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Classical Gas

Posted 5/25/2005

Thank you for your feature article, focusing on Darin Atwater and his work (“Evening the Score,” May 11). I certainly hope Mr. Atwater will be very successful, since his success will be a great blow against the monstrous corporate mass marketing of popular culture. My letter, however, regards a quote in that article from Baltimore Symphony Orchestra President James Glicker, which read as follows: “‘Classical music in general has been very stagnant and academic over the last 100 years or so. That doesn’t appeal to audiences.’”

This is an astounding statement, and it is hard to believe that the president of a major orchestra actually said this. Some of the composers who have written great music since 1905 include Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Ravel, Poulenc, Britten, Strauss, Bartók, Gershwin—the list goes on. Indeed, one of the most electrifying concerts that I heard led by Maestro Yuri Temirkanov was a celebration of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13 (“Baba Yar”), which premiered in 1962!

There is no problem with the music—great music is alive and well. The work of Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, Bach, and dozens of other great composers is as fresh and vital as the day it was written. And the Baltimore Symphony has never sounded better in the 24 years that I have been attending concerts here. Rather, the problem lies with the marginalizing of all culture by undermining the foundation of teaching the arts in public schools, linked with the juggernaut of mass-marketed “popular culture.”

I am hoping that Mr. Glicker was misquoted. If not, it bodes ill for the Baltimore Symphony’s future.

Matthew J. Mosca

Stripped Down

After reading Summer Patton’s blithe account of her life as a stripper (“The Naked Truth,” May 4), I repressed the urge to write. But after realizing that the only letter responding to the piece was Shamaine Reis’ rah-rah reiteration of Patton’s central premise (The Mail, May 18)—that stripping is a valid, even empowering, lifestyle choice—I could no longer restrain myself.

These articles (“I Was a Stripper,” “I Was a Phone-Sex Girl,” etc.) show up every five years or so in alternative weeklies and magazines across the country. I understand their popularity—sex sells. But they also serve as apologia for the men who feed the sex and stripping industries: “Don’t worry, boys, strippers love their jobs!” They always feature educated, articulate young women who chose the profession, enjoy it, and can walk away from it at any time. Generally, like Ms. Patton, they have heard about unpleasant experiences in the industry but have never experienced them personally.

I have. About 10 years ago, a good friend of mine was short on rent money and turned to stripping. She wasn’t crazy about it, but as a high school dropout she couldn’t pass up the cash. Besides, she said, it made her feel pretty (having been raped at age 14, she had some self-esteem issues). But she hated how the club owners pressured her to go on dates with regular customers or dance fully nude for private parties. Eventually, she became addicted to heroin through a man she met at the club. She was 20 when I last saw her, and homeless. Funny how stories like hers are never published.

Funny, too, how Ms. Patton manages to make it through a very long defense of stripping without mentioning feminism. She quashes two minor objections to the profession—the women are dumb, the men are stupid—but fails to acknowledge the major objection many people have: that it reduces women to commodities and reinforces society’s inherent sexism. Instead, stripping is OK because Ms. Patton feels OK about it herself. I don’t hold Ms. Patton entirely responsible for this oversight—it’s only natural that she be enveloped in the solipsism of youth. But her editor should have pushed her to confront the issue—argue it away, if she cared to, but at least acknowledge it.

Don’t misunderstand—this is not prudishness. I shave my legs, own some fabulously red lipstick, and consider myself to be enthusiastically sex-positive. Sex, and sexiness, is great. It’s where they intersect with power and commerce that I—and a lot of feminists—have a problem.

When I was 15, I worked at a restaurant as a busser, and I had to walk through the strip-club district to reach my bus stop to go home. Though obviously not a stripper, I was regularly groped and propositioned by the men who lined the sidewalk. They saw no difference between me and the women working in the clubs.

And that’s the thing, Ms. Patton. You can put all the Tom Waits on the jukebox you want, and pat yourself on the head for being smarter than anyone suspects, but in the end, those men have paid for you, and for the time that you are together, they own you—your company, your compliance, your body. Every time you get on your high heels and grab that pole, you are telling every person watching you that the lesson society teaches us at an early age is right: that any man with enough cash can own—or at least rent—a woman. And you will never know to whom else the men who pay for your body apply that lesson. They may be 15-year-old girls.

You write a reasonably pretty sentence, Ms. Patton, and I know you meant to show that strippers are not vapid, self-centered bimbos. But I’m afraid that all you did was prove just that.

Grace Carrington

I just finished (sort of) reading the cover story “The Naked Truth,” and all I can say is . . . yawn. Nothing more interesting than reading the tales of a 22-year-old stripper. Can’t wait until next week when you cover another pseudo-counterculture lifestyle like that of a tattoo artist, junkie, or, uh, professional wrestler.

Robert A. Goldberg

The author is a former City Paper graphic designer who once wrote a cover story on his overidentification with a professional wrestler (“I, Goldberg,” Oct. 6, 1999).


I am writing in rebuttal to the article in City Paper about RESTART (“Prisoners of Bureaucracy,” April 13). As a correctional officer for the past 14 years, I have witnessed recidivism rates escalate to an all- time high. The female prison in which I have worked for the past 10 years, the Maryland Correctional Institute for Women (MCI-W), has held captive women of low self-esteem, low morale, low principles, and with no concept of how to change their lives.

Many women in MCI-W and the Baltimore Pre-Release Unit for Women (BPRU-W) desire to alter their lives and become better mothers to their children, better daughters to their parents, and better people for their communities. However, they have had no window of opportunity to make the transition to re-enter society. They have been taught to think in a way that promotes negativity and breeds aggressiveness. They have not been taught how to become productive in the community.

Part of the blame goes to the way the system has been warehousing them and not making available the resources they need to change their lives. We, as a community, have stigmatized them in such a way that we have cast disparity upon them. The City Paper article casts doubt upon the leadership of Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Secretary Mary Ann Saar and is not welcome to those of us who are fighting to make changes and instill hope in the inmates who are returning to their communities. Just the mere hint that she is facing such opposition reflects the fact that we are not all working together to decrease the crime rate.

The truth of the matter is that the old way has failed and some are not willing to admit that we must create a new path. They complain about the numbers, but not about how much it costs taxpayers to continue to build more prisons that, in a few years, will increase in population if something is not done.

I strongly believe that the administration put in place for MCI-W has been an unwavering force that has been tackling the issues that have been ignored for several years. We have been assisting the women to view how they can elevate themselves and turn their lives around. As frequently as they can, they make themselves accessible to the staff and inmate population. Where there is a need for improvement, they find, with support, they can gather the necessary resources and make it happen. Although City Paper has made negative reference to sanitation, I strongly believe that a “Cleaner Demeanor does promote a Healthier Environment.” Again, this is something that women can take home to enhance their own personal living conditions.

Many of us have faith that a new way of looking at inmates will result in less recidivism and more success in the community. Inmates are human beings and need to be treated with respect. We must change if we expect them to change. I applaud the efforts of Secretary Saar, Warden Brenda Shell, and everyone who is trying to make changes that will result in better communities for all of our citizens.

Lt. Anthony Rasheed

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