NYPress really ought to be more careful about the sort of events it attaches its name to. I should say that we love NYPress dearly. Sitting down each Tuesday with the film reviews (nearly always better than the movies to which they refer), Cockburn and Corn unfettered by the crotchety rigidity of The Nation and George Tabb's preadolescent meanderings, is among our most cherished rituals. Zero Boy, who "fought" himself, did his best to convince the crowd that his special talent is being exceedingly irritating and fatuous. Michael Portnoy's bout against five five-year-olds was cute but completely uninspired, and the female gladiator match was just plain tedious. As I gazed over at Mr. Solondz, I imagined him thinking, "If this is what passes for art these days, it's no wonder my two cynical, feature-length navel-gazers have conferred upon me icon status."
All of this aside, we write in praise of Jonathan, a true artist whose talent, vulnerability and risk-taking inspire us to increase the presence of honesty, art and adventure in our own lives. Hope the bruises heal soon, and thank God for the nose guard.
Douglas Katz and Jason Greenberg, Manhattan
MUG Was a Roland Park Country School Girl MUGGER: You can piss on Al Gore's leg any time. But when you (11/10) make snide remarks about John McCain and "honor," perhaps you should take time to remember that he put it on the line when it counted.
When you were romping on the fields of Gilman School, or some similar Baltimore preppie hangout, John McCain was hanging by his thumbs in the Hanoi Hilton.
Eat shit and die.
Mort Weintraub, Larchmont, NY
How About "99 Bottles of Beer"? Each and every time John McCain's name is mentioned, his having been captured is mentioned, too. Many men have been held as POWs. Let's hear something else.
Having been a POW does not automatically make one suitable to be president. It's beginning to sound as if McCain is saying he should be the GOP nominee and president for no other reason than that he was jailed in Vietnam. His campaign finance "song" is ridiculous. Everyone knows that should such legislation pass, before the ink is dry someone will find the loophole and nothing will be accomplished. Again?let us hear something else!
Nancy L. Parker, Beverly Hills, FL
Okee Dokee in Sarasotee MUGGER: Read your article on John McCain. You're just another Alan Dershowitz, unhappy with your life. Bury your sword and lighten up. Life is good.
Mark Pynes, Sarasota, FL
A Subscription to Grit, Maybe? Let me first say that I love your paper. Some of it is too right-wing for my liking, but at least it doesn't bore me. What more can I ask for?
Taki, I was saddened to hear of your unfortunate encounter with that man in the park ("Taki's Top Drawer," 11/10). (I, too, in self-defense and out of ignorance of the law, might have wanted to break his arm.) I'll think a good thought for relief of the psychological trauma that you and your wife have suffered as a result of this incident.
Apropos of your remarks regarding Danny Glover's complaints about taxis: As a black man, I'll acknowledge how sad it makes me that "poor Bengali cab drivers" may "have been held at gunpoint by young blacks once too often." How sad it makes me, too, that you failed to acknowledge the awful reality of American racism (which countless immigrants quickly learn and assimilate via their interactions with racist white Americans) that is practiced by such cab drivers against black men who are concerned only with getting from point A to point B (to say nothing of being treated like decent human beings).
Perhaps you'll be as charitable the next time Khalid Muhammad invokes his vile hatred against the Jews?
Name Withheld, Philadelphia
Feeling Minnesota On behalf of the poor defenseless underclass of America, Armond White trashed the documentary American Movie ("Film," 11/3), accusing director Chris Smith of cynically engaging in class spite and of "using the inept poor as punching bags." White then goes on to do a victory dance on the dignity of the same helpless masses he just saved, labeling the subjects featured within as "banal?drug-addled ex-cons."
In your rush to defend the inept poor from juvenile indie filmmakers like Chris Smith, you completely missed one of the major themes of this documentary. Mark Borchardt, despite his obvious shortcomings, was the recipient of undying support from his network of what you called "decrepit family and loser friends." Borchardt succeeds in finishing his movie because he asks his community for help and they respond. Smith shows us that the road is a painful and hilarious route, but this hardly amounts to ridicule. (If you are truly concerned about cruelty and ridicule, ask yourself which would be the bigger insult to these people: watching American Movie or reading your descriptions of them.)
