The Best & Brightest-And All the Rest
Yours is the most relevant publication of my generation.
Tuesday?hours. Wednesday, still more hours. Thursday, I look forward to more hours. Just fascinated with?and love reading?this "Best of."
Where do I start? I've got to tell you that, like many readers I suppose, I couldn't care less about where to go for shoe polish or the best bed. To me, so much of that is beside the point. But it's the great enjoyment of reading the essays, the brilliant writing you feature ("Best Argument for Staying in the City")?the smart prose, the devastating one-liners ("Back in the 1300s when Satan had a real artist to front for him instead of Marilyn Manson..." ["Best Museum Staff"])?that make me mutter out loud things like, "This is the most fucking awesome thing I've ever read."
And I know what accounts for your paper's success (and if you had no sales, I'd count your paper a success). It's that no matter with what baggage a writer approaches his craft, at NYPress, more than at any other publication, he is encouraged to leave it at the door. The writer is unfettered by the need to play the right angle, fit in to the publication's "style." Just heave it all off, boy?and write!
Ron G., Manhattan
The hack job done on Rockets Redglare ("Best Washed-Up, Obese, Blowhard of a Local Sublebrity," 9/22) by some (deservedly) anonymous staffer at NYPress is, at best, an exercise in character assassination, assumedly by some desperate journalism school grad-nouveau who's lived downtown for a year and half and now considers himself an expert on all things Manhattan. At worst, it's a calculated and libelous piece of tripe, a deliberate smear couched in anonymity by a jealous failure who conveniently has no experience or body of work open to public commentary.
Here's a novel idea for the author's future efforts to prove to Ma and Pa back in Podunk that those student loans for Columbia were a better investment than tractor repair courses at the local technical college... Try writing about subjects you actually have some tiny knowledge of, and possibly even from some perspective other than that of your own jaundice and failure. Rockets' accomplishments have already eclipsed your own very marginal successes and his future holds many more.
Joe Zouba, Brooklyn
I see that once again, in your Best of Manhattan issue, you've come out in defense of NYPress cartoonist Danny Hellman for having sent out hoax e-mail messages over (or is it under?) the name of Ted Rall, a fellow cartoonist ("Best Cartoonist With No Sense of Humor.") You dismiss Hellman's behavior as "harmless," merely "an idiotic prank," and suggest that Rall is threatening legal action simply because he "decided he didn't like Hellman's opinion."
May I respectfully disagree? If I were the victim, I'd want to hang Hellman up by his tiny balls. Pauperize the bastard; sue him for every nickel; put the creep in debtor's prison, or defamer's prison, or just plain con-man's prison, till every hair turns gray. I have no more sympathy for Hellman than I would for someone who picked my pocket. What he did was criminal.
After all, a writer's or artist's name is his identity, the essence of his reputation. Attack him all you want; disagree with him, even make fun of him. But don't make up quotes and attribute them to him; don't send fraudulent letters and sign his name. That's stealing his identity, and it's as serious an offense, as far as I'm concerned, as plagiarizing his writing, vandalizing his artwork or forging his name on a check.
My own name is precious to me?which is why I'm withholding it from this letter.
In the end, considering the expense, I suppose that Rall will not actually carry through with his lawsuit. Still, I hope he does?and I hope he wins big.
Name Withheld, Manhattan
Calling Espo the best bomber ("Best Graffiti Bomber") is like calling Jell-O the best food of the year. It's cheap, easy and not hard to understand, but there's not much flavor.
Your level of expertise in the subject is lacking. Espo is working the streets on the efforts of the old-school New York City writers who came before him. The streets aren't being bombed by roving crews, like the trains yards of years ago were, so his competition is kids.
As for police scrutiny, any white guy painting a giant gate one color, then adding a few needed lines to spell a name at the last minute, is definitely "getting over."
What about the subway bombers out there? Trains are still being painted?it's just the MTA's dirty little secret. Trains are cleaned in the layups and yards before they are put into service, but video and photo footage exist, and are highly distributed. If anyone should be given more credit where it's due, Revs has been bombing the subway tunnel interiors with large roller letters and elaborate poetry that can only be read in the tunnel or if a train stops in the tunnel.
Of course, there is only one king respected for his history and rule of the land: Cope2 kd from the Bronx. This hardcore graffiti king is for real. He doesn't have to be up outside the NYPress offices to be king to many writers around the world.
