Closer to Hell
Rebutting the Rybbies
Hey, Alright! I'm glad to see I have gotten so many peoples' goats with my letter (The Mail, Dec. 18). Nice to see pissed off non-Baltimore city residents telling me what's up with the Baltimore scene. The rybbies are not evil, just naïve, and not doing anything new or groundbreaking. I'm just bummed to see such a lack of vision.
Ever wonder why other people around the world hate us and wish we were dead? Because the dominant culture says it's alright to invade, pioneer, and exploit all in the name of freedom. It's your god-given manifest destiny to continue your lifestyle, it is the most civilized forward thinking culture on the planet! Anyone who doesn't want what you have must be crazy! Insane! I can't wait till that junk dealer's prime corner lot next to "that" park is transformed into a coffee shop, then we can sit all day and talk about the power of leftist politics and the ills of consumerism! Let's blindly push the lower-class riff-raff out to the suburbs; we're done with those places, they weren't such a good idea after all. This is America--everyone is given equal chances. It's not my fault they can't get a real job and afford to own a car, land, or household appliances.
This is it folks, it doesn't get any better: Accept the role you're given, imagine no other possible realities, help turn those wheels that yer forefathers built, and above all get ready to die.
While James Harper is a little incendiary in his vernacular, can you blame him for being all fired up? He is addressing the ideologies cloaked behind the rybbies' seemingly altruistic motives and the ways in which they feed into a meta-narrative of economically condoned racism and classism. [Lynn] Williams' claim that "drug dealing, vandalism, arson, street crime . . . are pathologies" is fallacious and ignorant. Restored houses, clean streets, and safety are values of all people, not just the middle class. Drug dealing and crime are not pathological; they are red flags, symptoms of a national (if not global) systematic dysfunction that extends far beyond the schoolyard peddler. While it may be aggressive to call Meister and his Web groupies genocidal, it certainly wouldn't be a stretch to call them naïve. That kind of "prototypical Good Guy" attitude is the same one that, on a global scale, thinks it's doing a small Indonesian village a favor by bringing its sneaker factory there to pay children $2 a day and "improve" their standard of living.
Naturally most people would rather live in an area where they are less likely to be mugged or dragged into a vacant house and murdered, and that includes the people who already live there. There are people working to improve those neighborhoods that the rybbies believe they can magically sanitize by sheer fact of just being there, and those people are the residents. Communities of hard-working, socially motivated humans "with more energy than money" exist all over the "sick body" of Baltimore, and those communities are not limited to the daydreams of computer programmers with large mailing lists.
Finally, Meister's suggestion (Mobtown Beat, Nov. 20) that occupying a half-renovated, long vacant rowhouse is somehow comparable to "living in dorms" is downright laughable: What kind of "crap" did you have to deal with? Having to sign in a guest each time you want a friend over? Having to walk four flights of stairs when the elevator breaks? Gimme a break. Meister, Williams, and that dude who called Harper a loser, come back to the table when you've helped cook a Thanksgiving meal for 500 homeless citizens, tried to feed a family of four on $300 a week, or had to scrape lead paint from every room in your brand new home. In fact, I encourage you to.
Hooked on Classical
I am an avid reader of City Paper, but I have always wondered why City Paper gives little or no relevance at all to classical music and opera. I am sure that the proportion of your readers who have the slightest interest in these music forms is very limited. However Baltimore offers throughout the year a very interesting and lively calendar of symphonic, chamber, and choral music at the Symphony Orchestra and other venues, not to mention the splendid season at the Lyric Opera House. The City Paper rarely fails to overlook all this, except for some sporadic and microscopic blurb.
The latest example of such total disregard for classical music and opera is in this week's "Year in Music", which features several dozens of CDs reviewed by eight music critics (Dec. 18). As far as I can tell, there is no mention of any classical music or opera CD in that list. But this reflects the situation of all other City Paper issues, where there is never a review of a classical music or opera CD. By the way--if I may say so--Andrea Bocelli and Charlotte Church do not qualify as classical music artists, so the reviews of their CDs are hardly examples that should be used to reply to my criticisms.