Of his parents you write that "nothing gets revealed." Yet the mother I saw quietly and vividly painted a bittersweet portrait of maternal devotion. She painfully admits in one interview that she doesn't believe that her son has the ability to realize his lifelong dreams, and yet time and again we see her helping out with everything from editing to acting in a shoot in sub-zero cold when extras don't show. Your statement that she is "elderly" and "non-communicative" probably is a reflection of your own class bias at work here. She doesn't dazzle you with her verbal skills, so she says nothing to you.
And how can you call Smith "invasive" for showing Borchardt hounding his old Uncle Bill for production cash when this is a documentary about a small-town filmmaker struggling to mount a production? Was it invasive to show Borchardt cooking Thanksgiving turkey for his infirm uncle? Was it invasive to show him giving him a bath? Uncle Bill and Borchardt had a very genuine rapport and badgering Unc for a loan was but one aspect of it.
Yes, Borchardt's technique is hack. And yes, he's still a visionary. He passionately includes everyone in on his quest, which makes for a dynamic personality and a perfect subject for a documentary. For better or worse, no one is exempt from his passion. His daughter learned to spool film onto the editing machine and Uncle Bill acted in a movie instead of decomposing in front of the tv. Borchardt and his moviemaking are a part of his community, and the community supports him for it. That's the beautiful thing about this film.
Despite your worst fears that we'll all laugh at the expense of poor decrepit losers who know no better, many people should see this film. It is an hilarious and touching portrait of an American dreamer and the people in his life who support him despite the odds. Anyone who really needs an ego boost will inevitably walk away chuckling under his breath at his own superiority. Who cares? That shouldn't prevent the rest of us from enjoying the whole story.
Tom Scott, Minneapolis
Nope MUGGER: Each time I read you on John McCain, I walk away scratching my head. True, many of the objections you raise are legitimate, but frankly he's the best there is. He's proved his sincerity by actually attempting to do things in the Senate. He's proved his competence. He's proved his ability to lead, rather than simply follow polls or a party line. I fail to see how the biased attack of a local paper can really impact a supposedly well-informed, intelligent writer such as yourself.
Whom do you suggest in McCain's place? A slackjawed country yokel, whose greatest accomplishments include buying a governorship, running several businesses into the ground and amassing tremendous funds, even as he owes political debts to half the special interests in the country? A man who refuses to take a conservative stand on anything, who simply tries to place himself in the center so as to avoid controversy, even on such an important item on the conservative agenda as abortion? A man who relies exclusively on the guidance of his staff, and is unable even to demonstrate a knowledge of foreign nations, let alone foreign policy? A man who when surprised by a question actually lauded an unconstitutional military coup in a nuclear power such as Pakistan? Is this the man you want to represent the nation to the rest of the world, to actually meet and bargain with true leaders from foreign nations? To be responsible to push some form of agenda through Congress and attempt to actually lead in some form? To control a tremendous bureaucracy, after indebting himself to just about everyone and their mother? Or, possibly, you would just rather continue under Gore the legacy of Clinton, or enter a new era of socialism and a disastrous economy under Bradley. On second thought, doesn't McCain look a little better now?
Mike Cognato, Norristown, PA
Hanoi Rocks MUGGER: I read your 11/3 "Who Is John McCain?" piece. Thanks for the insight into his real personality and the fact of his love affair with the national press. I remain totally confused as to why McCain has become the darling of the press. Perhaps it is, as you write, that the press is looking for a race in the campaign for the Republican nomination. Perhaps it is because the press and McCain have their noses up parts of each other's anatomy where the sun never shines. You make reference to this in your article.
Regardless, thanks for the frank and honest article, since I was beginning to think that I was the only person who saw McCain as overly sanctimonious.
Dennis Bunker, Burbank
Lait-Person's Dilemma In his 11/10 "Hill of Beans," Christopher Caldwell wrote: "If being 'in touch with America' means knowing what groceries cost, let's elect my grandmother. I do most of the shopping in the family and I couldn't tell you within a dollar what milk costs. Unless you're living in a famine, there's no reason to know what milk costs. What, are you going to not buy milk? Are you going to go home and say, 'Oh, shit, honey, milk's up to $3.99 a gallon, so don't give the baby his bottle until the price goes down.' Or: 'They're charging so darn much for milk down at the Safeway that the kids are going to have to take beer to school.' Or: 'You mind having your cereal with water tomorrow honey? I mean, that milk is going through the roof and the water here is excellent.'"