Omar Padial, the Bronx
I love your paper, I do, and I love when you're mean and funny, but I need to tell you that I'm deeply offended by what you wrote ("Best Scary Subway Ad"). You'll have a hard time keeping "them" away from "us." We're everywhere, especially in newspaper offices, and treatment does work.
In your 1998 Best of Manhattan issue you guys called me a "Twentysomething Dynamo." For the record I'm 23, and I'm bipolar.
Take it easy.
Lizzie Simon, Manhattan
MUGGER: You rock. Your columns about the current national brouhaha over next year's primaries and the candidates have been so right-on that not another word should be said until after the conventions.
When I grow up, I wanna be MUGGER!
Frank Turk, Pittsburgh
Is it just me or is the country getting progressively sillier? Why are there so many clowns being bandied about as potential presidential candidates lately ("MUGGER," 9/22)? So far I've heard the following names mentioned: Warren Beatty, Cybill Shepherd, Donald Trump. What's next?Alec Baldwin? Are there so few experienced candidates that people are grasping at straws, or are Hollywood types just demented? I'm not even talking about Jesse Ventura?he looks like George Washington in comparison.
Any editor who would seriously advance Beatty as a candidate, as Salon's David Talbot did, should just hang it up. Face it, Talbot: You're a moron. Just go away.
Joe Rodrigue, New Haven
I'm writing this because I rarely read newspapers front to back, but the most recent issue of NYPress has finally put this habit to rest. It was an excellent issue?the quality of the prose sterling from beginning to end?and everybody involved should be commended for putting out the funniest, most interesting and most mordant views of New York City culture available (in any given week). I could write to each contributor individually, but I figured that I could save quite a bit of time. Excellent work.
I say that about this particular issue, but I should also add that the last six months or so of NYPresses have been must-read material. I may be the only New York resident who actually finds "MUGGER" just the right length. Russ Smith is attempting, as I see it, to marry the political and the personal consciousness on a day-by-day basis, and it's almost impossible to do that without stretching to four or five thousand words. The only real parallel in popular journalism is Ben Stein's column in The American Spectator. I like that, too. Of course, I must admit that I'm in my mid-30s and leaning toward paleoconservatism, after a degree from Bard College in English literature and teaching at Temple University, a haven for unrecognized but envious postmodernists. Eh.
(By the way, count me on the positive side of the Jim Knipfel poll. I was reading Jim back when he was writing for Dan Rottenberg at the Philadelphia Welcomat. Back then, I thought he sucked. We had one brief meeting at the opening of the Borders bookstore at 18th and Walnut Sts. Well, he sucks less now, and I like reading his column. He probably doesn't remember me at all. Good for him.)
Anyway, I wanted to offer just a few criticisms, and please take them with the understanding that I'm a Loyal Reader. I have no real axes to grind. I don't seek to write for anybody, nor do I think anybody will be interested in what I have to say. I'm a Russell Kirk/Albert Jay Nock conservative, and I know my time has passed. So, with that in mind:
1) Please, please get Mark Steyn to write a regular column for you guys. He needs a regular weekly American outlet, and you're the ones to give it to him. Steyn is a brilliant cultural critic, politically and artistically savvy, and the only thing keeping him from an American breakthrough is a regular place to write?not monthly, not quarterly, but weekly. Dump Cockburn if you have to; Steyn is the real goods. (And I say this without knowing Steyn at all, but having read him in the London Spectator, The American Spectator and elsewhere for years.)
2) So you hate Cynthia Cotts. Fine. Let's get somebody in NYPress who can show her what to do and how it's done. Sniping at her won't alleviate the very real lack of a good New York City press critic. Rotating columnists won't do the trick; you need somebody there who can call people on the carpet regularly, so that readers won't have to skip a week or two to see something biting and accurate. This would lead to continuity and a reason to pick up the paper: to see what your bitch-slappy media critic has to offer that week.
3) There's a real need for a publication on the order of the London Spectator, as long as we're on the subject. The Weekly Standard, which should meet this need, fails fairly badly. The Standard caters to a quasi-hysterical neocon voice, which wouldn't serve writers like Paul Johnson and Theodore Dalrymple, or cranky drunks like the late lamented Jeffrey Bernard. (I'm a cranky drunk myself, so I know.) There are American writers like Johnson, Dalrymple and Bernard; you're halfway there with yourself and Jim Knipfel. Experiment with a 32-page glossy, and print covers by the fine stable of illustrators you have now. They're every inch the equivalent of the caricaturists for the Spectator. And, by cutting out the whoremart in the last 20 pages or so of the Classifieds, you'd take a fake moral high ground that would put the Voice to shame.
