The Bay Riders Still Ride
I was recently read a letter over the phone written by Marti Iben about the Chosen Sons Motorcycle Club ("One-Percent Credibility," The Mail, May 7). It listed the "now defunct" Bay Riders motorcycle club. I take issue with that incorrect statement, as I have been a member of the Bay Riders Motorcycle Club for 15 years. It is not now nor has it ever been defunct. As far as I know and remember, we have also always gotten along just fine with the Chosen Sons, and I am sure that will continue. I think someone at your paper should do a little research before printing articles such as this "personal opinion" from an outsider.
Norm Stamp was one of the good guys. He was a friend of mine. Barring one unfortunate incident, the man was reputable and liked by thousands, including our club. It's tragic that the city of Baltimore has lost a good man. Hopefully some day the truth will come out.
A Eurocentric Masculinist Responds
I am writing in response to the letters City Paper publishes from "Afrocentric feminist" Larnell Custis Butler ("Fear of a Black Phallus," The Mail, May 7). How many letters from this woman do you publish on a yearly basis? If there was EVER a racist, this woman is it. As a gay "Eurocentric masculinist" (sounds just as ridiculous huh?), I am offended at her attitudes regarding Caucasians. Problem is, most blacks in Baltimore City have this same thinking. Everything is the fault of the "white man." Funny thing, I do not know any Caucasians that think this way. Most of us just want to get along with our day without hassle and avoid confrontation.
Black phallus? A big dick is just that. There are plenty of Caucasian men with big dicks, too. I prefer what a dick is attached to than the dick itself. Caucasian women who leave their so-called "white men" for black--I say more power to 'em. I do not know one man who feels the slightest bit threatened by a scenario like that. Most of this apparent "white guilt" (which I absolutely refuse to subscribe to) is created by the black community to intensify bitterness from something that happened way before I was born.
Never before in society has there been more opportunity for black folks to better and educate themselves. Although, systematically, the black community here in Baltimore constitutes the homicide rate through basically murdering each other, selling drugs to their own people, and the astronomical rate of pregnant teenagers whose offspring keep perpetuating it year after year. Who is really at fault and the REAL racists?
Blacks scream racism whenever something doesn't go their way. At least the city Liquor License Board members finally gave their two cents regarding the club in Brooklyn that lost its license due to violence (Quick and Dirty, Mobtown Beat, April 30), stating that they are a multiracial board and that they are tired of endless racism allegations from more than half of the establishments that continually have order problems.
I moved back to my native Baltimore in 2001 with the "get along with everybody" attitude. My parents raised us not to discriminate against people different than us. Since moving back here, I have lost count of the occasions where I have been accused of racism by blacks for merely being a Caucasian who was convenient to coerce. I actually left a job because of it. Working at a hair salon, having an average conversation with a client, a black woman nearby who was NOT a regular client took bits of our dialogue and pieced together a racist allegation against me that made no sense. Despite how long management at this shop had known me and my disposition, they backed her up instead. To keep my job, I was coerced into apologizing to every black person employed there. Succumbing to that, I put in my two weeks notice. Ironically, at that point in time I belonged to the NAACP! As for Ms. Butler, from a "Eurocentric masculinist" to an "Afrocentric feminist," your turntable needs a new needle. That tired, scratched record won't play anymore.
While much of Brian Morton's article (Political Animal, May 7) is right on point, he also joins the shallowness of the media that he condemns by referring to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright as "a buffoon" and a raving South Side Chicago preacher.
Why is the media so antagonistic toward the Rev. Wright? Most of the media coverage of him relies on sound bites taken out of context.
The major American media has a history of looking myopically at personages such as the Rev. Wright. They see him as failing the test of political and social conformity.
Conal Bashiri Rose
Michael Byrne's dishonest review of Rikshaw Films' The Listening Project ironically displays that he was neither listening to nor watching the film very carefully, or that he had merely made up his mind before starting in on his screed (Film Fest Frenzy, April 30). He recounts only two scenes from the vérité-style documentary film, both of them figments of his imagination. When Byrne writes that I "all but force[d]" my Israeli friend Maya to apologize to a Palestinian man, I can "all but" hear the creaking of his keyboard as he typed it struggling beneath the massive chip on his shoulder. I'll try to chalk it up to his interpretation, as absurd as it may be.