I say: No, sir. "In touch with America" means being aware of how much of your working day goes toward paying for necessities like food and shelter. If you didn't do "most of the shopping" in your family, your professed ignorance about the price of milk would be as understandable as the elder George Bush's. In that case, you might just have a vague estimate of how much of your paycheck or trustfund payout was going toward groceries.
But if you're the one deciding where to shop and what brands to buy, then you should know damn well how much the milk costs. My wife and I make decent money, but not so much that we don't know the varying cost of milk at our neighborhood groceries. Sometimes it's worth 50 cents to save walking a few more blocks. Sometimes it's not. Americans are currently carrying a huge amount of credit debt, and not saving much. When that chicken inevitably comes home to roost, people like you may realize that perhaps they should have paid a little more attention.
NAME WITHHELD, Manhattan
Unreconstructed Iron George Szamuely: I have been reading your column with great interest, mainly because it's the only one around that takes a strong left-wing point of view unabashedly. Your 11/10 column, in which you admit your past political sins, makes your writing appear that much more candid.
Of course, you weren't the only one to commit such "sins" at the time, but most of your fellow sinners go on now being confused, doubtfully retaining their convictions about the evils of the most recent socialist systems (those evils doubtlessly existed to some extent, but they were outweighed by the systems' positive aspects). They (and you!) put their trust in Russian yuppies, Croat and Baltic proto-fascists and the Polish "labor" class. What schmucks.
In a recent column you make another faux pas. You say something to the effect that anti-Semitism doesn't exist anymore and is totally played out. Anti-Semitism will exist as long as there is an even slightly identifiable group of Jews. It serves the purposes of politicians both of the right and of the extreme "left." Anti-Semitism is hale and well, though it isn't brought up much at the moment, because of the American hegemony (and of the important role certain Jewish social strata perform therein).
Boris Lurie, Manhattan
We Never Said the Voice Sucks, Drew Wanted to write to say how much I enjoy "MUGGER," "Taki's Top Drawer," the occasional John Strausbaugh piece and the overall NYPress experience.
I was commenting to my friends on the West Coast, where I'm from, that I've been overwhelmed by the literary quality of New York City. Back home, our majors include the Mercury News (referred to by some as the Murky News) and that piece of crap Chronicle (the Examiner shouldn't even get a mention).
Our indie out in Silicon Valley is The Metro. It's a passable alternative if you live in San Jose, and a notch below the San Francisco Bay Guardian.
But nothing compares to the New York media scene, especially the indies. I enjoy "MUGGER" for the wit and the writing style, but I also enjoy it because I can learn a bit about the New York media, fashion, and the general pop culture scenes.
You are all correct: The Village Voice does suck. I expected so much more from it, even knowing I wouldn't agree with its political bent.
Yep, Talk reeks (I lasted two issues), I think The New Yorker is the best thing going, Vanity Fair is spotty but real good when it is good, and that damn Economist is tough to digest, but I feel so damn smart after reading it.
As for Russ Smith's political predictions: something doesn't sit right. Bradley and Gore have a duel and then Bush beats one of them in what amounts to a not-so-inspiring race? It all sounds too clean and easy. I smell a big skeleton, a big gaffe or some sort of combination that turns this whole race upside down. It's all a joke, anyway.
My generation and the one below it (Gen-X and Gen-Y) will establish a legitimate third party in this country within the next 15 years. Our disdain for the system cannot be adequately described in any combination of words. We are just waiting till there are enough of us to tell the boomers to piss off.
Keep up the good work.
Drew Ianni, Manhattan
Soup Bones The anecdote about the guy who was arrested after running into Al Gore's motorcade on I-40 in Tennessee has a familiar ring ("Hill of Beans," 11/10). The arrogance of the Secret Service under the guise of "protecting the president" has few equals in America; they behave exactly like storm troopers. In Washington they make life a nightmare for people in the neighborhood any time Clinton passes through: towing cars, using intrusive intimidation tactics and ordering people about. Much worse than any movie shoot in New York City. They seem to think that people have no rights. I cannot understand why anyone puts up with it.
