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Semi-Public Radio

Posted 3/26/2008

Maybe coming in a little late on this one, but since all the hand-wringing regarding the firing of Marc Steiner ("Steiner Love," The Mail, March 19; "Rodricks In, Steiner Out," The Mail, March 12) seems to essentially be a discussion of what it means to be public and what it means to be private, it is somehow fitting for me to be remarking on the controversy belatedly. The point is that the question has long ago been arbitrated, and it has been decided that, as a culture, we will make very little meaningful distinction.

The language and the mission of the nominally public sphere has been thoroughly corrupted by the language and mission of Capital, and to have a discussion of this now is almost pointless. It's just too bloody late. I was a former disc jockey at a free-form, commercial radio station in Annapolis a few years back that is no longer free-form but certainly still commercial. While there, I was witness to the sort of dynamic that pits corporate groupthink against those with a contrary vision. This same dynamic is playing out in public radio and elsewhere, and those with a contrary vision have been posting losses for years now. I wish we could debate suspect approaches BEFORE they become modus operandi. A national discussion has been long overdue on the vitality of the public arena, but meaningful national discussions seem to be a rare thing indeed.

Christopher Hammersla


I really like the addition of Henry Hong's column to City Paper, as he has provided very insightful and helpful information over the past few months. However (isn't there always a "however" in a letter to The Mail?), as a Southern Marylander and frequent maker of stuffed ham over the years, I must take exception with his suggested facsimile of said dish (Eat Me, March 19).

The making of a Southern Maryland stuffed ham is a labor of love that bears an incredible reward for following the time-honored traditional recipes--dirty hands, disastrously messy kitchen, huge time commitment, and all.

While I appreciate the effort to spread the word on a true Maryland treasure, it is as if you suggested folks could sample the fine flavors of stuffed rockfish by dumping canned, imported crabmeat over a filet of frozen flounder. Or, the Southern charms of Maryland fried chicken by dusting a little Old Bay on McNuggets.

While much of today's world is a sad imitation of the past, couldn't we at least draw the line on preserving so dear a relic of our homegrown Colonial forebears as country cooking and disavow unsavory attempts to cut corners and substitute the original for a cheap and unfulfilling replica?

Jeff Folks

Henry Hong responds: The primary concession in my (explicitly acknowledged) fake is the use of home-brined pork instead of store-bought corned ham--itself a modernization. Most recipes from the 1930s and earlier use salt-cured hams, more similar to modern country hams. I'm confident actual execution of the recipe will return satisfactory results.

Chicago Flub

In Violet Glaze's review of Chicago 10 ("Radical Chic," Film, March 12), her reference to the "previously unfilmed antics of the Chicago Seven trial" is incorrect. The trial was dramatized on HBO several years ago. Beyond that, she seems to have misread director Brett Morgen's intentions--I don't think he was trying to make the film a tribute to the defendants' "heroism." So whom is Glaze angry at: Abbie Hoffman and company for using questionable tactics (as Hoffman himself admitted was the case before killing himself, surely the ultimate mea culpa), or Morgen for presenting events as they happened rather than some idealized version?

With an unpopular war raging and an uninspiring presidential campaign in progress, 2008 looks more like 1968 every day. Admittedly, there are key differences between then and now--perhaps most notably, our "affluent society" of that era has become a borderline Third World economy. And this year, pseudo-populist Barack Obama appears poised to do what pseudo-populist Eugene McCarthy could not--win the Democratic nomination and go on to defeat the scary GOP nominee. I hope Morgen's timely, excellent film wins a large audience.

Jon Swift

Buckley Was a Racist, But at Least He Was a Smart Racist

Even though William F. Buckley was (my own opinion) a white, moneyed bigot who enjoyed using his intelligence in an eccentric and extemporaneous manner, he did all he could to keep white thinking conservatives from slipping into the downward path of anti-intellectualism.

Brian Morton's article (Political Animal, March 5) was full of historical truths that revealed Buckley's belief that the white race was far superior to all other racial groups based on established genetic evidence.

As I see it, Buckley's political views were close to Karl Marx. Buckley might have admired some of Marx's polarizing political views.

In the book, The German Ideology, Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote: "The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e., the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that, thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it."

As a young black liberal militant-thinking woman, William F. Buckley got my attention. His use of long, hard, eddied words made a dictionary my companion when I read his writings (also the writings of Asa Hillard, Christopher Hitchens, and Barbara W. Tuchman).

Buckley seemed to enjoy outwitting an individual with an opposing point of view. His aim seemed to have been to defy human manipulation of the mind. Almost to the point of daring God to say to him, "It's not nice to make a fool of me. I created the mind. You did not."

As a black Afrocentric feminist, I agree with Brian Morton that Buckley's written rhetoric might have influenced the rantings of Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, and the "utopian Amazon egotistical priapic woman" Ann Coulter--just expressing my allowed personal opinion.

But William F. Buckley also influenced Armstrong Williams, Thomas Sowell, Shelby Steele, and a crop of new black conservative writers who get published with a book less than 200 pages because they are trashing pathetic, dumb, urban black males who must be taken care of with tax money from rich white people.

I want to learn as much knowledge as I can. It matters not to me if I am taught by a bigot, a Muslim, a woman, or a drug addict. I want a book to be my companion always on my lap, in my bed with me, and walking with me where I walk, keeping me informed and active in my mind without tricks.

Larnell Custis Butler

Corrections: Our Feb. 27 detailing the disclosure forms of state legislators ("Personally Invested," Mobtown Beat; Disclosure) should have reported that Sen. Nathaniel McFadden holds his mortgage with wife Rachel McFadden and his sister Emily McFadden, not the other way around. City Paper regrets the error. In an e-mail, McFadden writes that he owns 1033 N. Central Ave. with his sister and brothers (Bernard and Robert McFadden), and 2702 Mura St. with his wife, and state property records back him up, although his disclosure forms list the opposite.

The photo by A. Aubrey Bodine on in last's week Baltimore Weekly (March 19) was incorrectly labeled as part of the Baltimore Museum of Art's exhibit Looking Through the Lens: Photography 1900-1960, which it is not. City Paper regrets the error.

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