MUGGER: How could you, in this week's column (perfectly justifiably) condemn Pat Buchanan's anti-Semitism, without doing the same to Taki's (10/30)? After all, as you yourself point out, he (Taki) is bankrolling Buchanan's current ravings and ramblings and, as I recall, made several snide comments about Jews (often having nothing to do with Israeli politics) back in his New York Press days. In fact, I couldn't believe you kept Taki around as long as you did, unless, of course, in this tough advertising environment, he was bankrolling your (generally quite reasonable and entertaining) ravings and ramblings, too.
Mark Spiegel, Manhattan
A Bloody History Lesson
Thanks for C.J. Sullivan's article on the Bronx Bloods ("Blood In, Blood Out," 10/30). I was going to send in some mail last week after reading that crack about Crip graffiti in Brooklyn being "the gibberish of the fatherless" or whatever it is that Tim Hall scribbled ("Real Estate," 10/23), but this article was a step in the right direction (away from the sort of kneejerk bigotry the rants in the Press frequently feature).
Some quick points, though: The origin of the Crips and Bloods was actually the devolution of the Black Panther Party and other militant organizations into gangsterism following the end of the 60s. The groups' political ideology faded out, but the armed aspect remained. Kind of like the rise of the Sicilian Mafia, Camorra, etc. The Bloods grew out of Los Angeles street gangs like the Swans, Slausons and Pirus. The Crips were supposedly started by a young thug named Raymond Washington, who organized his own gang in response to the increasing numbers of Bloods in the L.A. area. The name comes from the original name of the gang, the Crypts, which was also an indicator of how long you were expected to remain active in the gang ("From the cradle to the crypt"). The Crip/Blood conflict supposedly began in earnest when Washington strolled into the funeral of a rival Blood, fired an entire clip of ammo into the deceased's body, overturned the casket and walked out. And judging by the records of gang-related homicides in 1980s L.A. alone, I'd estimate that thousands, not hundreds, have died since.
The acronymic descriptions of the words Blood and Crip are also a West Coast holdover. Few of the kids actively gangbanging in New York have much knowledge of the history of the gangs they now rep, so they're just kind of making some of it up as they go along. Also interesting is the way that some of the local Crip sets have adopted the names of L.A. sets wholesale. You'll frequently hear gang members mention, say, the Rollin' 30s or whatever, and be completely unaware that they're referring to an L.A. 'hood. The part about the multicultural makeup of the Bloods is correct. In Brooklyn, there are numerous all-Latino Blood sets. In Flushing, you'll see some Asian Bloods. The leader of the Bloods on Rikers Island for a while was also Latino. I'm not sure if this is still the case.
At least the streets haven't broken down into the sort of race-based gang warfare that rocked Southern California in the 80s and early 90s. In an environment as tightly packed and relatively integrated as this city is, that could be a grim scenario. It could be that the reason the Crips and Bloods in NY haven't really attained the nefarious heights of their west side counterparts is largely due to the still-solvent economy of the city. After a couple of rounds of Mayor Bloomberg's proposed budget cuts to the NYPD and an overall reduction of city services, it'll be interesting to see what develops in terms of the seriousness, frequency and types of crimes committed by these gangs.
J. Annum, Brooklyn
Now This Is Scary
Jim Knipfel: I have an irrational fear of taxi drivers, barbers, nurses, reporters, lawyers and paralegals, dogs, comics, actors, bus drivers (they really get me), waiters and waitresses, singers, dancers (spooky people), doctors, professors, beauticians (why do they do that?) ("Books," 10/30). Hey, anything is creepy if you really want it to be. Leave the clowns alone. Jeez.
Peter Kang, Los Angeles
Another Clownophobe Reports
Clowns I personally know splosh, partake in Satanic rituals and are self-professed dowsers ("Books," 10/30). They live a crazy quilt of constructed realities to be able to cope with others. They vacillate from do-gooders in the open to practitioners of strange rites in private. They are comfortable behind walls of wildly colored scrims-hiding behind those scrims to create scenarios to act out desires for freedom from their conceptions of how personal relationships are commonly regarded in society. Humor is secondary (hence the sophomoric level), used only as a vehicle for more denial. They continually plunge further into worlds created through neurosis. I bet if they were unable to perform, through this outlet, it would be catastrophic to them. You know, like the "Stones"!! Having a book or photographic record or any representation of this state ain't okay by me.
