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I Know All About zee Crying Game

Michelle Gienow

Posted 8/16/2000

I read your paper for a lot of reasons, but mostly for the cinema section, and generally I'm happy with it, even if your reviewers do seem enamored of movies at the Charles that clearly need an hour lopped off.

But (yes, there always is a "but" in this sort of missive) what is the *#$!@ing deal with Ian Grey giving away a serious plot development (the death of Cherish) in the latest John Waters film, Cecil B. Demented (Film, 8/9). I (and others?) happen to enjoy "suspense" and "surprise" and "foreshadowing." And the frickin' movie hadn't even opened yet! It's not as if anyone else (aside from denizens of would know this detail. What on Earth possessed Mr. Grey or his editor to write in the manner of those "Cinema ees not about story; eet ees about zee carefully interwoven subtext between zee represented and zee representing, zee clash of passive, controlled audience with active, uncontrollable mise-en-scène, zee viewer sitting in zee dark cave and staring out at what he perceives as reality, but eet ees not reality at all!" cinema-studies types who think "~" and Arnulf Reiner are the acme of film construction and that therefore revealing plot elements is acceptable--no, required?

If you're reviewing a movie, then tell me the basic plot, characters, etc. Don't tell me who dies, who kills the person who dies, and who dies but doesn't really die. Let me have as much enjoyment of "not knowing" as the reviewer did. Is that so much to ask?

Bill Fields

Arts editor Heather Joslyn responds: Our usual policy is not to reveal major plot twists. We decided to make an exception in this case because Cherish's treatment in Cecil B. Demented is key to Ian Grey's criticism of the film, and describing that treatment key to communicating his argument. We made a judgment call that John Waters fans won't be discouraged from seeing the movie just because we revealed a supporting character's fate. In other words, Cecil B. Demented isn't exactly The Sixth Sense.

Pissing MatchRegarding Sandy Asirvatham's column, "Pees and Q's" (Underwhelmed, 8/2): Yes, yes, yes, and yes!

As I read Ms. Asirvatham's column, I remembered feeling the same way during my first 12-step meeting: I am not alone! I have always been slightly embarrassed to admit that I too have been sitting on public-toilet seats (after wiping off the visible sprinkles, of course) for most of my 49 years. I have yet to get any diseases from it. Kudos to Ms. Asirvatham for pointing out that there is far more danger from the kitchen counter than the public-toilet seat. Perhaps women's aversion to sitting is one more indication of our society's Victorian attitude toward our own sexuality. I enjoyed the piece very much.

Renee Farina
Owings Mills

It is not a topic for dinner conversation. I don't even usually discuss it with good friends. However, this column really hit home for me. The wet-toilet-seat problem has been a pet peeve (no pun intended) for me for decades now. I can't understand why women can't be considerate of their sisters and wipe the seat or lift it. I hope lots of offenders read this column and heed it. Many thanks.

Christina Mitchko

Taboo WordsUnfortunately, Sandy Asirvatham's essay on my book, Taboo, frames a debate between "racists" and "humanists" (Underwhelmed, 7/19). For instance, she hypes the criticism of sociologist John Hoberman in Skeptic magazine that "Entine hasn't broken through any 'taboos' at all; rather, he has reinforced a stereotype, a 'bio-racial folklore about athletic ability' that many people believe even without any scientific evidence." In fact, Taboo includes 800 footnotes that discuss the scientifically uncontestable fact that there are body-type and physiological differences between population groups. Some social scientists patronizingly insist that some might conclude that if blacks are athletically gifted, then they might be weaker mentally--a conclusion supported by neither science nor my book.

"Taboo is both provocative and informed," wrote University of Washington ethnic-studies professor John Walter in the Seattle Times, in a review typical of African-American critical response. "Entine has provided a well-intentioned effort for all to come clean on the possibility that black people might just be superior physically, and that there is no negative connection between that physical superiority and their IQs."

Sadly, establishment intellectuals shrink from serious analysis of human differences--a subject with profound implications as science deciphers the genetics of population-specific diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, which afflicts whites, and colo-rectal cancer that targets blacks. "I believe that we need to look at the causes of differences in athletic performance between races as legitimately as we do when we study differences in diseases between the various races," notes Claude Bouchard, a geneticist at Laval University in Canada. "I have always worked with the hypothesis that ignorance fosters prejudice. [Critical inquiry] is the greatest safeguard against prejudice."

Asirvatham also incorrectly portrays the analysis by Skeptic editor Michael Shermer, citing the success of Jews in basketball in the 1930s as proof that culture determines athletic success. Having not read my book, Asirvatham did not know that the very example is a chapter in Taboo--"The Scheming, Flashy Trickiness of Jews"--that exposes the danger of using genetics to explain complex bio-social phenomena.

"Shermer's philosophy of sport is a compelling one," Asirvatham adds, "that acknowledges biology and culture without robbing us of free will or individuality." I agree; Shermer's "philosophy" is lifted entirely from Taboo. "Entine's proposed biocultural theory offers an attractive explanation, suggesting that cultural conditions can amplify small but meaningful differences in performance related to heredity," Scientific American opined in its April issue. "To his credit, Entine has put together a well-researched, relatively thorough and lucidly written case. . . . [His] emphasis on open dialogue regarding racial differences is noteworthy."

As I state in my book, heart and desire are the keys to success in sports. That said, genetics proscribes possibility. Humans are different. If we do not welcome the impending genetic revolution with open minds, if we are scared to ask and to answer difficult questions, if we lose faith in science, then there is no winner; we all lose. The challenge is in how we conduct the inquiry so that human biodiversity might be cause for celebration of our individuality rather than suspicion about our differences.

Jon Entine
Agoura Hills, Calif.

It's Your Baltimore, Don't Trash ItJustin Sirois hung his ignorance out for all of us, accusing Mr. Kurt Kocher of the Baltimore City Department of Public Works of "reacting outrageously" to Andrew Coulter Enright's public sticker campaign ( The Mail, 8/2; Mobtown Beat, 7/12). Mr. Sirois made false accusations that were completely unfounded. I would not be able to forgive him but that I too was once a young, stupid artist feeling sorry for myself.

But I also know Mr. Kocher, and it's important to note that he is responsible for many large pieces of public art. At one point, when the city was ready to scrap the mural program altogether, Mr. Kocher provided money from a program he headed in the Department of Housing and Community Development to keep the project alive! He was involved in financial backing for murals by Jim Voshell on Pratt Street at Frederick Avenue, by Quentin Mosley on Reisterstown Road, by Tom Miller at North Avenue and Harford Road, as well as several others.

I am also an artist who recently completed a life drawing class at the Maryland Institute, College of Art. But since I have also been a graphic designer in the field for 20 years, I know better than to bite the hand that feeds us. Grow up, Mr. Sirois, and learn to communicate with people who may seem different. Quite often they will pay you to create art. And if I catch Andy plastering my neighborhood with stickers, I will kick his ass from Hampden to the Inner Harbor.

Walter Montgomery Howard

The image below is my viewpoint on the issue of placing stickers on public places:

Kurt Kocher
Chief of Media Communications, Department of Public Works

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