PIMPIN’ IS EASY
Re Lynn Yaeger’s ‘Haughty Couture,’ [Frockstar, May 16–22]: At last someone has held a mirror up to the tedious Caliban of Tom Ford. After decades of fawning over this talentless pimp, a writer is bold enough to pinprick the hype. As much as fashion is inextricably plugged into hype, the appeal of Tom Ford is a mystery. His three-day beard, the open shirt and pruned chest hair is more a trans-channeling of Bob Guccione than avant-garde tastemaker. His clothes—borrowed heavily from the ’70s pimp style, including the nylon body shirts brought to you by Nik Nik, looked like they fell out of the window of a sweat shop and were always styled and promoted in what was labeled as “edgy sexuality.” When will we get past the notion that bondage is eternally edgy when the dungeon is more the habitat of middle-aged New Jersey suburbanites than forward-thinking aesthetics? TF is a marketing genius, fooling everyone with absurd price tags at the expense of style. Want to see beautiful clothes? Go look at Poiret. Want to see elegant menswear? Take a look at a c. 1920s Brooks Brothers or Hertz riding jacket. Want to see unfiltered bullshit? Go into the hermetic
skinned animal lair of the master of smoke and mirrors.
Tom Robbins’s superb article ‘Secrets of the Mob‘ [May 16–22] crackles with deadly quotes from George Barone, ex-Mafia hit man turned FBI informant. Barone’s insider testimony about the International Longshoremen’s Association should bolster the U.S. Attorney’s current RICO case against this historically racket-ridden union. Robbins’s savvy journalism is almost an epilogue to Budd Schulberg’s classic film On the Waterfront. Barone, a deaf 83-year-old “geezer turned canary” is not a complicated character like Marlon Brando’s noble stoolie. Barone’s revenge-driven behavior is more akin to “Sammy the Bull” Gravano’s getting even with the late John Gotti. Today, more than ever, workers need and deserve strong, clean, and democratic unions. Too often a rank-and-file whistleblower is unheard and ignored except by corrupt leadership and silent and powerless members. Concerned unionists risk retaliation that can include blacklisting, losing their jobs, expulsions from their union, and sometimes bodily injury. Thanks to Robbins and to the Voice for excellent journalism.
James F. McNamara
Association for Union Democracy
MUCH SHOCK, LITTLE AWE
The headline of Maria Luisa Tucker’s ‘Shocking Behavior: Parents Lobby Law- makers to Have Their Kids Zapped,’ [May 22, villagevoice.com] is needlessly sensationalized. It is no more appropriate to characterize therapeutic skin shock as “zapping” than it is to characterize surgery as butchering or stabbing. JRC uses carefully administered skin-shock aversives that are individually approved by a Massachusetts Family Court judge. The article unfairly insinuated, without evidence, that a student who eloped from JRC did so because of aversives. A very small number of extremely aggressive or self-abusive children cannot be successfully treated at special needs programs that are unable to use aversives and instead are expelled by those programs and/or drugged into insensibility. One such student arrived at JRC in a drug-induced coma that lasted a week. Which is preferable, a few harmless skin shocks that can turn a child’s life around or a drugged stupor, padded rooms, and being warehoused in a state mental institution?
Matthew Israel, Ph.D.
Judge Rotenberg Educational Center
SHE’S A GOOD OL’ BOY
Tom Robbins’s ‘Hack Attack‘ [May 23–29] concerning the staff hiring practices of NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn should be no surprise to those who follow municipal government. Speaker Quinn early on removed the veil of her Manhattan liberal independent reformer image to reveal that she is a seasoned Democratic party-machine leader. She follows in the fine tradition of her predecessors, former Council Speakers Gifford Miller, Peter Vallone, and the late Tom Cuite of Brooklyn. The five county Democratic political bosses don’t care if you are liberal or conservative, gay or straight, man or woman—just play ball like Speaker Quinn. Just hire their friends and generously distribute everyone’s share of pork barrel projects. You’re now just one of the boys in the smoke-filled clubhouse back rooms.
Great Neck, New York
DRAWN AND QUARTERED
In ‘Double Secret Probation‘ [May 23–29], Sean Gardiner writes about the NYPD’s declassified pre-RNC dossiers: “The Internet seems to have been the NYPD’s deepest Deep Throat. When Ted Rall wrote on his website in November 2003, ‘It will be Chicago 1968,’ and ‘Things are going to burn, people are going to die,’ a detective duly noted those quotes, in bold, in another missive. As if making the case for why these random thoughts should be taken seriously, the officer added, ‘Ted Rall is a Columbia University graduate who earns a living as a cartoonist/radio host and has been published in The Village Voice.’ ” Seems that Gardiner took the NYPD dossier at its anonymous word—always a mistake to assume competence or honesty when dealing with any government agency. The above “random thoughts” are not my random thoughts—they were me quoting other people in my syndicated column. Furthermore, the quotes come from my nationally syndicated column, which also appears on my website.
HIPPITY FUCKIN’ DO DA
Re Nathan Lee’s review of Flanders [ ‘Oh, the Humanité,’ May 16–22]: “Asinine Euro-hippie, anti-capitalist, pseudo-exploitation freak-out”? Would you prefer a genre film? I think Lee just described all of Makavejev’s work, too. If Dumont likes to bump uglies, Lee makes it a threesome with his zinger-prone write-ups that cram in too many hipster sound bites. Open yourself up to the poetry of the thing, man. Sure, I can categorically reduce the character Barbe to “the village slut.” Or I could consider that she is sacrificially giving herself to the two, for the imminent tragedy that awaits them (only one reading). There may be some superficial comparisons between Dumont and Bresson ?—such as the use of nonprofessional actors, long, contemplative takes and existential torpor—but isn’t that a perfect description of Carlos Reygadas? If I’m not mistaken, Dumont did time before Life of Jesus making industrials about machinery. I see some of that time-wasting, conveyor belt, attention-to-automation more as an influence than any failed attempts at Bressonian purism. Flanders uses tiny charges of abstract communication and barely-there gestures to tell its story and build mood. I did have problems with the film and actually agree with some of Lee’s points, but c’mon, don’t give in so easily to the backward momentum that forces critics to contrive reasons for why they don’t like films.