Guy Walker, Manhattan
Homo on the Range
Mike Signorile: As a gay Italian-American, I also love The Sopranos ("The Gist," 10/23). I see many similarities to my growing up in an all Italian family (minus the mob stuff). The Montana Senate race shows that there is enough hypocrisy on both sides to go around. I guess the way I see the two sides is that Republicans see the issue as homosexuality versus gay. Gay Democrats have worked hard to educate Americans on how gays and lesbians live their lives in this country, and the outcome, for the most part has been favorable. We are starting to be portrayed as normal people everyone knows and works with. Then comes a breakthrough show like Queer as Folk and puts perceptions of gays back into the closet. We are portrayed as sex pigs. We are hunting for our next prey and will screw anyone who gets in our way; you and I both know that could not be further from the truth. But hey, you have to give it to Showtime-they captured a market that most of the industry didn't even know was there. Gay Republicans like Andrew Sullivan make me sick; he will say anything to agree with the right in order to play in their market and, let's face it, the right has the larger chunk of the pissed-off, let-me-tell-you-what-I-think market. I would imagine that once the left starts to capture a bigger and bigger market share, and hopefully some day replaces "pissed-off radio," then homos like Andrew Sullivan will reinvent themselves as gay.
Louie Tamantini, Long Beach, CA
To J.P. Lund of Austin, TX ("The Mail," 10/30). Yes, this Yankee dude is seriously considering joining a local gun club. Thanks for the website tip, there, J.P. Frankly, I like Lavender Lugers better, but what the hell. And you're right again. Not all fags are pussies, and not all pussies are fags. Annie, get your gun. Oh, here! You can hold mine for me.
Vincent Turner, Boston
Bully for Sully
Peter Eavis quotes George Orwell to condemn Andrew Sullivan ("Daily Billboard," 10/31). Sullivan is a journalist/pundit who has made himself the nemesis of all prominent persons who do not take a firm stand in favor of the American war on terror. Eavis criticizes Sullivan's "increasingly hysterical attacks on the antiwar movement" and cites Orwell as an authoritative testimonial: "Few things in this war have been more morally disgusting than the present hunt for Quislings and traitors."
I took advantage of the link provided by Eavis and read the essay by Orwell that included the above quote. When read in Orwell's original context, the citation does not condemn Sullivan at all. Orwell is against the hunt for Quislings and traitors because at the time he was writing, only the small-fry, relatively harmless collaborators were being pursued. The most influential and traitorous culprits were getting a free pass. This is precisely the kind of thing that would tee off Andrew Sullivan as well.
And Sullivan is not conducting some kind of witch hunt whereby the targets of his critical intellect would be censored and/or censured. He is actually laboring on quite in the tradition of Orwell himself: search for and find sloppy discourse on the big questions of the day, and counter it with tightly reasoned, almost surgically brutal analysis.
Matthew Goggins, Bronx
Thanks for that Image
Zach Parsi wrote in "Adipose Nation" (10/9): "There are those who posit that human beings have stopped evolving; that our technology and the complex societies that produce it have exempted us from the laws of natural selection. Nonetheless, one can imagine a future world where only thin people procreate, passing their good eating habits and exercise routines on to their children. Slowly the population would regain the complexion it had when Whitman was inspired to write."
Mr. Parsi, I am sorry to report that you are incorrect. I have personally witnessed procreation by two people who are physically unable to have coitus. In fact, the doctors had to go to great lengths in order to ensure a succesful conception because the woman was so enormous. However, technology prevailed and they are now expecting twins.
Name Withheld, Seattle
5-1 Says It Happens Anyway
For the last two weeks, MUGGER has written that Mayor Bloomberg can solve much of the City's financial problems by immediately legalizing casino gambling in NYC. And last week, MUGGER volunteered that is was a mystery why this hasn't been instituted.
Allow me to solve the mystery. It's not really complicated. Anyone who had a minimum knowledge of New York government might have stumbled upon the answer but I guess it would have been asking too much of MUGGER. Casino gambling in New York City is prohibited by the New York State Constitution.
