"You Asshole, [FILL IN NAME] Rocks!
You are more eager to hear about Nazi skinheads, but I'd say that that particular base of punk political activity has already been explored thoroughly. Try browsing The New York Times (start with 8/22/99, 8/12/99 or 7/7/99) or back issues of Rolling Stone...or just head on down to the video store and shock yourself with a copy of American History X. You also chastise me for failing to mention the massive threat posed by rabid packs of repressive straight-edge kids prowling around our neighborhoods. While some straight-edgers do advocate a rigid and narrow set of values, there are plenty who are equally openminded and progressive. The dogmatic wing of straight edge has not had much of a presence in DC for well over a decade, and did not have a place in my article.
While you swallow the mainstream-media line on straight edge, you choose to dismiss Fugazi as an irrelevant relic of 80s DC hardcore. Fugazi has been a band since 1987 (do the math: 9 of those 12 years fall in the 90s); Fugazi is touring Europe as I write, playing packed houses, similar to the packed houses they played several months ago in the U.S. Fugazi recently released an independent film and an accompanying soundtrack album (both on Dischord Records). They continue to outsell with this new album, and each of their previous releases, the vast majority of all rock bands on independent or major labels. Fugazi have never lapsed into facile cynicism, and they have not compromised their commitment to independent rock and issues of social justice. No longer relevant? When "alternative rock" fell from the radar of the major labels, bands like Fugazi somehow slipped off yours as well.
Of course punk rock is not the "Cultural Revolution," and, as I wrote, many punk bands are more nihilistic than political. It has always been frustrating for punk organizers that so many of their peers do not engage directly with activist politics. However, this shouldn't obscure the long history of political activity in punk music, dating back to bands like Crass and the Clash, and continuing today in the examples I wrote about in The Nation. I do not have a fixed definition of "punk." You, however, are quite sure that Positive Force's work with the community-based Emmaus Services for the Aging in Washington, DC, is not punk. I guess there aren't enough mohawks and tattered t-shirts at Positive Force these days to pass your punk litmus test. Talk about being stuck in the past!
Like it or not, leftist punk activism continues to exist. This activism is not often sexy in that neo-Nazi kind of way, but I believe it deserves mention when punk organizers, for example, raise a significant sum of money to help fund and accompany, in the case of punk Jeff Guntzelnk activism continues to exist. This activism is not often sexy in that neo-Nazi kind of way, but I believe it deserves mention when punk organizers, for example, raise a significant sum of money to help fund and accompany, in the looking beyond the Upper West Side that they want to cover this sort of political activity, not the opposite.
Johnny Temple, Brooklyn
Dear NYP: Please thank John Strausbaugh for completely negating the last 10 years of my life.
As a 15-year-old, I discovered punk rock, not because I was into aggressive music or because I wanted to piss off my parents with a bad hairstyle, but instead because I was interested and active in politics at a young age and punk rock was the only thing that appealed to both politics and youth at the same time. By 16, I was protecting abortion clinics from Christian wackos while singing in a punk band full-time. Touring with that band connected me with people of similar age and viewpoints across the Midwest. As I grew older, I was blocking traffic on Chicago's Lake Shore Dr. with fellow punks in protest against the Gulf War and joining in protests outside of City Hall against any number of local issues. For the last five years, I have published a magazine in which, in addition to writing about current and historical punk bands, labels, magazines and goings on, I put a great deal of effort into printing and writing about issues and actions that I feel are relevant to a punk audience. I have been quite successful at this combination, including having the work done by my magazine and friends surrounding the UN sanctions against the Iraqi people featured in David Grad's March 17 column in your very newspaper.
Now, on the cusp of my 25th birthday, thanks to Strausbaugh, I learn that perhaps the last decade of my life has been lived in a dream; that none of the activists I have met, the bands that have inspired me or that change that myself and friends have helped enact has happened. It's quite off-putting, to say the least. However, even more off-putting is the fact that if Strausbaugh is right and the hundreds?if not thousands?of punk rock activists that have been working furiously for the last 10 years haven't existed at all, I will be waking up soon and won't have completed my algebra homework.
