December 22-29, 2003

Bad Rap
Readers have been misin-formed about hip-hop. Although it’s true that from the beginning, the hip-hop world has been at war, it has not been about drugs, violence, and sex, as Ethan Brown’s “Got Beef?” [December 1] suggests, but rather a war against the realities of the inner city as a consequence of poverty and ignorance. Violence does not sell records; what sells records is truth, and both Ja Rule and 50 Cent eloquently represent part of the bitter truth of the self-destructive social conditions within urban America. New York City streets are not unsafe because of so-called rap wars. The lyrics and rhymes of our poets and rappers simply reflect the violence that takes place on the streets of our inner cities every day. Unfortunately, when hip-hop celebrities become embroiled in conflict, hip-hop is unjustly blamed for the atrocities that others would prefer to overlook. The peace process between Ja Rule and 50 Cent has already begun to be helpful. But rather than highlight vulgar words in their lyrics, we need to focus on encouraging the youth of America to seize opportunity and help bring about real change in our communities, in order to erase the vulgarity of poverty that hip-hop seeks to transform.
—Russell Simmons, Chairman, Hip-Hop Summit Action Network

If rappers like Ja Rule and 50 Cent were capable of respecting anyone but themselves, they would begin every concert with a slow drum cadence, bow their heads, and say, “Forgive us, Mr. Armstrong, Mr. Ellington, Mr. Parker, Mr. Cole, Mr. Brown, Ms. Fitzgerald, Ms. Franklin, and Mr. Marsalis.”
—Lee Stewart, Charlotte, N.C.

Proof of Wife
Beth Landman Keil’s story about Philip Roome and his two wives [“Two Wives’ Tale,” December 1] never answered one question: To marry Roome in a ceremony that would have convinced Liza Pulitzer that the marriage was legal, I’m assuming that she would have had to present proof of her divorce from her first spouse; how could Roome have gotten around having to do the same?
—John Pope, New Orleans, LA.

Up in Arms
While Rivington Arms and its proprietors, Melissa Bent and Mirabelle Marden, are welcome additions to the Lower East Side art scene [“The New Dealers,” by Alex Mar, December 1], they are far from being pioneers, and by no means are they solely responsible for putting this area on the “gallery map.” The Lower East Side has been a cradle of creativity and a hotbed of artistic talent for decades. It would be nice to see those of us who have toughed it out and made innovative art here—way before it was fashionable—get some recognition for what we have been doing for more than twenty years.
—Deborah Fries, Brooklyn

Meal Time
In “this new old thing” [“This Media Life,” December 1], Michael Wolff offers clever insights and turns of phrase that give me some new old thoughts. His experiences during the early days of the Internet bubble lend his views credibility. Certainly the power of the Internet is indisputable, and now that the dreamers have either soared to unimaginable heights or crashed and burned in ways unanticipated, we have the next phase. The new old thing might surprise us, but history won’t repeat itself. The pipelines and information tracks are running, and the trains are out of the station. Perhaps the ordinariness of the Internet and the allure of the always-on connection will create more down-to-earth business models with real profits, not just promises. There may be no such thing as a free lunch anymore, but there’s dinner. Bring me the halibut, too.
—Steven A. Ludsin, Manhattan

Viva Vega
Recently I saw Anna in the Tropics, and then shortly after, I read John Simon’s review [“Theater: Star Turns,” December 1]. While I agree with some of his comments, I have never seen or heard a performance by the petite powerhouse Daphne Rubin-Vega where she didn’t deliver. She puts on a hell of a performance every time she steps onto the stage. Anna in the Tropics is both well written and well acted. Don’t hesitate to see it based on Mr. Simon’s review. It deserves better.
—Dan Holzberg, Great Neck, N.Y.

No Mo’ Joe
If a woman believes that a coffee-tea-or-me attitude is appropriate on a third date [“Naked City: No Expiration Date,” by Amy Sohn, December 1], is it at all surprising that humiliating propositions, instead of proposals of love and marriage, are the result? Why should any man value a woman who does not value herself? Taking Sex and the City seriously and using it as a playbook is incredibly dumb. Casual sex is not the basis for romance and respect, and I am saddened that today’s capable young women have lost their comprehension of something so obvious.
—Sonia Sable, Great Neck, N.Y.

Play Dates
Oh, come on! i’m 37, and my wife is 41. We’ve been married almost five years. And those of her female friends still claiming that “it’s okay to be single” always betray their true feelings with their facial expressions whenever any of them hold our 2-year-old daughter.
—Jason P. Paskowitz, Fort Lee, N.J.

Ticket to Ride
Thanks to Steve Fishman’s article “Small Miracles” [November 17], everyone will know about the amazing Jan Quaegebeur. There is no way to describe how difficult it was confronting the fact that our 21⁄2-year-old daughter, Chloe, who we thought was normal and healthy, needed serious medical care. Fortunately for us, Dr. Quaegebeur operated on her. He was wonderful, kind, and very caring. Three days after her surgery, Chloe was home riding her tricycle. She is 6 years old now and doing very well. We think of Dr. Quaegebeur often when we look at her beautiful smiling face.
—Elizabeth Vizzone, Montclair, N.J.

I enjoyed the article about Dr. Quaegebeur and all the small miracles he performs with pediatric cardiac surgery. But am I supposed to feel sorry for the fact that he probably makes over a half-million dollars a year and says that he collects wine only so he can afford to drink better vintages? Give me a break!
—Michael Fischman, Avon, Conn.

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December 22-29, 2003