau writes : Horrendous error: The Amy Rigby song I call "Last Night I Danced With Johnny Ramone" in my most recent Consumer Guide ["Craft and Lies," September 28October 4] is actually "Dancing With Joey Ramone." My third egregious brother error: first the Alvins, then the Gallaghers, now the Ramones. How stupid of me.
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