Fuck you very much,
Dan Sinker, Punk Planet magazine, Manhattan
It's hard to argue with John Strausbaugh's general assertion that rock is generally best created and performed by the young ("Publishing," 10/13). The Stones, in particular, are an embarrassment. Others on his list can still perform for the enjoyment of the nostalgic, but are no longer convincing as rock stars and would do well to modify their acts accordingly.
I do take mild exception to his citing of Susan Sarandon as one of the movie stars who "continue[s] to pretend they're young and sexy long after they're neither." Leaving aside recent much-lauded roles in which she played mothers and nuns, I think Sarandon can still be quite hot precisely because she does not pretend to be 25 anymore, but projects over-40, grown-woman sexy, which Strausbaugh admits in the same paragraph is entirely possible for dancers and such. Goldie Hawn would have been a much better example of his thesis.
As for his approving quotation of Will Self's "British rock and roll is an oxymoron," I have two words for you: The Who. (Fortunately they were wise enough to mostly cease trying to perform as a rock act soon after they got seriously tired.)
Lisa Braun, Manhattan
I've been an admirer of Spooky Tooth's second and fourth albums for three decades. But having pegged the band as historical landfill, I've largely kept this fetish to myself. There are more self-evident ways to betray my senility.
How surprising, then, to see, in your 10/13 issue, these fossils cited by name both on the front page of the broadsheet ("Publishing") and on the front page of the tabloid ("20/21")! Can a Spooky Tooth Complete Works box be less than six months away? (And really?was there ever a band with a dumber name? Yeah: the Dandy Warhols and Superchunk.)
As regards "Teen People": I appreciate John Strausbaugh's (well, Joe Carducci's) distinction between rock and pop. Rock is aerobic; pop is artistic capitalism. I take it John doesn't object to AARP applicants exercising; he just doesn't feel they should do it in public and charge for the spectacle.
Irwin Chusid, WFMU, Hoboken
Regarding George Tabb's assertion that all public relations people in the entertainment industry "look like Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders" ("Demolition Man," 10/13): That's not only an insult to those of us who work in this very diverse field, but an insult to womankind as a whole. I urge all of my sisters who have carefully chosen to work in this very important arena to stop supporting Mr. Tabb's adolescent ego. When a writer produces lines like, "I stared at her beautiful blonde hair, nice-sized chest and round little butt," he is not a writer. He is a sexist P.I.G. I urge you, NYPress, to rid yourselves of this maggot. I also demand an apology from Mr. Tabb and his editors on behalf of all the females he has so deeply insulted.
Marjorie Williams, Manhattan
MUGGER: If I found a bottle on the beach and a genie popped out and gave me one wish, I'd wish that your stuff appeared daily on the Web. You're a national treasure.
Pete Brittain, New London, CT
Re: Armond White's review of Boys Don't Cry ("Raging Bulldykes," 10/13). Before I proceed to trash Kimberly Peirce's brilliant debut, I must make two things very clear.
1) I usually avoid Armond White's reviews at all costs, but curiosity as to whether he would pick up on the one unforgivable flaw that all the critics in the liberal presses have thus far overlooked caused me to give last week's column a chance. He didn't (and I don't plan on reading anymore of his work anytime soon), however.
2) I do agree with the praise he showers on Swank, Sevigny and Peirce's film in general. Boys Don't Cry is a brilliantly shot labor of love. It's an absolutely beautiful dyke film. And this is where the problem lies.
Gays and lesbians get angry when straights attempt to assimilate them, take over their stories and render them invisible. Why don't transgendered people do the same when lesbians and gays try to assimilate them, take over their stories and render them invisible? Boys Don't Cry is a perfect example of this phenomenon.
Early in the movie, Brandon Teena screams, "I'm not a dyke!"?the implication being she's fighting her true inner nature and we, the p.c. audience, are supposed to respond with, "Well, there's nothing wrong with being a dyke." Well, there is in this case, if being a dyke masks your true identity. Brandon Teena was no dyke. Brandon Teena was a boy in a girl's body. She was a boy who loved women, a red-blooded heterosexual male, which was what was so threatening to her murderers. In essence, she was just like them.