Jerry Skurnik, Manhattan
Couldn't Handle The Truth
I once liked Armond White, but when a movie by one of his favorite directors appears, he turns into an idiotic drone, unable to recognize sheer incompetence just because the movie is loaded with certain signifiers: New Wave references, multicultural pretensions and, in the case of The Truth About Charlie, God knows what else ("Film," 10/23). What on Earth possess White to favorably review this piece of trash? "When Newton runs through the gray, crowded streets in a white raincoat, she isn't simply escaping bad guys but strangely is in pursuit of something ineffable: Demme's dream of movie utopia, a now esoteric ideal." Is this literally what is happening in the movie? Is Newton's character, or even Demme, really concerned with the art of the French New Wave? Or are they just fan-boy geeks with a collector's love of cinema, taking their cues not from the world around them but from their DVD collections? If nothing else, Malle's Zazie Dans la Metro was funny; its directors knew how to tell a joke with efficiency, timing and zeal. The tango sequence in Charlie, on the other hand, not only makes no dramatic sense, but it is shot with such clumsiness and edited so lethargically that it exists more as a showcase for Anna Karina and Demme's geekiness, not as anything so humble as a good, well-timed joke. And don't even get me started on Wahlberg, who in this movie cannot express more than one emotion at a time. I'm insulted and disillusioned by White, one of the last reliable film critics in America. His praise of The Truth About Charlie makes me suspect that White can no longer experience true pleasure; he's merely sending thank-you notes to directors for past masterpieces.
Simon Parker, Los Angeles
This Seems Too Nice
John Strausbaugh: I was delighted to see your interview with Kurt Andersen ("Publishing," 10/16). I have just started reading his Turn of the Century and I recommend it heartily. His book captures a New York that came and went so quickly. No doubt, 50 years from now people will regard it as an historical snapshot of NYC and the wider culture at a very unusual time. A suit at Primedia told me that when Kurt Andersen left New York he was going to write a novel and that I should keep my eye open for it because if it was half as good as Spy it might be a classic. We'll have to wait a few years to see if that happens; nevertheless, I'm enjoying it now. Also, I think you have to find a way to replace "Top Drawer." What about getting some of those writers Taki had on board, but have since disappeared like Szamuely, Schulman, Toby Young, Charles Glass, etc. I understand there is a recession, but I miss the broadsheet, too. The Blair Clark issue was the best. Many thanks to Russ Smith, though, for bringing so many fine writers to my attention.
Tom Phillips, Manhattan
Thanks for publishing Thomas Olson's excellent letter ("The Mail," 10/30) responding to Stephanie Gutmann's preposterous article the week before ("New York City," 10/23). His words were the rightful slapdown such blind bigotry as hers deserved.
Unfortunately, you headlined his letter "Here We Go Again"... and I quite agree-if you apply it to Gutmann's writings: please stop publishing her devious propaganda.
Paul Graham, Manhattan
Michelangelo Signorile's hypocritical self-righteousness in condemning Jerry Falwell for having called the prophet Mohammed a "terrorist" is risible ("The Gist," 10/30). Why, it was less than a year ago that Signorile made an idiot of himself (inevitably, given that he is one) by comparing Pope John Paul II with Osama bin Laden (11/21/01). The only difference is that Catholics, though justifiably outraged by Signorile's egregious pronouncement, didn't resort to violence. If one could only say the same for our Muslim brethren's response to the Falwell statement. Of course, Signorile knew that Catholics wouldn't react violently, which is why he was so smug in spewing the poison he did-pusillanimous twit that he is.
Clarence George, Manhattan
What in God's Name?
Mike Signorile: As usual, you've hit the nail on the head in your article on Jerry Falwell and his psychotic rantings on 60 Minutes. It's clear that the religious rightists in this country see themselves as the self-entitled architects of the Apocalypse, and it is damn spooky! Meanwhile, Pat Robertson is using his 700 Club to beat his doctrinaire holy-roller viewpoint into the heads of his gullible viewers. Robertson's tactics make Falwell's look downright folksy by comparison. Rev. Patsy uses his tv time as a pseudo- "news" forum to drum his hardcore conservative political agenda and perverted version of Christian doctrine. The program is also cynically slanted to reach minorities, with occasional token house-slave announcers.
Falwell is a buffoon compared to Robertson and his slimy work. It's enough to make Christ's wounds bleed again! Instead of focusing on Christ-like teachings of compassion and forgiveness, you get rhetoric against Islam! Instead of prayers for children lost in the Southern Italian earthquakes, you get promos for those dicey "faith-based" charities, and infomercials for royal jelly. It's all very slick, and about as religious as Home Shopping Network.
What is it with American culture that makes the people so beholden to these Bible-thumping snake-oil salesmen? Why do they love the men behind the curtain who pose as phony wizards? What makes them so blind to the cynical way these hucksters use their sanctimonious platforms to expand their real estate and telecommunications operations? And all by appealing to the public's Better Nature! What a perfect scam! It's a Christ-Almighty religious Enron!