But Byrne completely invents the other scene--in which he says that another of the American "listeners" (schoolteacher Carrie) interrupted a Japanese woman saying something positive about the United States. As anyone who watches the film (honestly) will tell you, it simply never happens.
I hope City Paper realizes that it's irresponsible for film reviewers to make up scenes to try and make a point. We've received a few criticisms for our film, which we appreciate among the rave reviews and several Best Documentary awards. As a French man named Yves says in the beginning, "there's a Japanese saying: `to criticize is to help.'" But Byrne's "cringe-worthy" critique is unhelpful because it's nasty, cynical, and deceitful--and completely contrary to the open and sincere spirit in which we made and continue to offer our film.
Producer, Rikshaw Films
Music editor Michael Byrne responds: While the second scene occurred, it was poorly recounted. There's a discussion with a Chinese woman (not Japanese) about job creation/cheap labor in China. It's a somewhat one-sided conversation as the "listener" is presenting an opinion and the Chinese woman listening. Partway through he asks (slightly misquoted in my review), "I'm wondering if Chinese people are thinking about that?" and then continues into a spiel about Americans getting rich off of Chinese labor, to paraphrase. While "interruption" might not be the best description, the exchange gives the definite sense that he's more interested in getting his idea into the microphone than hearing what she has to say. When she does respond, it's to the effect of "I hadn't heard that opinion," and nothing much more. I regret the factual errors.
Perhaps, had Mr. Byrne actually listened, he might have heard a wonderful dialogue. But then, he is the music editor, not the film editor.
Film Tax Credits II: The Academy Strikes Back
I love film and am very disappointed that Hairspray wasn't filmed in Baltimore. But Mark J. Kilbane's argument for film tax credits simply does not hold up economically or as a matter of public policy ("Blown Away," Feature, April 30).
One can certainly debate whether the state should grant tax credits in order to encourage businesses to permanently locate in Maryland. Such businesses create long-term jobs, which in turn contribute to the income, property, and sales tax base of the state. But simply filming a movie in Maryland produces no long-term economic benefits, while at the same time requiring state and local government to provide public services to the production--some of which are dramatically illustrated in Mr. Kilbane's depiction of the filming of the scene from Body of Lies--at taxpayer expense.
Nor do out-of-state production companies create much in the way of new temporary employment. While production companies hire some local workers, much of the highly paid top talent is from out of state.
It is true that movie production companies temporarily contribute to local businesses, and to state and local sales and hotel occupancy tax coffers, for the period they are in town. But the same is true of visiting symphony orchestras, opera companies, the circus, out-of-town baseball and football teams, or even out-of-state visitors to the Inner Harbor. What possible justification is there to give generous tax credits to one set of out-of-town visitors and not another?
Currently, 47 states offer film tax credits. Given this fact, it is difficult to justify the tax credits even in terms of making one state more competitive than another in attracting local film production. Instead, the wide availability of the credits allows the film industry to play one state off against another in arguing for ever more generous tax credits. Indeed, Mr. Kilbane argues for exactly that in claiming that Maryland 's credits are not as generous as those offered by other states. The wide availability of the credits inevitably results in a "race to the bottom" where the amount of the credits quickly becomes divorced from any economic justification for their existence. Indeed, there is no empirical evidence that these credits create anything more than a minor, temporary economic boost for the states that offer them.
Finally, someone has to pay for the cost of the credits offered to out-of-state production companies. Inevitably, those costs are borne by Maryland residents in the form of higher taxes, fewer public services, or both. Particularly during the current serious budget crisis, Maryland cannot afford expanding these ill-conceived tax credits.
Sheldon H. Laskin
The writer is adjunct professor of state and local tax in the University of Baltimore graduate Tax Program.
