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Jesus at the Cineplex

Posted 2/18/2004

I would like to comment on this past week's edition of Political Animal, in which Brian Morton argues that The Passion of the Christ is nothing more than a propaganda film and should never have been made (Feb. 11).

It is unfortunate that Mr. Morton thinks that Passion is anti-Semitic when the film hasn't yet been released for the public. Perhaps it will be interpreted that way by a majority of viewers, but that does not prove that it--or any other movie--should not be made.

Thank goodness we have the First Amendment in this country. Filmmakers have a right and privilege to create stories as they see fit. Filmgoers owe it to themselves to view the film before making any decision on whether or not Passion is a story about bigotry.

If Mel Gibson does not deserve to make and release this film, then neither did Michael Moore deserve to make Bowling for Columbine or even Julia Roberts to star in Erin Brockovich. The latter film could be interpreted as a pro-feminism methodology for destroying corporate America. When it comes to cinema and propaganda, society needs to keep an all-or-nothing approach.

Please reconsider your automatic bashing of any type of propaganda, even if the first impression is one of it being bigoted. Without various types of films (and possible interpretations), society would never grow.

Adam Hopkins
Middle River

Brian Morton responds: Nowhere in the column did I ever write that the movie "should never have been made." In fact, giving all due respect to the First Amendment, I wrote, "This being America, Gibson is free to make any movie he can get funding for, and so he has." The question is now whether or not there's a better way to spend $8 than to go see it.

Dialing for Dollars

Checking out the Feb. 4 Right Field, it was unsettling to encounter the notion that public radio ought not to be publicly financed. Consider it quaint in an era of ideological assaults on all things public, but the position that the airwaves have a fundamental responsibility within a democracy to fulfill the role of public community needs to be flogged again.

Although Russ Smith's ambivalence toward the National Endowment for the Arts does have merit, the analogy between funding the arts and the funding of public radio is specious. Stop and consider the arts community as a forum in which a consensus on cultural values is formed, however imperfectly, between and among competing visions. OK--federal financing within this construct could inhibit full and honest expression. Reasonable.

Moving along, despite the dizzying array of contemporary options, the airwaves still must be viewed as a limited resource occupying a unique niche. Already public radio has been compromised within a system that is economically skewed. It is more common to hear stories of how cramped first-class flights to Los Angeles have become than to hear accounts of how a laid-off worker in Michigan manages to cope. A reliance on Archer Daniels Midland and like-minded philanthropists is problematic. The end result is an audience whose worldview is self-absorbed, manipulated, and false. Just ask viewers of Fox News whether Saddam Hussein has been linked to Sept. 11--they will gladly assure you that indeed he has.

Christopher Hammersla

I Want Albums

I almost drove off the road I was so agitated reading Bob Massey's we-shall-inherit-the-earth blather in "Generation Next?" (Music, Feb. 11).

First, where in this Brave New World manifesto does Massey solve the problem of how the music makers are supposed to earn a buck? He wants to get paid for his music but doesn't want to support an "industry" that might allow this to happen.

Second, while "[a] surprising number of school-age music lovers don't own a stereo," there are still plenty people out there for whom sound quality matters. There is little high fidelity in an iPod. Call those who care about sound quality music nerds, but they are music lovers. Kids listening through tiny computer speakers and bouncing from one fan Web site to the next don't know what they're missing and probably don't care--not the kind of people into music for the long haul. More gadgethead, I'd say.

To the larger issue of function: Back at the primordial dawn of teen rock culture, kids mixed their music by getting up and down to change the 45s. Later, people like Bob's dad had their own iPod. It was called the mix tape. IPod is the same thing, only on steroids--it allows the listener to make the perfect, commercial-free radio station for his or her very own head. Fine, but this is nothing new, just easier now, especially with the self-entitlement of pirating. But where Massey loves having his Maxwell with his Mozart, suppose I don't? The "album" concept won't go away (although it might lose currency through this fad of the iPod people) because plenty others want a collection of music by a single artist. I love OutKast and I want the whole double album, not just this and that. I want to see how the group runs music together. I want to allow them to program for me.

The reason people like albums and cover art and all that is for the experience of immersing themselves in the mind and vision and music of the artist.

With an iPod, I can get inside the mind of Bob Massey.

Massey's friend still buys new music by Frank Black because she has made a personal commitment to this artist and his vision. He spoke to her in a meaningful way and she wants to hear what he has to say next. She didn't "stop listening." She just focused her attention and followed what she loved. When she's ready for something new--like in any relationship--she'll start looking around.

The album is not going way. It is being joined as a format by the iPod, which is fine. It's only a power struggle for tomorrow if you want it to be. But I'll be damned if I let some twerp in retro Adidas tell me how to take my music.

By the way, any girl who likes Guided by Voices and Frank Black sounds really cool. Can you hook me up?

John Scheinman
Washington, D.C.

Clarification: In last week's Nose on apparent discrepencies in the number of properties available through the city's Project 5000 program ("Fudging the Numbers," Feb. 11), the quote attributed to Sandra Newman of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies was taken out of context. The story suggested that Newman agreed that there were discrepancies; she in fact stated that if there were discrepancies, she would be disappointed. City Paper regrets the error.

Address letters to The Mail, City Paper, 812 Park Ave., Baltimore, MD 21201; fax: (410) 523-0138; e-mail: Only letters that address material published in or policies of CP, are no more than 500 words long, and include the writer's name, address, and daytime phone number will be considered for publication. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

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