Anyway, I've gone on too long. Again, my best wishes to the fine group of writers and artists who put together the Best of Manhattan issue (especially the artist who did the overwrap?absolutely first-rate). I look forward to continuing to read NYPress.
George Hunka, Manhattan
Back again from the Orient, I am reminded of Napoleon's "Politics is the sexuality of the intellectuals." Taking "intellectuals" loosely, of course, you see where Americans get their real titillation. I don't knock MUGGER for getting off this way every week. It's a widespread habit, mostly a guy thing. Possibly incurable.
And he's not a common Peeping Tom, or Raunchy Russ. He just has a keen interest in aphrodisiacs like money, power, spinning wheels, demographics and circulation figures.
What sometimes curdles my craw is the glib posturing as thought, as in the recent Buchanan banging. Was MUGGER off the wall? In fact, no. Often he is not. He doesn't have malathion for brains, unlike our ambitious Exterminator Man. As befits a Bush man, he notes Buchanan being soft-on-Adolf, arguably anti-Semitic, fetus-preoccupied, gay-unfriendly, immigrant-challenged and probably Aryan-oriented. Though not an empty suit, and able to puncture the corporate competition, Buchanan at bottom is another maverick who can't possibly win. A regular (empty? half empty?) suit will do the winning, thank you. Subtext: The corporate state doesn't need, or even want, brains in the White House. It needs only a photogenic accomplice. And will get it. Pre-paid.
Okay. Not so bad. That is, until MUGGER inserts another of those little "accessories," this one made on Wall Street. Buchanan, you see, is "anti-free trade." Here MUGGER reveals again his penchant for lobbyist mantra and Libertarian cliche in matters of profound consequence. It's a slick way of saying that issues like sovereignty, national independence, etc., could only matter to an Idaho beanhead. This is beyond spin, though not beyond NAFTA, GATT and the other corporate bulldozers coming. Are you against Canadian oil companies overturning U.S. anti-pollution laws? You don't want pesticides in your Mexican fruit deemed too dangerous by U.S. law? You object to multinationals making laws to prohibit vitamins unless patented and superexpensive? You don't want their irradiated or genetically modified "franken-food" without its being labeled? In brief, you do not want their laws overriding your laws? Well, pardner, do you know what that makes you? Listen up, now. It makes you "anti-free trade." Ask MUGGER.
And so for the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower himself warned against: You're not convinced that taxpayers should finance a planetary bully machine to guarantee corporate welfare while advising and arming genocidal but "friendly" reptiles everywhere? Hey, Bub, know what? You are a fudge-headed "isolationist." See MUGGER.
And so we ask of these little "accessories" in the weekly boudoir: What in fact are they? Real sense? Yuppie yap? Or just some MUGGERisms?
Dan Cameron Rodill, Manhattan
"When I raise my hand to take that oath of office as president of the United States, your New World Order comes crashing down!"
And then, MUGGER, you call Buchanan an isolationist (9/15) for such a statement? Good article. Heh, heh.
Go Pat, go! To the Reform Party, and win the presidency!
George Williams, Baltimore
I can't let Sam Schulman's article, "The Bleeding Heartless" ("Taki's Top Drawer," 8/25), distort an important truth for the readers of your distinguished paper. Schulman sounds like a xenophobe, or else his research was guided by other animal haters.
1) Humans, not animals, are the ones who "eat their young"?by throwing babies into garbage cans and incinerators, and by conceiving babies for profit.
2) It is not a fiction that animals can be protected from abuse, and their slavery can by abolished, by kind, noble animal rights activists and environmental soldiers.
3) Animals are very conscious of needing freedom, which is an inalienable birthright of all earthlings, and that's constantly being violated by humans' cruelty and greed.
4) We do care for humanity, and most of us are actively engaged in human rights work. But animals are the lowest of the exploited.
5) Animals do care for, and are conscious of, other species?us included.
6) Schulman would do a great service if he'd leave other beings alone and instead vigorously criticize the American Nazi Party, the Ku Klux Klan and other cancers of the human species who have no respect for either humans or animals.