American Apparel Has No Clothes
In response to Brian Bruckner's letter to City Paper's editor ("Dirty Pics Are the Least of My Concerns," The Mail, April 30): Not only the ads, but the company itself, seems to be more about promoting inequality than about "sex." The word "adult" as used in Brian's letter is gallingly pretentious. It's being used to defend the dubious "manhood" of voyeuristic sexual entitlement. American Apparel ads feature a continuous stream of young women whose average age appears to edge closer and closer to 12. As the CEO of the company and his cronies are 40ish, does the term "lecher" come to mind? How about "trafficking"? In any case, it is the profit-seeking, gutless men (and sometimes women) who pursue these girls and push their garbage in the name of free speech and noncensorship who need to grow up.
Numerous reports of all kinds of sexual harassment of female employees at American Apparel have surfaced over the years, as well as union-busting tactics by management. Rather than a friendly and fair working environment, it's the same old economic, social, and physical bullying of women and girls--standard procedure in most corporate hierarchies--and also intrinsic to most wars, by the way.
And speaking of education, mentioned along with war as a concern of the letter writer, the notion that women are supposed to dress and pose in a manner that is titillating to males in general is just plain bizarre, if one thinks about it. What do such images do to the mentality of boys and the self-image of girls everywhere? Does anyone talk about this?
Our kids need our support in trying to sort out the crap they are being bombarded with. Hopefully it's part of "human nature" to rebel against bullshit! How about advocating for children, and our girl children especially, to resist stultifying, sexist brainwashing and encourage their striving to live as conscious, vibrant, and free human beings?
I leave it to City Paper to do the obvious, right thing: Pull those ads.
And Don't Drive Like My Brother!
I am writing to thank John Barry, Christopher Myers, and the rest of the City Paper staff for featuring my brother Jefferson Russell in the paper ("Finding His Way," Feature, April 23). The story was very well done and captured the intensity of Jefferson's performance as Citizen Barlow in Gem of the Ocean. It was a very challenging role.
We have followed Jefferson's career from the beginning when he attended Hampton University, his internship at the Arena Players, and for the past 10 years since he made acting his profession. I vividly remember watching one of his first roles in front of a handful of people at a theater in Washington, and I was barely able to contain myself. The play was a drama, but I was just beside myself. I thought that he was losing it! We are so proud of his accomplishments and dedication to his craft. We fully expect him to continue producing powerful work in the future.
I must thank Vince Lancisi, artistic director of Everyman Theatre, and Jennifer Nelson, director for Gem, for giving Jefferson the opportunity to do what he does so magnificently. Thanks to Donald Owens, Amini Johari-Courts, Tennelia, and her family, and the rest of the Arena Players. They gave Jefferson the tools and confidence that he needed in order to succeed anywhere. We consider all of them part of our family. Most important, there are two people who we salute, and they are our parents, William Bruce Russell Sr., and the late Alice Ward Russell. Without our parents' love and support, we would not be the people who we are. Our mother's birthday was May 11, and wouldn't you know that Jefferson was born on that date. He has always had such a flair for the dramatic!
I must take some credit for Jefferson's success, but not much. The youngest of four, Jefferson still voices his disapproval at the beatings that he endured. I must say that he took his beatings like a man, then our sister Robin would patch him up, and then brother Steve would go upside his head with a boat paddle. All I could do was shake my head. I tried to help. That explains the rage that you see onstage. It is a result of those beatings! And there is a reason why Jefferson does not have a car, because the man can't drive! Hello! Don't ride with him. Thanks, CP.
William Bruce Russell Jr.
The Annoying Italic
First, I'm curious as to the name of the typeface selected to head City Paper's weekly music column, The Short List. Second, can you please stop using it? I find the shape of the letterforms to be visually offensive, in particular the letter "T." Third, if the paper finds its use cannot be avoided, I propose a poll for permanent banishment.
Editor Lee Gardner responds: For the record, it's Acropolis Black Italic by Hoefler and Frere-Jones.
Art director Joe MacLeod responds:
Or, Here's a different "T" just for you! Clip it out and hold it over the Bad "T" wherever you see it! Fun!
Editor's note: It's getting warmer. And you know what that means--our annual Sizzlin' Summer issue, coming next week.
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