Tim Hill replies: The article was not so much about graffiti history and its pioneers--such as the infamous Bronx-based crew--but about a group of those who appreciate and chronicle it. But you're justified in giving credit where credit is due.
The Right Notes
I wish to praise City Paper and James D. Dilts for the excellent piece on the late Ellis Larkins--a self-effacing piano genius and Baltimore native (Music, Oct. 9). I was especially impressed by the research that went into the article, the comments by Marian McPartland--if anyone could recognize Larkins' outstanding abilities as a jazz pianist, she was the one! The pictures fit right in and turned it into a true biography. Thanks for offering this unique and deserving man an appropriate send-off!
Give Me Libertarian
In the Oct. 9 issue of City Paper, Brian Morton's Political Animal column on the campaign of Libertarian candidate for Maryland governor Spear Lancaster made me appreciate the fact that I rarely read CP.
In discussing the Spear Lancaster campaign, Mr. Morton is unjustly condescending. I, for one, after being presented with Mr. Lancaster's plans for the Maryland budget, felt like a breath of fresh air had arrived. Citizens should know what government programs cost and where the government pork is being spread about. Does Mr. Morton not have a problem with government accounting and funding practices being on par with that of Enron? Similarly, requiring all tax increases to pass a public referendum (as Mr. Lancaster's policies seem to suggest he would be for) would help re-establish the dominance of citizens over government budgets, and not the other way around. But apparently, Mr. Morton cannot take seriously a candidate who would allow citizens to take charge of their government (is he "chicken"?). I thought this was a progressive paper, but apparently not.
The only accurate part of Mr. Morton's column is that "sometimes when your ideas fail in the marketplace, maybe it's because nobody's buying your product." Well, I for one am going to start buying Libertarian, and if readers ever want to reclaim their government, I suggest they join me and start buying Spear Lancaster this November, too.
A few comments on your article of last week regarding George Balog (The Nose. I can remember working with and for Mr. Balog. Before he became director of the city Department of Public Works, he was known simply as George. He worked his way up through the ranks and, I must say, he knew the system, and he knew how to get things done. As George, you could talk to him; he would listen, and he could actually be charming. But eventually, George became Mr. Balog--to everyone. I can only imagine the price one must pay being the Director of Public Works. And for some, the price can be rather steep. Well, I would suspect that George is back now. He is hanging out at the Perry Inn. We should all pay him a visit, pay our respects, and buy him a beer.
Retired, Bureau of Water and Wastewater
Retired, Bureau of Water and Wastewater
I, too, am glad someone else realizes Bobby Ehrlich is not the greatest thing since sliced bread (Political Animal, Sept. 25). A candidate's charm, good looks, and ability to manipulate others doesn't really matter. What really counts are the facts. They are easily obtained when those lusting for political power leave a trail called a voting record.
As far as the amazingly abundant pro-Ehrlich signs and bumper stickers are concerned, they're a form of overcompensation for his substantial inadequateness. I'll wager few of Ehrlich's supporters have a clue about his extremely conservative voting record, nor do they care. But for those who are still undecided, or are planning not to vote, check him out yourself. His voting record is certainly there for all to see. Just click on Project Vote Smart and the League of Conservation Voters for truly bipartisan analyses.
To put it another way, Bobby E. is as conservative as Ralph Nader is progressive. He's certainly no Connie Morella or Charles Mathias Jr. Nor is he a bona fide moderate like Wayne Gilchrest. Ehrlich's in bed with the take-no-prisoners type of conservative, like Newt Gingrich, Bob Barr, Jesse Helms, and Strom Thurmond. These unsavory reactionaries are his friends and role models.
Honestly, who wouldn't love to be an alchemist successfully turning lead into gold? But just as the alchemists of old always failed, so too will Bobby Ehrlich as he tries turn his outrageously extremist voting record into one more acceptable to the majority of Maryland voters. In the end, the unvarnished truth will cost him the election.
You Don't Know Dick
Mahinder Kingra is reasonably accurate in most of his article "Dazzlement, Enchantment, and Trash: Alfred Bester, Philip K. Dick, and the Apotheosis of Pulp Science Fiction" in the Oct. 2 Big Books issue of City Paper, but he shows his ignorance of Dick's life when he states, "[Dick] sought to distance himself from SF (he wrote several non-SF novels that went unpublished until after his death and returned to the genre both chastened and troubled by long periods of alcoholism, drug abuse, and psychosis)."
Dick did not "return to the genre" after writing non-science-fiction novels. Throughout the '50s, he wrote both science-fiction and mainstream novels, as well as an enormous number of science-fiction stories. Eventually, he realized that the mainstream fiction wasn't getting published and so quit writing it, but this was reluctantly giving up one of his two interests, not returning to a genre he had tried to escape. Furthermore, it's hard to make a claim that "long periods of . . . drug abuse, and psychosis" held back his writing. There's no evidence that his drug use slowed down his prolific output. Indeed, his use of speed during the early '60s was part of the reason that he wrote so much during that period (although this may have messed him up in the long term). And there were no long periods of psychosis, although throughout his life Dick had a variety of psychological problems, despite which he kept writing. Dick may have been a weird and eccentric guy, but he wasn't insane.
But it's the claim of alcoholism that shows me that Kingra doesn't know what he's talking about. At no point was Dick an alcoholic. This is such a bizarre claim that I went back and checked his biographies to see if there was something I had forgotten, but I'm unable to find anyone who has ever claimed that Dick was an alcoholic.
Wendell Wagner Jr.
Mahinder Kingra responds: According to his biographer, Lawrence Sutin, PKD "abandoned SF altogether" in 1956-'57 in order to focus on his "serious" novels and returned to SF after his editor, Don Wollheim, rejected two of his mainstream manuscripts outright. As for "troubled by long periods of alcoholism, drug abuse, and psychosis," I was attempting to indicate the chronology of PKD's personal difficulties, which intensified throughout the 1960s, not that they "held back his writing." His habitual use of speed and other drugs certainly did fuel his literary output, but at a great cost to his health and (I feel) to the evenness of his books in this period. Further, PKD was more than just " a weird and eccentric guy." He was deeply troubled by paranoid delusions, suffered several nervous breakdowns that PKD himself characterized as psychotic episodes, and in 1974 underwent a severe psychotic break. Finally, while Sutin is reticent on the subject of PKD's drinking, Alex Star in a 1993 New Republic article noted that PKD "drank prodigious quantities of scotch" throughout his life. Whether that makes him an alcoholic or not might, I suppose, be debatable.
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