Now that they have their dumb-as-dirt man in the White House, these hucksters are going to fight like hell to keep their turf. It's ironic that the Antichrist is actually posing as a good ol' boy, who likes beer, bbq and pretzels, and is backed by the holier-than-thous, who are pining for the Great Rapture. Now that the Robertsons of this country have their man in place, it's spooky to imagine how quickly we're likely to clash with the Muslim religious extremists all over the world, and just how incendiary that will be. That won't even be good for Pat Robertson's corporate empire. He'd be better off going back to the tent circuit, and making his money from snake dancing.
Michael Ehrhardt, Manhattan
What's on Your Mind These Days, Tracy?
MUGGER: Good take on David Corn and the other hacks at The Nation (10/30). I recently watched George Will administer a good spanking to Katrina van den Heuvel on a Sunday morning talk show. I only wish Corn had been there as well to take the paddling Will handed out to Katrina. My guess is she likes being spanked.
And another thing: I am completely disgusted by the shameless Democrats who last week held a pep rally that received national attention, masquerading under the false pretense of a "memorial" for deceased Sen. Paul Wellstone.
I watched in disbelief as one cheerleader after another took to the podium to lead the crowd in "two bits, four bits" cheers. This built to a crescendo for Sen. Tom Harkin's appalling sham of a eulogy for Wellstone. I tip my cap to Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura for getting up and walking out on the nauseating display. Bill Clinton and his miserable wife, Tom Daschle, Ted Kennedy, Al Gore, Joe Lieberman, Chris Dodd, Terry McAuliffe and the rest of those deplorable Democrat bastards ought to be sentenced to hard labor for that repugnant performance. It was criminally and intellectually the most dishonest display I have ever witnessed in my 50+ years on this planet.
I hope their nasty and tawdry design to win the upcoming election melts down and creates a backlash in the electorate that will ensure that the Democrats do not have control of the House and Senate.
Tracy Meadows, Brenham, TX
MUGGER's Amazing Crystal Ball
MUGGER should be psychic, for he has a headline, "Another Democrat in the Gutter" (10/30) and the next day we have that menagerie in Minnesota. Wellstone's memorial service perhaps shouldn't have been mawkish, but it shouldn't have been a campaign rally either, and I have to wonder about the moral depravity of a son, who has just lost his father, mother and sister, who goes onstage and yells win, win, win. Well, there is no better reason for Fritz the Cat (Walter Mondale) to lose and lose big, but I don't think that's going happen.
Gary Schwartz, Fort Lee, NJ
Gay But Not Happy
Have you all completely lost your minds? It seems that some people have forgotten what humor is. Shirley Q. Liquor is a drag queen (Alexander Cockburn, "Wild Justice," 10/23); her job is to make us laugh. This is usually done by exaggerating the truths of everyday life, as many other comedians do. I believe Chuck Knipp has accomplished this goal with flying colors. I have not seen a more well-thought-out, well-timed performance in a long time, let alone by a drag queen! And to offer not only comedy at the club but an ever-changing website with a gift shop where you can take the laughs home with you! It's no wonder that he is touring all over the country. The man should be saluted as an entertainer/entrepreneur.
Those who protested the second show at the View Bar were severely out of line. I was at that show, or wanted to see it anyway, with a group of friends (in Shirley Q. t-shirts that said "How You Durrin") and only when the protesters started throwing things at the bar itself did the police come in and stop the show. Which for safety's sake is why they are there. The police were only doing what they needed to do to keep a riot from starting; they were very polite and expeditious. I personally commend them for saving us (the patrons) from those ignorant, uptight, uncivilized protesters who apparently have no sense of humor.
I could understand some unrest if the show that Mr. Knipp does had been meant in a malicious fashion, or if he was white, or if maybe the protesters had actually sat down and found out about Shirley Q. Liquor by listening to her or viewing her website. There you would have seen such things as: a picture of SQL dressed in a Confederate flag for a dress (is that sarcasm for a black man in drag or malicious?), a link to RuPaul's website where he posted a lengthy letter defending SQL's comedy. Or downloaded the "Audio Ignunce" and listened to how impeccable the delivery was (a true entertainer). But no, these half-cocked, half-informed, half-brained people probably did nothing of the sort. And on top of that they try to distract you by making you think it's all the police who had the show shut down. No way, groups like those know how to get things stopped if they want to. And there is no reason for anyone to be so upset. Did white America get up in arms when Eddie Murphy did whiteface on SNL? No, because they understood it was comedy! If we can't laugh at ourselves, there is nothing left! So lighten up already!
The real solution to this dilemma lies within those protesting SQL. They need to take a good long look within themselves and figure out why this evokes so much hostility in them, and deal with their own issues before forcefully involving others.
