November 20, 2006

A Mandarin Education
Andrew Marks’s article about starting a private school [“Building the Next Dalton,” November 13] was good reading. But it was bu dui (Mandarin for “incorrect”) in one instance. Claremont is not, as Mike Koffler claims, “the only private school that offers Mandarin before the eighth grade.” Fieldston has offered Mandarin for four years and is in its second year of offering it to seventh-graders. Ginger Curwen, Director of Communications, Ethical Culture
—Fieldston School, Manhattan

My Plight Was Peace
Did Ann Coulter contribute to “The Approval Matrix” [November 13]? I was puzzled to find My Name Is Rachel Corrie in the “highbrow-despicable” quadrant. What is despicable about it? The play was inspired by Rachel Corrie’s journal entries about the prisonlike conditions in Gaza. It was well received in London, but the Theatre Workshop production here was “postponed” because of fears of igniting controversy. This is censorship. Neither Rachel’s tragic story nor the suffering of people in their homeland should go unheard.
—Lindsey Caldwell, Manhattan

Squirm Politics
Thank you, David Edelstein, for putting my long-held feelings regarding humiliation-as-entertainment into words in your review of Borat [“So Funny It Hurts,” November 6]. I too spend a lot of time these days “squirming, cringing, averting my eyes, and plugging my ears” at what I see onscreen. Sacha Baron Cohen’s admirers call him “edgy” and “daring,” but what passes for humor nowadays has become the province of bullies.
—David Fleitz, Bowling Green, Ohio

David Edelstein seems to think that Borat “bleeds into horror” more than it provides laughs. But all good humor touches on some profound fear. Any good joke makes us laugh, because we prefer to laugh than cry. Although Sacha Baron Cohen’s squirm comedy does make us uncomfortable, it’s significant that the fictional Kazakhstan he portrays in the movie is less backward and frightening than many of the Americans he encounters on his travels.
—S. E. Grant, Manhattan

Friends With … Passion
As a young nonprofiteer who makes less than many of his friends, I could relate to the irrational emotions that David Amsden’s experiment in income inequality raised [“What’s a Little Money Between Friends?,” November 6]. There’s nothing quite like feeling that your social life is being subsidized because of your “lifestyle choice.” I get past this nonsense by engaging my friends in my creative passions. The talents that enrich young people these days—technological acumen, financial wizardry—are precisely the things that many deserving nonprofits lack.
—JC Dwyer, Brooklyn

Every Bite Counts
Julian Dibbell’s “The Fast Supper” [October 30] was masterfully written, but a few elements about the Calorie Restriction Diet were glossed over too lightly. Michael Rae and Paul McGlothin are both knowledgeable in microbiology and nutritional science, and they continually fine-tune their CR regimen. Research shows that crash dieting shortens life span rather than lengthens it. We recommend a weight loss of no more than a pound a week, and CR practitioners must be in the habit of monitoring their micronutrients. Balancing caloric intake with essential nutrition requires diligence.
—Bob Cavanaugh, Secretary, Calorie Restriction Society, Newport, N.C.

Shoot ’Em Up
I enjoyed reading Adam Sternbergh’s account of his “Handguns in Hollywood” course [“Intelligencer: Home on the Range,” November 13], but New Yorkers don’t have to drive to the wilds of Connecticut to experience the thrill of firing a gun. Manhattan’s West Side Pistol Range may not let you fire anything as exotic as the Heckler & Koch, but for $50 you get targets, the use of a Ruger 10/22 semi-automatic rifle, and 50 rounds of ammunition. And you don’t have to take a group van to get there.
—Dave Friedman, Brooklyn

November 20, 2006