It is in this way that Boys Don't Cry misses the point. What's so intimidating about Brandon isn't that she seduced girls, but that she seduced straight girls. The fatal flaw in this otherwise remarkable debut is exposed in the scene where Swank's and Sevigny's characters have sex as two women. Giving Sevigny's character bisexual or lesbian tendencies negates Brandon's true identity (male) and thus Brandon himself.
The Brandon Teena documentary that had a brief run at Film Forum (though far from being expertly crafted) really brought this point home. These were hetero girls Brandon was seducing!
The idea that someone's inner nature can be so strong as to overcome their physical form is what is so disturbing about someone like Brandon, that "normal" hetero girls could be "tricked" into seeing what's inside in lieu of physical shape. Brandon's soul was male. That's what these girls saw in him. I just wish Kimberly Peirce could have seen it as well.
Lauren Wissot, Manhattan
I'm pleased to see that you guys at NYPress are such an understanding bunch ("Wild Justice," 10/13). To judge from what I read in the papers, everyone seems to think that George Szamuely's little contretemps with the NYU library is a joke. "Arrested for overdue library books?how cute." I don't think it's cute. Despite the silly arguments of Alexander Cockburn?"no one else aside from Szamuely would ever read 99 percent of the books," which I very much doubt?it defeats the purpose of a library to have people like Szamuely. And if it's true that many faculty hold on to library books for unconscionably long periods of time, at least the library has some reason to think they can get the books back eventually. In this case the NYU library had no such assurance. Szamuely reportedly got a library card twice?first for a course at NYU that he immediately dropped, and again for a one-day course at The New School. Thus NYU had absolutely no leverage over him, and in response to their repeated requests he gave them the finger.
It's bad enough when somebody does this with a couple of books. Szamuely took out some 570-odd books and sat on them for upwards of three years. I've known grad students in the humanities who checked out tons of books to write a thesis, mainly because there is usually so little hard information in each one. But even for them 100 books would be a high total. No one has a short-term use for 570 books.
I'm sorry, but to me this looks an awful lot like stealing. Upon his arrest Szamuely bleated something to the effect that he was trying to negotiate over the fines. I don't believe it. Guess what, George?libraries fine people for keeping books past the due date. They do it precisely so that they don't keep the books for six years, or however long you've been sitting on them.
You may make excuses for him for his nutty psychological attachment to books or whatever?Taki was characteristically loyal?but how about a little realism here, eh Alex? The guy's a selfish asshole, if not a criminal. Would you think it's so cute if he walked out of a Barnes & Noble with the books under his coat? That wouldn't bother me so much; at least in that case he's (usually) not keeping other people from getting them, and they can usually be replaced. Let the cops throw the book at him, I say?though I'm sure they won't, unfortunately. He can get a cute column out of it, about responsibility and selfishness.
About Clinton's Irish drunk remark ("MUGGER"), much as I loved Jimmy Breslin's characterization of the First Couple, I have to rush to the defense of my good friend Bill Clinton here. Frankly, I don't see what Breslin and MUGGER are getting worked up about. Clinton's remark that the competing factions in Northern Ireland were "like a couple of drunks walking out of the bar for the last time" was not a slur, no more than was Al D'Amato's calling Chuck Schumer a putzhead. Maybe that's why it "went unnoticed." It was just an analogy, and an accurate one, at least in Clinton's estimation. Anyway, micks complaining about being stereotyped as drunks sounds to me like Bernard Lewinsky threatening to sue some tv show for using the word "Lewinsky" to mean oral sex after his moron daughter has just made a career out of being a slut. What about Finnegans Wake? What's the first thing you do as soon as you get to Ireland?hit the nearest pub, right? I mean, what else are the Irish known for besides potatoes?
Joe Rodrigue, New Haven
Op-Ed: How the U.E.S. Dies
Scrapbook: Imaging at Lenox Hill
Op-Ed: How the U.E.S. Dies
Scrapbook: Imaging at Lenox Hill
Summer in the City