7) Schulman justifies abortion clinic bombers' actions by saying they "preserve life." Is that why they harassed and murdered many innocent doctors? Animal rights people never harm humans or animals.
His article's title applies best to those ignoramuses who express compassion for, and ask for pardon for, rapists and murderers.
If your paper is on the side of fairness, you'll print this letter.
Adela Pisarevsky, Manhattan
R.S. McCain: Again, I am in the odd position of responding in a delayed fashion to your retort ("The Mail," 8/23).
Rent control has not made rent "free" for anybody in New York City. Just some people do not have to pay some of the most expensive residential rent rates in the world, while others in the city do not have to pay that rate. You really should look at a New York classified section sometime. If these clowns cannot make money off what they're charging, then they should go bankrupt. Studio apartments go for as much as $600 in the Bronx. Do they go for that much in Gaithersburg? Also, the city does not claim the power to force anyone to rent at below market rates. If the building was never under rent control or rent stabilization, or if an investor purchases an abandoned or untenanted property and decides to forgo tax abatement offers from the city, then the building will not be subject to rent stabilization.
As for the commuter tax, I can't answer you on the water and sewage fees, or the trash vs. the sales tax spent by commuters. As for eating lunch in the city, I know that when I do, I only spend between three and five dollars. Moreover, I often bring my own lunch. I am sure that it's not terribly uncommon for commuters to bag-lunch in the city on a regular basis. Considering those numbers commuters do not contribute as much in sales tax as the commuter tax. As for crime and police protection, yes: commuters and residents alike need to be protected from other commuters. Commuters are involved in all kinds of crime, embezzlement, gun-running, drug-selling and drug-purchasing, drug use, assault and battery (after a good night of drinking), possibly even murder and robbery. Simply stated, not all commuters are law abiding at all times, while the vast majority of New York City residents are law abiding the vast majority of the time.
Yet the most significant damage the city and its residents receive from commuters is pollution. If significantly more of them lived in the city, myself included, the city and its surrounding suburbs would benefit tremendously.
Since you did not understand my questions, let me make it simpler for you. Do you consider me and my children white or black, based upon the information I gave you? This question raises some interesting implications regarding racism and reproduction, of which a serious political pundit like yourself should become more aware. As for minorities flocking to the U.S., the Union of South Africa had the highest rate of intra-African immigration during the Apartheid era of any African nation. All that says is that people will withstand attacks upon their dignity to improve their own and their children's economic opportunities. As for which is safer for blacks, New York City, Alabama or Sierra Leone: I would venture to say, strictly upon anecdotal information on violence, that Alabama is the safest and Sierra Leone the most unsafe. Sierra Leone finishes a distant third as a result of the civil war. As for where blacks would be better off, overall, I would venture to say New York City, because of the strength of its economy and the less virulent racism of the region, with Sierra Leone finishing a distant third because of the civil war. Sierra Leone might be a close third if the factions could settle the dispute over who shall control diamond mining in that nation for the next 20 years.
Current racism, which is probably lower than it has been at any time in our history, combined with the long-term social impact of past racism, still ranks as the largest problem for blacks worldwide. The economic and social impacts of these factors create many of the conditions that make it virtually impossible for blacks to thrive, even among themselves. It will take more than 20 to 30 years of some reasonable attempts at common decency to overcome the legacy of racism, nationally and worldwide. The fact is, except for Latin America, that generally the more recent the European colonial dominance of a nation, the lower its economic development. European colonial dominance was justified and fed by racism.
The Soviet Union also failed, not because of the Soviets' racial insistence on egalitarianism, but on their radical insistence on top-down control of society in the name of egalitarianism. The leaders were all too willing, for an extensive period of time, to turn a blind eye to elitist and corrupt practices at the expense of egalitarianism, in exchange for this control.
Speaking of impoverishment and oppression, the world is completely dominated by capitalism, with the wealthiest nations of the world practicing the kind of bleeding-heart liberal policies I advocate, and the poorest nations practicing libertarian economics. These nations are experiencing some of the grossest impoverishment and oppression in their history. So what is your coherent rationale for impoverishing and oppressing people in the name of capitalism? The majority of people are too stupid and lazy to deserve to live decently?
Andrew L. Spence, Suffern, NY
MUGGER: I think you and many others might be shocked at how many people think as Pat Buchanan does. Don't discount this guy.
Duane Cooley, Marion, IA
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