By no means am I an expert of classical music and opera. I do not consider these music forms to be superior: de gustibus non disputandum est--that is, it's just a matter of personal taste. Rather I am an enthusiast, who would like to see these music forms given a little more attention and a better chance to be heard (no pun intended).
I am aware that what puts people off about classical music and opera is this aura of stuck-up people around them. Well, it is not always like that and certainly does not have to be. There can be a way to write reviews of classical music and opera events, performances and CDs in a language that is clear and understandable to people who would like to know a little more about them but who are non-professional musicians--like me.
I think that if City Paper can afford eight pop/rock/hip-hop/rap music critics, it could live just as well with seven of them and have a classical music/opera critic to review events and CDs for those music forms. I know I would really enjoy reading something different in the City Paper for a change, and perhaps there are many more like me. Who knows, this might be a way to attract more readers and to make your sponsors more happy.
Music editor Bret McCabe responds: "The Year in Music" contained short reviews of 10 albums--two shy of one dozen, much less several--owing to the fact that the list appeared in the Top Ten issue. While the 10 discs were primarily of the pop/rock/hip-hop/rap variety, it isn't out of disregard for the relevance of classical music. It was a poll of the best in popular and semi-popular music of 2002, the albums that shaped the year's pop culture in some way. That's not to imply that classical music doesn't have anything to say about the present. But, as you may have also noticed, jazz, reissues, and country music didn't play a role in the list either.
That said, we do not completely ignore classical music and opera. Contributor Josephine Yun has covered both for the paper, as recently as two weeks ago ("Smooth Operetta").
lady sings the blues
This letter is in response to the article on Soul Providers (No Cover, Dec. 11). Although we all know that many aspects of the music industry are shady, the house-music industry is shadier than most. I would like to discuss the other side of the game.
While house-music producers enjoy fame and sometimes fortune, many vocalists get a raw deal. This is the only genre of music that I know of where producers take most or all of the credit for a song even though they haven't sung a note (and probably couldn't if they tried). The songs get mixed and remixed and eventually get play. One mix usually will cause the most hype and make the biggest impact. This mix may not be the original mix, but most times the original vocalist's voice is used. Although this is the case, the producers still get all the credit. The vocalist then becomes known as "the girl/guy that sang whatever."
These producers find vocalists who are hungry and as they continue to rise to the top, the vocalist falls to the wayside. I can't speak for all house vocalists, but I know that there are many who are or have been in the same situation. I know people know about this situation, but it is, nonetheless, rarely discussed. I don't know how long the house-music industry has been like this, or how it came to be like this, but it bothers me and needs to be addressed.
Most people don't just wake up and decide they want to learn how to sing, but they can do just that when it comes to music production. I've been singing almost my entire life and fell victim to "Industry Rule 4080," so I'm writing this letter from personal experience. I would like for music to be my bread and butter someday soon, but unfortunately for me--and a lot of other vocalists--it won't be in the house-music industry.
Michelle "Shellers" Herring
Corrections: Last week's Charmed Life on the Marching Ravens (Dec. 18) was written by esteemed CP staff writer Brennen Jensen, not esteemed contributing writer Charles Cohen as the byline indicated. Sorry, Brennen. Also, the contact number provided at the end of the story is incorrect; those wishing to get in touch with the Marching Ravens should call (410) 557-8335. City Paper regrets the error.
In our summation of the events of Nov. 21, 2002 (The Year in News, Dec. 18), we mistakenly stated that the easing of the drought led the city to "finally shut down the three pumps to the Susquehanna River," when in fact it shut down three pumps from the Susquehanna River. Maybe that's why we're thirsty all the time.
Editor's note: Cheap Eats is out sick this week, thanks to a suspected food-borne illness (no lie). It will return next week.
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