Arron Robins, Manhattan
MUGGER: Interesting columns. I seldom miss one and I like the way you tell it like it is. Only one comment and that involves your statement that Paul Wellstone wasn't the only one in Congress who was not a hypocrite (10/30). I hate to speak ill of the dead, but all this posthumous adulation is almost nauseating. Al Hunt mentioned last Saturday how Sen. Wellstone, upon meeting him and his son, ignored Al and concentrated on his son, who had taken up the sport of wrestling. Then someone mentioned how genuine Wellstone was and how he fought for everyone. This is not true!
Sen. Wellstone was an outstanding wrestler while in college and reaped the benefits of discipline, physical conditioning and mental preparation that this most genuine and difficult sport demands. Nevertheless, he turned his back on the wrestling community and led the charge to implement the quota method that colleges use to satisfy Title IX. This has led to many colleges dropping their wrestling (and other men's athletic) programs. It bothered him not that he helped deny countless other males the opportunity he enjoyed! That he would eagerly sacrifice, on the altar of political correctness, that which he enjoyed and knows would benefit others as he himself has benefited brands him as an unprincipled hypocrite in my book.
David Amdahl, Decorah, IA
Armond White's review of Jonathan Demme's The Truth About Charlie ("Film," 10/30) shows him to be yet again Le Chef Cultural Commissar of Multi-Culti. The flick is an okay dizzying mash.
We do not need to be told twice, thrice that Thandie Newton is beautiful, the X-Men of the audience have other means of detecting what's hot. Mark Wahlberg's computer-generated performance seems to have been spliced on from another universe. It's a shame that the present lives of Afro-A's in Paris, often marginal, too often problematic and even more often difficult, are masked as a charade. Propaganda is the pabulum of farce.
It's time to evict tout from the Hotel Langlois years.
Harry Nudel, Manhattan
A Free Press
I read your paper because it's free, and because it has comics. I commend you on your latest issue (10/30), and just to set the ideology straight, I think that James Earl (Jimmy) Carter was our best president in the last years because he signed the ANWR bill and co-opted revolutionary movements with his "human rights" propaganda. Reagan should have been imprisoned as a traitor with his weapons-to-cash-to-weapons-to-coke-to-cash "self-funding off-the-shelf covert capability" scheme that Bill Casey had him sign off on. George I was a cipher who rode maximum popularity into the sunset, while William (Bent Bill) Clinton messed a fat girl's dress but eventually issued a no-roads forest order and various monument proclamations that may yet stand up to George II's rape-and-pillage cabinet. George II is either a calculated liar or he just says anything that pops into his head.
The latest issue was great; three readable articles (not including "MUGGER," of course) and a great "Catholic Angst" wanker ("First Person"). What was best is Christopher Caldwell's use of "esurient" and the image of bongs chewed like sippy-cups ("Hill of Beans"). While I read the Times and the SI Advance and six or so nature magazines and three science magazines and like best the Funny Times, I had never seen this word before and was forced to look it up in my Webster's.
But wait, you scoundrel, where is that drunken crow-who is it-Drinky Bird? I'm cheated! Robbed! Or maybe just blind but at least your paper's still free. Keep up the good work.
Kevin Dowd, Staten Island
Don't Mess with Schless
MUGGER: I enjoyed your article (10/30) until you smeared Dr. Laura.
S.A. Blum, Boca Raton, FL
Whattaya Got Against Kitties?
I watch tv constantly (well, peripherally, I am a trader so they are always on around me). I have noticed the most peculiar new method to draw in viewers. Fox News actually runs a countdown clock during the day, seemingly telling you of an impending "must-see" event. What I have noticed is that the clock runs out, and then, shocker, nothing happens. About two-three minutes later, the countdown clock comes on again, with a new reset time of between two-five minutes. This seems to come on and off throughout the day. I guess it is a good way to lure in channel surfers, who pause on the pusher for a quick moment and see that they really should keep Fox on. It is even more annoying than the scrolling news that is now so prolific on every channel, as if we need a constant reminder of all of the grim news of the day. Actually, most of the news in the scrolls now is about a cat being pulled out of a tree by the local fire department, but I digress... Hope all is well.
Peter M. Phelan, Morristown, NJ
MUGGER: The liberal media. Aren't the networks losing audience? The liberals can't seem to find a radio liberal who can attract an audience. Do you think the mainline media will ever catch on that they have been discovered to be irretrievably biased?
Donald W. Bales, Kingsport, TN