This administration's abuse of motorcades in Washington is so typical. They're perfectly comfortable with the idea of causing massive headaches for thousands of people anytime the whim strikes them, and on the public dime. Witness Clinton's use of a motorcade a few weeks ago to travel two blocks. This is the Gore "save the environment" administration in action. How can he go around talking about pollution?
If the Clintons ever tried to move into my neighborhood, I would scream bloody murder. I would rather live next to a convicted pedophile.
I was sorry to hear about Taki's Central Park adventure ("Taki's Top Drawer," 11/10). Thank God he wasn't seriously hurt; he must be quite a wrestler. As far as Danny Glover goes, I often think that the black community could afford to be a lot less tolerant of the black criminal. I was talking with a lady in a black neighborhood close by, and in passing she mentioned that some kids in the neighborhood occasionally go to the university nearby to prey on students. She seemed kind of amused by this. I would say this is inconsistent with whining about racial profiling. It seems to me that if I were a minority and some people in my group were going around ruining the group's reputation, I would be inclined to come down hard on them (like the Chinese do, for example). But I don't know of any blacks who see things this way. They expect to be treated the same as everybody else, but the bad guys who are ruining it for others and who instill fear in reasonable people?oh, that's not our problem.
Maybe Giuliani is right to force cabbies to pick up anybody, but if so they should be allowed to carry guns and encouraged to use them (i.e., be given the benefit of the doubt in court). Even then it would still be a much more dangerous occupation than, say, shopkeeper. Otherwise his latest edict sounds to me like another cowardly, bullying tactic aimed at a powerless group.
Joe Rodrigue, New Haven
Long and Hard Russ Smith: Get a grip.
It's not easy to knock the Tribeca Trib, the Tribeca Community Association and a hardworking Tribeca pol all in a single paragraph, especially in an article devoted to extolling that very neighborhood ("MUGGER," 11/10). But you do seem to work overtime bashing the very people who helped create the Tribeca you and MUGGER III appear to cherish. Fine, it's only your opinion, but learn some history first.
For the record, if it wasn't for Councilwoman Kathryn Freed, all you'd have in Tribeca are the "dilapidated buildings" you say she and DeSaram prefer instead of "development." My block association has been in existence since the early 1970s, and we can document that Freed fought early and long to make Tribeca come to life for both residents (through her support of the loft law, neighborhood parks, local schools, etc.) and businesses (through her support of creating mixed-use commercial zoning for Tribeca, thus allowing small businesses to thrive, including the "scores of restaurants and smattering of retail shops" you mention with praise).
DeSaram's TCA, meanwhile, has kept commercial and residential projects from overdevelopment (sometimes working at odds with Freed; sometimes working hand in hand). They are an independent group, but a vital voice regarding Tribeca's growth.
My point is that Tribeca remains a fragile live/work "experiment." Perhaps, in your need for an "outsider" status, you don't know the menaces involved. Maybe, in time, you'll come to appreciate those who worked on your behalf before you even arrived here (but who, unfortunately, don't have weekly columns in which to name-drop to show how really "in" they are).
Whatever. It's okay, Russ. Your neighbors in Tribeca accept you?warts and all. Would that you could do the same. Indeed, I can't help but imagine the Tribeca Trib staff chuckling at your description of them as "tilting to the left-wing view of life."
As I said, Russ, get a grip.
Jean B. Grillo, Duane/Thomas Neighborhood Committee, Manhattan
Bigger Than Teapot Dome Russ Smith ("MUGGER," 11/10) is deceiving himself if he thinks voters will forget George Bush's blank stare when asked to name the leaders of four major trouble spots. This was one of the biggest gaffes in the history of presidential politics and further demonstrates not only that Bush fails to grasp world affairs, but that he is totally unqualified to be president. Bush has assured his supporters that he will be ready when he takes office?as if he were studying for his SATs. However, he should have been ready the day he announced his candidacy. The fact is that Bush is better suited to be a member of the Not Ready For Prime Time Players than he is to be president of the United States.
Reba Shimansky, Brooklyn